Barbary Macaque

The Barbary Macaque is a species of unique monkeys found in a very limited region outside of Asia. Also known as maggot and Barbary ape (a misnomer), these are tailless ground-dwelling monkeys. Known for their dark pink face, the population of these mammals is decreasing rapidly.

Scientific Classification

Macaca sylvanus

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Macaca sylvanus

Physical Description

Height (Size): The average head to body length of the females is 556.8 mm (21.9 in), and that of the males is 634.3 mm (25.0 in).

Weight: The average weight is reportedly around 21.8 lbs in the females, 32.0 lbs in the males.

Coat: The body is covered with yellowish-brown to grey hair (fur). The underside has a lighter shade.

Body: The face of these primates is bright pink while the tail is vestigial, which can measure anything between 4 and 22mm, with the males usually having a more prominent tail. Their forelimbs are longer than the hind limbs.

Barbary Macaque

Sexual Dimorphism: The sexes look alike except that the males are slightly larger than the females.


In the wild, the longevity of the Barbary macaques is typically 22 years. Their life as pets in captivity is a few years less at around 17.

Distribution and Habitat

Their range extends through the savanna, grasslands, upland forests and scrub forests of the Atlas Mountains of Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. A small population is also found in Gibraltar, though the origin of it is yet uncertain.

Barbary Macaque Habitat
Barbary Macaque Monkey

Classification of Species

Currently, no subspecies of the Barbary macaque have been described by the biologists.

Behavioral Characteristics

These monkeys are diurnal and have an interesting social structure. They stay active all day, moving from one place to another, foraging for food. After sunset, small groups of two to three same-sex monkeys may sleep together. In an average, a group may contain around 24-25 heads; however, there are records of up to 59 individuals. The male/female ratio in a group is usually 1:1.

Like most other social primates, grooming each other is a part of their daily rituals. Such an act help them create strong bonds between each other by removing parasites using their hands, as well as lowering stress at the same time.

Both the sexes build their own hierarchies, with the female hierarchies being strictly matrilineal while each female maintains a specific rank within the group. The newborn female children naturally inherit the next highest role under their mothers, above the other older female siblings and others within the group. The female monkeys protect their respective status through aggression. The rank of a particular individual is almost stable and seldom changes.

On the other hand, the males have looser hierarchies of dominance, and they display much lesser aggression towards other males. They rarely bite or attack one another, nor are they dangerous to humans.

In fact, compared to many other primate species, these monkeys are relatively peaceful, and only half of the cases of interactions between them are aggressive. In most cases, aggressions are only limited to chattering their teeth, displaying specific facial expressions, chasing, and eventually retreating.


The Barbary macaques are omnivores and feed on both animal and plant matters. Their daily food list includes amphibians, insects, as also species of small lizards, leaves, roots, tubers, wood, bark, stems, seeds, grains, nuts, fruits, flowers, and fungus.

Barbary Macaque Baby
Baby Barbary Macaque

Reproduction and Life Cycle

These mammals are polygynandrous. Both the sexes can have as males and females have multiple sexual partners. The females begin and terminate sexual interactions and would even compete with other females by initiating an interruption in the act of copulation.

The rank of the male individuals plays a trivial role which the females choose to copulate with. They tend to give out a particular copulation call during mating.

The mating season of these mammals is rather short, commencing in around November and terminating in December. Being social creatures, the members of the Barbary macaque groups take equal part in caring for their infants. However, baby stealing behavior and offering the infant to the dominant males in order to gain favor has been noted in some individuals.

The gestation period (pregnancy) of the female Barbary macaque lasts for around 164.2 days, after which, usually only one offspring is born in the summer months, between April and June. The baby monkeys, both males and females, typically attain the age of sexual maturity when they are around 46 months old.

Barbary Macaque Picture
Barbary Macaque Image


  1. To cope with the dramatic weather changes of the region, these monkeys grow thick furry coats during the winter months, and shed for lighter ones with the arrival of summer.
  2. In order to let the males get aware of the beginning of the estrus cycle, the anogenital region of the female begins to swell.


Large species of eagles, golden jackals, and red foxes are the primary enemies of the Barbary macaque monkeys.

Population and Conservation Status

Over recent decades, the species has rapidly declined, with the remaining number estimated in the wild is between 8,000 and 10,000. While the IUCN 3.1 has declared them as ‘EN’ (Endangered), several organizations and projects have been undertaken for the awareness and conservation of these rare monkeys, including the BMAC (Barbary Macaque Awareness Conservation), based in Morocco.

Barbary Macaque Tail
Barbary Macaque Gibraltar

Interesting Facts

  • The name ‘Barbary’ is derived from Morocco ‘Berber People’ who had built up bonds with these animals that lived around their dwelling region since time immemorial.
  • It got its alternate name ‘Barbary ape’ incorrectly since this species has no tail.

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