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'Apes' own a piece of the Rock (of Gibraltar)

Wild ‘apes’ stole my snuggly! A macaque on Gibraltar snatches her toddler’s favorite toy and a woman finds out about Europe’s only wild primates.

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'Baby' was pretty well-traveled for a stuffed giraffe. His matted fur, once yellow, was gray from hundreds of washes. His neck was floppy from being clutched tight in a tiny fist as he was dragged along on our journey. He was decorated with saffron-orangy splotches and streaks of faded purple, attesting to both the sampling of couscous in Morocco and wild mountain blackberries in Austria. His embroidered black eyes had seen a lot in a few short years. So had my 2-year-old son, Nakoa.

We prided ourselves on being prepared for any travel eventuality. But on our way to tour the Rock of Gibraltar, we discovered we hadn’t quite thought of everything.

Little-known residents of the famous mount awaited us, the tour operator explained: Europe’s only band of wild primates, the Barbary macaques. About 230 roam the upper Rock.

As we pulled up to the entrance to St. Michael’s Cave, we were warned that the macaques were “not shy.” Food items should be left behind. Nakoa grabbed “Baby” by its floppy neck, and we clambered out of our van. We all took a moment to stand and admire the distant view of Africa across the misty Mediterranean.

Then the unthinkable happened.

One of the large, wild macaques, seemingly oblivious to the camera-flashing crowd, darted over to Nakoa with one long hairy outstretched arm.

I shrieked.

Nakoa wailed.

Together, we turned in shock and watched “Baby” disappear up the mountain in the arms of a wild “ape.”

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