Interference with Barbary macaques has always been seen as detrimental to them, and the official line has for years been to discourage visitors from touching or otherwise interfering with macaque natural behaviour. Not only does it prejudice their health and social structure but macaques are prone to succumb to human disease. This has been seen in the past when our macaques have for example contracted Hepatitis A. There is also the possibility of human contacting infection through contact with a macaque.
With the arrival of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the Government will be taking strict measures to prevent contact with the macaques. This is in order to minimise the risk of their contracting the disease and becoming ill or dying. Primates elsewhere have been known to be susceptible.
Because of the low level of the virus in Gibraltar and of the prompt lockdown of tourist sites, it is virtually definite that the macaques have not contracted COIVID-19. We have to ensure that this continues to be the case. Therefore this is the time to take action. The Government has therefore published a Bill to amend the Animals Act which will make touching or other interference with the natural behaviour of macaques an offence except under licence for management, research or veterinary purposes.