Gibraltar is to cull 25 of the monkeys that form arguably the Rock's biggest tourist attraction, because they are becoming a public nuisance and carry a health risk for tourists.
The decision, described by Gibraltar's tourism minister, Ernest Britto, as a "last resort", has prompted opposition from the International Primate Protection League, which is considering urging tourists to boycott the British colony.
For centuries a symbol of Britain's presence in Gibraltar, the Barbary macaques have lived on the Rock's upper reaches where they roam free, but are fed and looked after. But recently, around two dozen have come down to the tourist areas of Catalan Bay and Sandy Bay and caused disruption there.
"Children are frightened. People cannot leave their windows open for fear of the monkeys stealing. Monkeys can bite, and contact with them runs the risk of salmonella or hepatitis," Mr Britto said.
Franco Ostuni, general manager of the Caleta Hotel, said guests' rooms had been damaged by monkeys climbing in through windows and scrounging for food. Signs at the hotel warn guests the monkeys can be dangerous, but tourists, charmed by the animals, defy the warnings.
A programme using contraceptive implants was introduced six years ago to control monkey numbers, but has yet to show results. Two of the Rock's macaque monkeys have already been lured into cages and given lethal injections. When 25 have been culled, numbers would be maintained at around 200, Mr Britto said.
The International Primate Protection League said it would consider calling on tourists to boycott Gibraltar if it did not stop the cull. "The Government is still not managing their population of macaques in a responsible manner, despite the fact that they boost the nation's economy as arguably their most popular tourist attraction," said Helen Thirlway, the organisation's director in Britain.
"They have appointed a specialist organisation to be responsible for the day-to-day management of the macaques and yet have not consulted them before deciding on this course of action... This needless slaughter has to stop," she said.
During the Second World War, falling numbers were the problem: to reinforce the legend that if the monkeys left the Rock it would cease to be British, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister, imported dozens from north Africa.Reuse content