Gibraltar Nature Reserve

The Gibraltar Nature Reserve formerly the Upper Rock Nature Reserve is a protected nature reserve in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar that covers over 40% of the country’s land area. It was established as the Upper Rock Nature Reserve in 1993 under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s category Ia (strict nature reserve) and was last extended in 2013. It is known for its semi-wild population of Barbary macaques, and is an important resting point for migrating birds.

Originally named the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, it was limited to the upper part of the Rock of Gibraltar, a long and narrow limestone peninsula that rises to a height of 426 metres (1,398 ft) above sea level. The Rock is part of the Betic Cordillera, formed about 200 million years ago. From the crest of the rock there is a dramatic view of the area, including Spain across the Bay of Gibraltar and Jebel Musa of Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar. It is an area of considerable natural beauty and one of the main tourist attractions in Gibraltar.

Gibraltar has more than six hundred species of flowering plants. The maquis, or dense Mediterranean scrub, is mostly made up of tall bushes that include wild olive, Mediterranean buckthorn, lentisc, Osyris and terebinth, and smaller bushes that include shrubby scorpion vetch, spiny broom, teline, wild jasmine, shrubby germander and felty germander. The bay laurel and the dwarf fan palm are also found in parts of the maquis. Understory plants include the intermediate periwinkle, Butcher’s broom, Italian arum and Bear’s breech. The firebreaks in the maquis are home to plants such as paper-white narcissus, common asphodel, giant Tangier fennel, wild gladiolus, Galactites and mallow bindweed.

Mammals include the red fox, European rabbit and mouse-eared bat. The best-known residents are the Barbary macaques that make the reserve their home. Gibraltar has a reintroduced population of Barbary macaques, the only wild primate species in Europe, the famous Rock apes. There are five species of lizard in the nature reserve, six snakes and an amphisbaenian. This last is a small, subterranean reptile that has no legs and no eyes. The most common lizard is the small green or brown Iberian wall lizard. The larger Algerian sand racer and the mainly nocturnal Moorish gecko are also common. Rarer lizards are the Turkish gecko and the ocellated lizard. Snakes include the horseshoe whip snake, Montpellier snake, southern smooth snake, false smooth snake, grass snake and ladder snake.

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