A Monkey Mountain in Germany?
Yes, or Affenberg in German. Located near Lake Constance (Bodensee) in southwest Germany lies 20 hectares of forest with Germany’s largest open-air monkey enclosure home to 200+ Barbary macaques. Surprisingly, Barbary macaques feel right at home in Germany, since their native origins are in the high mountains of up to 2000m in Morocco and Algeria.
Mounkey Mountain is not really a mountain but more of a small hill covered in forest, but I was especially interested in it since I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Primatology (study of primates) and any chance I have to observe primates, I am there! I must admit though I was a bit apprehensive as I want to ensure that I am supporting a place where the animals are well cared for. Fortunately, I had a friend who had been there and has worked in animal welfare and she had a good impression of Monkey Mountain, so off we went. Travel in Germany is easy, we choose to drove, but the train system is also excellent.
Upon entrance and a €8 admission fee (children under 6 are free), visitors are instructed to stay on the path and not pet the macaques or harass them in anyway. Rules given, visitors make their over to the next staff member who carefully watches as visitors can take a handful of popcorn to feed the Barbary macaques. You are only allowed to feed the macaques that are sitting on the wooden fence, wanting to be fed. As I tried to lure a baby macaque sitting just inside the fence with a piece of popcorn I was promptly (but fairly) reprimanded by one of the staff members. I was impressed by the number of staff members around who would seemingly appear out of nowhere if someone tried to break one of the rules. If a Barbary macaque wants to eat popcorn, they know where to get it – which was clear by the rather ample size of some of the macaques.
I was also surprised, but pleased to learn that popcorn makes up less than 15% of the Barbary macaques diet at Monkey Mountain. In addition to popcorn they’re fed fruits, vegetables and seeds. Celery seemed to be the most in demand vegetable that we saw when we were there.
The Barbary macaques also have plenty of ample room to get away from the visitors, including a forest on both sides of the visitor pathway and if you looked carefully you could see the odd Barbary macaque sleeping peacefully in a tree, or all of a sudden from the quiet forest leaves would come crashing down beside you as a Barbary macaque made his grand entrance – subtlety does not appear to be a behavioral trait in Barbary macaques.
In addition to feeding popcorn to the Barbary macaques, we also observed other behaviors, including playing which was hilarious watching the young macaques using tree branches in their quick paced games of chase.
Grooming was another popular behavior. Typically, lower ranking individuals will groom higher ranking individuals in the hopes of getting into their good graces and having them protect them should they ever get into a fight with another member of the group. For the high ranking individuals it’s like the equivalent of getting an hours long massage everyday -ahhh the good life.
Conservation also plays a role at Monkey Mountain. Unfortunately Barbary macaques are an endangered species and the population of macaques at Monkey Mountain contributes to the safety stock of the species. I also believe behavioral research has been done in the past at Monkey Mountain, but I couldn’t find anything confirming that behavioral research is currently being conducted.
Monkey Mountain was my last day trip from Stuttgart with the Stuttgart girls, as we make our Germany tour, who thoughtfully planned such a fun excursion (thanks so much Ashley) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not surprisingly it is also a popular attraction for families. I plan to go again, but this time in May when all the babies are born!