Saturday, 5th October 2013

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Monkey bites child and gran in Rock attack

by Brian Reyes

A mother described yesterday the terrifying moment that her young daughter was attacked by a Barbary macaque while visiting the Upper Rock nature reserve.

The monkey bit four-year old Sophia above the ankle and turned on grandmother Jean as she desperately tried to shield the child.

Jean was bitten too and suffered serious bruising and scratches to her arm as she fought off the monkey.

“It was really vicious,” said Sophia’s mum, Nichola, who witnessed the attack from just a few steps behind as she held on to her youngest daughter.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so frightened in my life.”

The incident occurred at the Top of the Rock during a family outing.

The two adults and the children had stepped off the cable car and were climbing the spiral staircase to the viewing terrace when they came face to face with the monkey on the last few steps.

A child in front of them shrunk back in fear, as did Sophia. But the confined space and the presence of young macaques nearby triggered a tense situation that swiftly escalated into an attack.

Other monkeys reacted to the noise, adding to the chaos of the situation.

Somehow they managed to get away and take refuge in the cafeteria, where staff provided assistance. A doctor who happened to be visiting Gibraltar that day treated the wounds while an ambulance crew rushed to the scene.

Sophia and Jean both had to receive medical attention at St Bernard’s Hospital.

But it is the psychological scars that will perhaps take longest to heal.

“It was terrifying,” Nichola said. “When I close my eyes, it’s all I can see.”

Yesterday she recalled how there was nobody to help fight off the monkeys after the attack began, or to warn them of the potential risk beforehand.

Although there are signs warning against feeding or interacting with the Barbary macaques, Nichola said this was an unprovoked attack that could have been avoided.

Neither was it an isolated incident. Just a few days earlier, friends of the same family were attacked on Mediterranean Steps.

“If we’re going to have so many people go up there, there should be more control,” Nichola said.

“We should at least have wardens to provide assistance and information.”



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