The monkey forest in Malchow is a popular destination for many day-trippers in the south of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in the North of Germany. As the monkey forest is located just next to a summer toboggan run, many families with their kids visit the forest of the monkeys. In this blog entry I tell you more about this monkey forest and give you some impressions of the close-by town Malchow.
The monkey forest in Malchow
The monkey forest – or „Affenwald“ in German – is located in the south of the Mecklenburg Lake District and provides a home for a group of barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus).
Barbary macaques naturally live in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Algeria where they inhabit open and forested regions. In the past barbary macaques had a broader distribution. They were a widespread species in the north of Africa where they inhabited regions from Libya to Morocco. Nowadays, barbary macaques are considered as an extinct species in countries like for example Tunisia.
In Europe barbary macaques can be found in Gibraltar. They do not occur in any other place in Europe. Gibraltar is located in the southeast of Spain, but politically the city belongs to Great Britain.
Maybe now you ask yourself: "But how did the barbary macaques reach Gibraltar?"
Well, I cannot give you hear a clear answer. Maybe they were introduced in the past. Or they reached Gibraltar by themselves anyhow. As fossils from England and Hungary indicate that barbary macaques had already lived in Europe before the last ice age, it could also be possible that barbary macaques have been in Gibraltar since the last ice age. If it was like this, the population in Gibraltar could be the remaining barbary macaques of a once large population spread over Europe.
As already mentioned, I cannot give you a clear answer here. But anyway, the most important fact you have to know here: in the world of today barbary macaques only live in the north of Africa and in Gibraltar.
Interesting fact: Did you know that the barbary macaque is the only species of macaques (Genus: Macaca) that occurs in regions outside of Asia? Macaques are Old World monkeys and all of them live in Asia - except the barbary macaque.
In the monkey forest in Malchow the barbary macaques live in a fenced off area. In other words: the monkeys are not free and they are habituated to human presence.
I’m always torn with respect to captive animals and as I did not know the facility, I was not sure if I should go or not. I was without internet and I had no possibility to inform myself in advance on site. But I gave the monkey forest in Malchow a chance. I thought, maybe it is a place like Monkeyland? Monkeyland is a sanctuary for monkeys in South Africa. It is a forested area of about 12 hectares along the Garden Route in South Africa where confiscated monkeys, which cannot be released into the wild again, find a new home.
As I liked Monkeyland, I decided to visit the monkey forest in Malchow.
I passed the entrance area and reached a place with a playground for the monkeys.
As there was no barbary macaque, I walked up a hill to reach the forested area.
It was a hot day.
In the forested area I was not alone. Some more people - especially families - were around.
The monkeys did not care about our presence.
At least it seemed to me like this.
Most of them were feeding on the ground anywhere in the grass while one barbary macaque was sitting in front of the feeding trough.
The barbary macaques are fed several times each day with fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The staff of the monkey forest spread the food across the monkey forest. This way, the monkeys have to search for their food.
Sometimes barbary macaques also eat buds, shoots, roots and insects.
Important: Please do not feed the monkeys! Most of our food is very sugary, and thus, not healthy for the monkeys. Please keep that in mind and follow the rules of the facility.
Barbary macaques in their natural environment like in Morocco or Algeria also have a mostly plant-based diet. However, during a locust infestation barbary macaques might also feed on many locusts.
As feeding was the main activity on my visit, I saw mostly this behavior.
And what about their social behavior?
As barbary macaques live in groups of up to 50 animals, of course, I expected some interesting social interactions between the monkeys to see.
Like for example allogrooming.
Allogrooming is a behavior when one monkey grooms another monkey. Grooming does not only help to keep the fur free of parasites, it also helps to stabilize social bonds between individuals or reduce aggressions among the monkeys.
Indeed I could observe some monkeys grooming each other on my walk through the monkey forest.
Important: Please do not touch the monkeys. Although the barbary macaques groom each other, this does not mean that humans are allowed to interact with the monkeys. Barbary macaques have sharp teeth and they might defend themselves with a bite.
I was looking for more monkeys that were grooming each other, however, I only could find one individual that was sitting behind a wooden information board where it was was grooming itself.
No other barbary macaque was around.
While most barbary macaques appeared quite lazy on that hot day, I could see only few very active individuals. The most active monkeys were climbing up trees.
I could not observe so many other interactions between the barbary macaques. However, this is also because of my short visit. Barbary macaques have a very complex social structure. It is not possible to see all of their social behavior repertoire on one short visit on a late afternoon.
Nevertheless, important to mention is that groups of barbary macaques are organized in hierarchies. There are high-ranking and low-ranking males and females. If a female is high-ranking, her daughters will be a high-ranking barbary macaque within the group, too. But a mother will usually always rank higher than her daughters.
Interesting fact: Did you know that females in barbary macaques mate with several males? Usually only dominant males mate with receptive females. However, sometimes even low-ranking males find anyhow a chance to mate with a female. Therefore, males are not sure about paternity, and thus, care for the young of the group.
As I haven’t seen so much of their social behavior and as their social structure is so complex, I will not go deeper into that.
Nevertheless, the monkey forest in Malchow comprises an area of about 3,5 hectares.
I was walking around mainly through the upper part of the forest on that hot day.
I found several monkeys sleeping on tree trunks.
Another monkey found a place to doze on the ground.
And another one made himself comfortable on a bench.
One barbary macaque was lying in the grass and looking at me.
At the end of my visit I left the monkeys behind and searched for a bench to sit down for some moments to think about the monkey forest in Malchow.
Yes, these barbary macaques in the monkey forest live in a captive environment.
And I'm not happy about this.
However, did you know that barbary macaques are „endangered“ according to the IUCN? And a place like the monkey forest might be a safe refuge for these monkeys?
Like for many animals, one of the main threats barbary macaques are exposed to is habitat loss.
It is very frustrating to observe that so many wild animals like the barbary macaques loose their habitat. What to do against this?
Therefore, maybe protected refuges like the monkey forest might be in the near future the only safe place for many wild animals?
I don’t know.
But the development of our planet earth is very worrisome.
Although I’m never happy to see animals in captivity, I think, the monkey forest in Malchow is a good place. It is a place where some barbary macaques probably do not live a life like they would live in the wild, but in the monkey forest they are safe. They are safe from all the threats they are exposed to in the wild. Including habitat loss.
Malchow in the Mecklenburg Lake District
The small and picturesque town Malchow is located in the south of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and surrounded by forests and several lakes like the "Malchower See". The town became a popular destination for many vacationers. Visitors of Malchow will find great nature around the town and many very idyllic places.
Very popular among tourists is the swingbridge "Drehbrücke Malchow" which was constructed with the aim to connect Malchow with the western part of the Mecklenburg Lake District to simultaneously guarantee a path for passing ships on the Müritz-Elde waterway. The bridge has a length of about 15 meters and opens once every hour.
Another point of interest within the town is the monastery church "Klosterkirche Malchow".
If you want to leave the town and if you want to see more wildlife, there is a bear sanctuary close by. You will find it under the name "Bärenwald Müritz".
You can also just marvel at all the nature around Malchow as I did.
At first sight Malchow looks like a very calm town. It is indeed. However, if you pass the swing bridge and walk into the direction of the monastery church, you might encounter some traffic. Both on the street and on the water.
However, despite of some traffic in the town, I very liked Malchow and in my opinion it is a very nice place to stay for a vacation or short-trip, respectively.
Practical information about the monkey forest
Where to stay in Malchow
On my short-trip to the monkey forest and the bear sanctuary, I stayed in the Youth Hostel Malchow. I was very happy with the decision. I liked the youth hostel and the room. It was clean and quiet. The youth hostel is located in the street Platz der Freiheit 3, 17213 Malchow. For two nights I paid 40,90 Euros including a bike for 7 Euros (1 day) and a spa tax for 1 Euro.
How to get to Malchow
If you rely on public transport you can reach Malchow by train or bus. I traveled from Berlin to Malchow by bus with the company Flixbus. The journey took about two hours and I paid 31,97 Euros for a return ticket. However, check the timetable of the Flixbus buses as there are buses on only few days of the week.
More info about the monkey forest
The entrance fee of the monkey forest is 5 Euros for an adult (July 2019). The entrance fee does not include the summer toboggan run. If you want to know more about the prices you can check the official website of the monkey forest (only in German).
The monkey forest opens daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. between the 1st of April and the 31st of October.
Have you already been at this monkey forest or in general in Malchow? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments.