Monkeys banned from eating bananas at Devon zoo
Zookeepers say the stereotypical food actually makes monkeys more aggressive, rots their teeth and can lead to diabetes
Monkeys at a zoo in Devon have been banned from eating bananas – for the sake of their health.
Zookeepers said the fruit grown and exported for human consumption have far higher levels of sugar than the ones monkeys would eat in the wild – to the point that it’s bad for their teeth and can lead to diabetes.
Despite the obvious cliché, the animals are now only allowed to have bananas as a special treat or when they need medication. Nutritionists likened it to giving children cake and chocolate, but added that unlike children the deprived monkeys “can’t complain”.
Experts at Paignton Zoo, Devon, said the sugar-free diet was working wonders for the animals – even making them calmer and more sociable.
Senior head keeper of mammals Matthew Webb said: “We have noticed an improvement in the condition of primate coats - in particular the colour and thickness of the fur of the Sulawesi crested black macaques.
“Smaller monkeys such as tamarins and marmosets are highly-strung animals and live in tight-knit social groups which can be quite aggressive at times. Reducing the sugar in their diets has calmed them down and made their groups more settled.”
A female baby orangutan born at Paignton Zoo last year with her mother - the poor thing would now only get to eat bananas as a treat or if she is unwell Amy Plowman, head of conservation and advocacy, said visitors might be surprised by the concept of getting in between monkeys and the food perceived to be their favourite.
“People usually try to improve their diet by eating more fruit - but fruit cultivated for humans is much higher in sugar and much lower in protein and fibre than most wild fruit because we like our fruit to be so sweet and juicy,” she said.
“Giving this fruit to animals is equivalent to giving them cake and chocolate.
“Compared to the food they would eat in the wild, bananas are much more energy-dense - they have lots of calories - and contain much more sugar that's bad for their teeth and can lead to diabetes and similar conditions.
“It can also cause gastrointestinal problems as their stomachs are mostly adapted to eating fibrous foods with very low digestibility.”
Dr Plowman said it had not been too hard to wean the monkeys off bananas and give them vegetables instead.
“We reduced the amounts slowly so they had a long period to get accustomed to their new diet,” she said.
“They didn't get a choice but - unlike children - they couldn't complain.
“The alternative is vegetables and lots of them, especially leafy green veg. We still use starchy root veg.
“But we have reduced amounts as it can still be quite high in sugar and other readily-digestible carbohydrate. Leafy green veg is great because it is high in protein, fibre and lots of vitamins and minerals.”
A specialist pellet feed gives them the correct balance of nutrients, while small amounts of cooked brown rice can be scattered around enclosures to encourage foraging.
The animals do still get the occasional banana if they are unwell and the keepers need to make sure they take medication.
Dr Plowman said: “Putting it in a piece of banana works really well, as it's such a treat now.”
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
California teacher appears to have hanged herself in her classroom
The City of the Monkey God: Archaeologists claim to have found city lost for 1,000 years in remote Honduran jungle
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
Bubonic plague-carrying fleas found on New York City rats
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a critical role within the secur...
£20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Exciting new position available at an independ...