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 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.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss