Bananas are Bad for Monkeys.Keith
They go together like dogs and bones or horses and hay, but now it seems the banana is actually bad for a monkey.
The monkeys at Bristol Zoo are having bananas – and all fruit – phased out of their diet – after research found bananas are too sugary and unhealthy and another West Country zoo said they can cause the monkeys to fight each other more.
Bristol Zoo’s keepers said although that has not been a problem in their zoo, they are in the process of cutting out all fruit from all the meals given to primates, who will be tucking into fresh vegetables and pellets instead.
Experts said that the bananas and other fruit grown for human consumption has been developed to be far more sugary and less nutritious than the monkeys might otherwise have found in the wild, and therefore it was not good for them.
Bristol Zoo’s director, Dr Bryan Carroll, said many of the primates at Bristol Zoo receive little or no fruit at all in their daily diets already, and that would soon be down to zero across the board.
“We always ensure that all our animals are in tip-top condition,” he said.
“They receive the best possible care including diet plans based on research and experience of their specific needs.
“We are guided by the expert knowledge of our team of scientists, vets and keeping staff.”
The monkeys at Paignton Zoo are also on a similar diet, mainly thanks to the work of Bristol Zoo’s resident expert, Dr Christoph Schwitzer, whose published research on the importance of balanced diets – containing no bananas, for primates in captivity: work which is now being used to change the diets of primates both at Bristol Zoo and many other zoos.
Senior head keeper of mammals at Paignton Zoo, Matthew Webb, said it had already made a difference “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,” he said.
“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.”
Amy Plowman, the head of conservation and advocacy at Paignton Zoo, said: “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.
“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.
“It can also cause gastrointestinal problems as their stomachs are mostly adapted to eating fibrous foods with very low digestibility.”
A typical monkey diet now features lots of green leafy vegetables, smaller amounts of other vegetables and as much browse – leafy branches – as possible, especially for the leaf-eating monkeys.
Perhaps us humans should follow suit, and the world may be a better place to live.