They are yellow and tasty. Kids use them as toy guns and phones, adults to make delicious bread. Ever since the dawn of television, a monkey and banana have been an inseparable duo.
That’s why you might be surprised to learn that in the wild, monkeys will never eat bananas.
The reason is simple: the edible banana we enjoy every day is a cultivated domesticated plant and fruit; one that monkeys will never encounter in the wild. Unless humans feed it to them. Or they raid banana plants. Yes, that often happens.
Either way, when you see them lay their hands on bananas, it’s not hard to wonder: do monkeys eat banana peels or just the inside body? The simple answer is: yes, monkeys will occasionally eat banana peels.
This deserves a bit more explaining, though. Read on!
Do Monkeys Eat Banana Peels?
Monkeys are frugivores and might eat an entire banana, just the inside part, or only the peels, depending on how hungry they are. In nature, monkeys can be seen throwing banana skin down at careless observers.
If there is a lot of food around, a monkey will only choose to eat the best part of a banana, the inside body. If feeling hungry, it might eat the entire banana, together with the skin. If they can’t find bananas, some monkeys will even pick up the banana skin left by other monkeys and eat it.
Monkeys will also eat phloem bundles – those strings and threads you peel off a banana. They are full of potassium, fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin B6; you shouldn’t throw those away.
Can A Monkey Peel A Banana?
To get to the delicious inside body, most people would peel their bananas from the stem down. Multiple sources claim, however, that the correct way to peel a banana is actually from the bottom up.
Monkeys are experts at peeling bananas. They have tiny and flexible fingers and will open a banana however they feel is convenient for them at the moment. Whether from the finger tip (end part), the crown (stem part), or from the side, a monkey will do as it feels.
In most cases, monkeys prefer eating ripe bananas; overripe ones are not their favorite.
Do Monkeys Like Bananas?
Yes, monkeys enjoy eating bananas, a lot. Compared to the food they might eat in the wild, bananas are very tasty and high in nutritional content. Due to their high sugar levels, monkeys consider them as treats.
But just because monkeys like eating bananas, it doesn’t mean that they are good for them.
Bananas contain a lot of sugar (14g per 105 kcal) that’s bad for their teeth and can lead to diabetes and similar conditions. That’s why a zoo in England banned monkeys from eating bananas.
Zookeepers of the Paignton Zoo claim that giving monkeys bananas cultivated for humans is like giving them cake and chocolate, they might taste good, but it can cause some problems down the line.
Bananas that are too ripe can cause gastrointestinal problems for the primates. Zookeepers also claim that “reducing the sugar in their diets has calmed them down and made their group more settled”.
A study from 1936 where scientists examined food preferences of green monkeys and capuchins discovered that bananas were the preferred choice of monkeys, right after the grapes.
What they also discovered was that when offered bananas, carrots, bread, lettuce, grapes, apples, and nuts in different orders, the same monkey would always choose those 7 pieces of food in the same order.
And almost all of the monkeys picked the following order of foods: (1) Grape, (2) Banana, (3) Apple, (4) Carrot, (5) Lettuce or Cabbage, (6) Nuts, (7) Bread.
Fun fact: they did the same experiment with a 3-year old child and found out that the kid almost chose the exact order of food like the monkeys – bananas ranked right behind grapes and nuts.
When offered to eat as much food as possible in 30 minutes, a 4-pound Capucin would eat almost 0.44 lbs of bananas – almost a ninth of its body weight.
The experiment didn’t record if the monkeys are the entire banana together with the skin, or just the inside part.
Read More: Do Monkeys Have Chins Like Humans Do?
Gorillas and other apes prefer to eat bananas, including the skin, just like some monkeys. And just as with monkeys, bananas are not part of a gorilla’s natural diet.
Should Humans Be Eating Banana Peels?
Banana peels have often been touted as the next big thing in human nutrition – they will supposedly cure insomnia and depression, lower your cholesterol, protect your heart and benefit your eyes.
However, despite many interesting nutrients in the banana peel, the amounts are small, and there haven’t been too many studies showing that our bodies can actually absorb them. The flavor is also a big problem – banana peels are bitter and very chewy.
There are also lots of pesticides on the surface of the skin; so in case you decide to try eating it, make sure to thoroughly wash banana skin before adding it to your smoothy. Or just avoid eating it, in the first place.
If television has taught us something, it’s that monkeys are crazy for bananas. Despite seeing some monkeys peeling and eating the skin of a banana, you should note that monkeys have only recently started eating those “modern” supermarket bananas they are often associated with. Modern bananas are a cultivated fruit, a process that took more than six thousand years.
In nature, monkeys eat leaves, flowers, nuts, and insects. Monkeys aren’t likely to find the bananas that we eat today in the wild, unless people give them some, or they steal them from banana plantations.