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Banana-free diet for Paignton Zoo monkeys

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It sounds like a bad joke, but it is actually a true story: monkeys at a zoo have been banned from eating bananas.

According to staff at Paignton Zoo in Devon, bananas cultivated for humans are too sugary for monkeys. It would be the equivalent of stuffing the poor animals with chocolate and cake- not that they wouldn't like it, mind you. But it seems that the effects on their health could be devastating.

Fruit cultivated for humans can create serious gastrointestinal problems in monkey, as well as causing tooth decay and diabetes. Bananas, for instance, are too ripe and other fruits in general too sugary and too low in fibres and proteins compared to the same fruits growing in the wild.

According to Amy Plowman, head of conservation at Paignton Zoo, it hasn't been too hard weaning monkey off bananas. The daily intake was slowly reduced, so not to cause any nasty withdrawal symptoms.

At the moment, Dr Plowman explained, the friendly primates are being fed an healthy diet rich in fibres, green leafy vegetables and leafy branches above all. The latter is an ideal food for monkeys as very similar to what they would eat in the wild.

Bananas now are very rare treats and the monkeys seem to appreciate them even more.

Additionally, as senior head keeper of mammals Matthew Webb told BBC News, the reduction of sugar in their diet made the animals much calmer and more settled as a group. It also improved the condition of their coats.

But what do the monkeys think about it?

Well, considered that those bananas are for them what cake and chocolate are for our kids, they mustn't have been very pleased. As Dr Plowman put it: “They didn't get a choice but - unlike children - they couldn't complain.”

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