Popularised images in Hollywood often show monkeys munching on bananas and have led to the widespread misconception that bananas form an integral part of a monkey’s main diet. This is a dangerous fallacy and one that has led to severe health problems in apes, which I recently discovered while on vacation in Costa Rica.
Whereas monkeys tend to inhabit the primary forest within canopies and seldom come close to the forest floor, this would place them in danger of becoming prey, bananas grow on the forest floor. This essentially means that monkeys do not come into contact with bananas in the wild.
The health problems associated with feeding monkeys bananas are widespread. Not only do they contain much more sugar than their typical diet, which is bad for their teeth and can lead to diabetes and similar conditions but also they can cause gastro-intestinal problems as their stomachs are mostly adapted to eating fibrous foods with very low digestibility.
Moreover bananas have created an additional issue for monkeys. Their production, which is predominantly man made, has led to wide scale deforestation and the destruction of the monkeys natural habitat putting their very existence in danger in some parts of the world, as was the case in the Osa peninsula in Costa Rica where a US banana company destroyed large parts of the natural rainforest irreparably damaging its ecology over the course of the 1950s.