Can Monkeys Eat Chocolate? (Or Ice Cream??)

  • 5 min read
  • Primates
Can Monkeys Eat Chocolate?

You’ve seen photos and videos of monkeys eating all sorts of foods and you’re probably wondering can they, or should they, be eating them?

Can monkeys eat chocolate? Although there’s no extensive research on how eating chocolate can affect monkeys (extensive research was done on dogs, cats, rats, and mice), common sense tells us that monkeys shouldn’t eat chocolate as it’s not a natural food source for them. That being said, monkeys can get “hooked” on chocolate, just as we can, and would even rob it out of your hands if an opportunity presented itself.

S, what’s the deal with chocolate anyway? Why is this tasty and addictive treat often called the most toxic food for animals?

There’s this thing called theobromine – a bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant that is found in chocolate, as well as in a number of other foods, including the leaves of the teas, that can induce poisoning if eaten in large, or any, amounts by dogs, cats, etc.

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In general, the amount of theobromine found in chocolate is so small that it can be safely consumed by us humans with a negligible risk of poisoning, while in the meantime, some animals could die of it.

Although chocolate poisoning is rare in the wild, as wild animals don’t have chocolate readily available to them, chocolate has been used to control the growth of coyote populations in the US, where they were attacking livestock!

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the scientists settled on a 5:1 theobromine/caffeine mixture as a promising coyote toxicant.

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What Do Monkeys Eat?

It’s a well-known fact that monkeys are omnivores and will eat meat but also plants and plant-based foods. This includes nuts, fruits, seeds, flowers, but also bird’s eggs, small lizards, insects, and spiders. Most primates include fruit in their diets to obtain easily digested nutrients including carbohydrates and lipids for energy.

Many primates have even specialized anatomically to enable them to exploit particular foods such as leaves, gum, or insects. The only living obligate carnivorous primates are tarsiers that are exclusively eating insects, crustaceans, small vertebrates and snakes (including venomous species).

Monkey eating an apple
Monkey eating an apple

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Can Monkeys Eat Human Food?

Because monkeys are omnivores, like us, they can eat pretty much anything, including human food. The question is of course – should they (or us!). Research published in 2016 from the University of Lincoln showed that monkeys that were fed 50% of their food by tourists were getting larger, more susceptible to disease, and more stressed.

This actually affected male monkeys much more than the female ones because the females fed by tourists had larger body sizes, but better coat quality while the males suffered more from alopecia and higher stress levels.

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Can Monkeys Eat Ice Cream?

Can Monkeys Eat Ice Cream
Can Monkeys Eat Ice Cream?

Monkeys love eating and licking ice cream. They will often get the ice cream from tourists – voluntarily or not. So, even though they LOVE eating it, the question again is – should they? While that often can’t be prevented because they would just steal it directly from peoples’ hands, it should be minimized at least. Ice cream isn’t even healthy for us humans, let alone animals or in this case – monkeys.

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Are Bananas Good For Monkeys?

Can Monkeys Eat Bananas
Can Monkeys Eat Bananas?

Although monkeys and bananas are ubiquitous and are pictured in our minds together when thinking about one or the other, bananas are not the best food option for our cousins.

You might be picturing a monkey holding and eating a banana but that’s more uncommon than you’d think and can probably be seen only in Zoos. A zoo in England actually even decided to stop feeding its monkeys bananas altogether, because they’re too sugary.

“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,”

Amy Plowman, head of conservation and advocacy at Paignton Zoo
Monkey eating sandwich
Monkey eating sandwich

Conclusion

So, what have we learned from all of this then? I guess the point is that monkeys shouldn’t be eating human food or any food that isn’t suitable for them. Heck, even we shouldn’t be eating most of the food that we’re actually eating on a daily basis.

Monkey eating an ice cream
Monkey eating an ice cream
Monkey eating a tomato
Monkey eating a tomato
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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.

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