My encounter with monkeys

BY: Mabel Faith Tannor
Why monkeys love banana
Why monkeys love banana

My interest in knowing more about monkeys begun when I first read about the evolution of man in the Senior High School.

The theory, as propounded by Charles Darwin, suggests that man evolved from a monkey-like creatures called Apes. I was quite surprised about the arguments advanced in the said theory.

As a child, I was told in my Sunday school class that God created man and so coping with the Darwin’s theory was really a daunting task for me. I didn’t know which of the stories to believe. I was seriously confused.

I remember very well that on that day we had the class, we had series of debates about the issue even after our Science teacher had left the class. I had my own reservations about that theory even though I studied it religiously to enable me pass my examination.

Having read Darwin’s theory of the evolution of man, I therefore became interested in the affairs of monkeys. I really wanted to know more about them.

As I became interested in monkeys, one feature of them caught my attention—why monkeys love eating banana. This is because I always see monkeys eating banana, including those that I see in documentaries.

Just recently, I was having a conversation with a colleague in the office and from nowhere, I said something about monkeys and banana.

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is just easy to peal

Quickly, my colleague said, Mabel, don’t you think it will be nice to find out why monkeys eat banana. “Yes”, I responded in the affirmative. From there, I decided to pull every string necessary to enable me find out why monkeys like bananas.

The first thing that came to my mind was to visit a zoo. So, on Monday, September 24, 2018, I decided to go to the Accra Zoo. Even before I set off, I had spoken with a number of people, including Veterinary officers, animal specialists, foresters, hunters, and animal lovers to sample their views on the subject. 

Accra zoo

By 2:40p.m, I was already at the Accra Zoo entrance, waiting to be picked by the manager of the place to where the monkeys are housed. In no time at all, the manager came in his land rover vehicle.

I quickly hopped into the office vehicle that sent me to the place. I followed his vehicle and in about five minutes, we got to the zoo.

The manager, Mr Stephen Nteim Tamanja, introduced us to some military officers and forestry officers at the place, including his Assistance, Mr David Turkson. I also introduced myself and my team.

Mr Tamanja. Accra zoo manager

The two managers led us to one of the monkeys’ enclosures. The atmosphere was generally serene, except the chippings from the monkeys and other animals in the zoo.

Having welcomed us, Mr Tamanja asked me, “so what do you want to know?” and without hesitation, I said, “I want to know why monkeys love banana.”
Mr Tamanja burst into laughter and said, “Monkeys love banana because they are being opportunist.” “Being opportunist”, I repeated after him.

When we got to their enclosure, I saw a number of different types of monkeys in it. The look on their faces initially was not a welcoming one as they swung from one end of their enclosure to the other.

They would intermittently wink at us and swiftly take their eyes off us.

Some sat quietly on the swinging robes created in their enclosure. But as we got close and close to their enclosure, holding in my hand, a white polythene, I saw some of the monkeys directing their gaze at us stably.

However, the very moment I grabbed a bunch of banana from the polythene, I realised that all the monkeys had shifted their attention to us and were coming towards our direction.

I plucked a banana and gave it to Mr Turkson to be given to them. Even before he stretched out his hand to give it out, the monkeys were in their “ready mood” to receive it.

Assistant zoo manager. Mr Turkson

One grabbed it and greedily ate it. Others started coming around for their share. I deliberately pulled another set from the polythene and I could see their eyes “turning around” towards any direction the bananas moved.

Those that we first gave them the bananas came again for more with those waiting to receive theirs, particularly the young ones, impatiently starring at us. The “senior monkeys” blocked their chances. The young ones started screeching.

But the big question as to why monkeys love and get so attracted to banana still needed more detailed answers than they just “being opportunist” as Mr Tamanja had said early on. So, I probed further.

According to Mr Tamanja, the reason why many people assumed that monkeys like bananas was because that is what the monkeys are mostly fed with, particularly when they are kept in enclosures.

He added that the monkeys also find it easy to peel bananas faster than other fruits.

Banana give monkeys diabetes

He explained that because monkeys were omnivores, they “eat anything man eats and are not selective as long as the food is healthy.”
Mr Tamanja said bananas were not even good for the monkeys’ health and that feeding the monkeys with bananas at the zoo is often regulated.

“Feeding them with banana in the zoo is often regulated because of its high sugar content which can easily give some of them diabetes, particularly among the chimpanzees and gorillas,” he explained.

A reporter feeding the monkeys with banana

He said the diets of monkeys vary depending on the species, noting that while the East African Vervet monkeys eat flowers, bulbs, bark and roots as well as eggs and rodents, and that the owl monkeys who live in the rain forest consume a lot of leaves, fruits and insects.

He said feeds for monkeys included cabbage, cucumber, orange, peanuts, raw egg, raw meat, plummet, tomatoes, garden egg, tomatoes, maize, banana, and some selected leaves.

A worker feeding monkeys with variety of foods at the Achimota zoo

The Assistant Manager of the Zoo, Mr Turkson said although monkeys are generally friendly, they act strangely when they see strangers, particularly when visitors get them excited by trying to tease them with food.

Mr Stephen explained that when monkeys are teased with food, they get angry and do everything within their power to get the food, sometimes injuring people who tease them.

Types of monkeys

The Regional Manager for the Central and Western Regional Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, Dr Moses Kofi Sam, said monkeys are generally classified into two distinct groups, namely, the New World and Old World monkeys.

He explained that the New World Monkeys (primates) mainly live in South and Central America while the Old World primates live in Asia and Africa.

He said 14 different species of primate are found in Ghana and that these 14 species have different habitats and diets they prefer.

The 14 species, he said, were Lowes (Mona), Lesser Spot- nosed Monkey; Roloways Diana Monkey; Geoffeoys Black and White Colobus; Olive Colobus; Miss Waldones Red Colobus; White-naped (sooty) mangabey; Western Chimpanzee; Anubis baboon; Tantalus (green) monkey; Patas Monkey; and Senegal galago.

Dr Sam explained that Lowes (Mona) monkey mainly feed about 78 per cent on fruits, animal pray, leaves and flowers, adding that the Miss Waldones Red Colobus are very selective with foods.

He further said the Geoffeoys Black and White Colobus monkeys also feed on leaves, fruit pulp, seeds and more diverse diets than the red colobus. 

He said New World primates have tails with grasping abilities, but do not possess opposable thumbs as compared with most Old World primates who have opposable thumbs with typically functionless or non-existent tails.

When posed with the same question as to why monkeys like banana, the Deputy Director of the Ghana Veterinary Services (GVS), Dr Anthony Akunzule, also could not hold his laughter.

According to him, monkeys like other animals in the wild, eat many varieties of foods, including bananas which many people presumed to be their favourite.

He said monkeys “have varieties of foods to pick from…they eat many different types of fruits and vegetables.”

monkey taking variety of vegetables

Similarly, the Head Department of Conservation Biology and Entomology, School of Biology Sciences, College of Agriculture and Natural sciences of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Dr Kwaku Brako Dakwa, said monkeys preferred watermelon to banana, adding that “it appears monkey’s preferences are fruits that have sugary and juicy taste.”

monkey taking variety of fruits

People’s views

Majesty Twentor, a student of the University of Education, Winneba, believes monkeys like banana because it’s part of their nature.

Miriam Akos Osei, a health worker, however was of the view that monkeys like banana because "it tastes sweet."

Contributing to the subject, Fredrick Anebo, a student of Multimedia Institute of Ghana, said monkeys like banana because it makes their voice soft .

A study carried out by the Department of Wildlife and Range Management of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the Wildlife Division of the Central and Western Region in 2012 indicated that there are currently 51 species of non-human primates living in Africa, with new ones yet to be discovered.

Sadly, the study added that many monkeys face extinction due to habitat destruction as well as people killing them for food and other uses. Forest-living monkeys, for instance, are considered endangered species, with tropical forests being destroyed at an alarming pace.

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