Last updated on February 5th, 2022
It is good to have a globe-trotter for a neighbor! It is even better when she invites you over for the occasional garden parties, and you get to meet new people. While attending her parties, people from different walks of life like animal conservationists, wildlife photographers, and vineyard owners.
This time I got a chance to meet a cacao farmer. He owned cacao fields and found that his work was indeed interesting. He spoke to me about the several pests that attacked his farm and his measures to protect the produce.
I was surprised because my idea of cacao was that it is bitter, and the outer shell is tough. Therefore most animals would avoid it. But several animals eat cacao. He told me that some of the animals that eat cacao are as follows:
Animals that eat cacao:
- Fruit-eating Bats
1. Fruit-Eating Bats
These are probably the most dangerous pests that can attack a cacao farm. These flying mammals are known to eat all types of fruits and berries.
Bats are known to eat all kinds of fruits, irrespective of whether these have a hard casing or not. The problem that arises with a bat infestation is that these creatures arrive in hordes.
If a cacao farm is under a fruit bat attack, it becomes difficult to protect the fruits as these bats will attack the young cacao pods.
The more immature pods do not have a rugged casing and can easily be bitten into. The fruit-eating bats can break open the young green pods and access the pulp inside.
Sometimes the fruit bats are known to devour the cacao leaves and the buds as well. Hence, for a cacao farmer, the attack of fruit-eating bats can prove quite dangerous as it can lead to a substantial loss of produce.
Rodents are also another threat to cacao farming. When you think of rodents, the first thing that comes to your mind is rats.
Rats can cause severe damage to a cacao farm as they can destroy young cacao fruit. They can scratch and break the pods to access the seeds inside.
The fact that cacao is bitter is not an issue with rodents as they are opportunistic scavengers. Rodents can bite, gnaw and scratch the cacao pods.
When it comes to adult pods, they are often drawn to the pods as they look for suitable materials to chew to reduce the length of their teeth.
When it comes to pet rodent-like mice, you can consider giving it cacao or chocolate occasionally. But you shouldn’t include it as a part of its diet.
Chocolate is not an everyday food for rats, and the chemical theobromine can cause food poisoning. Hence, you should avoid giving chocolate to your pet rat except as an occasional treat in small portions.
Sometimes monkeys, especially the capuchin monkey, have been chewing into the pod of raw cacao.
Research shows that these monkeys tend to break open the cacao pods to access the sweet pulp inside.
The monkeys are quick to identify that the seeds are bitter, and they will discard them. But cacao pulp contains nearly eighty percent water and fifteen percent sugar.
This not only makes the cacao pulp sweet but easy to chew and digest.
The capuchin monkey is smaller in size compared to other monkeys and is an omnivore that is always on the lookout for suitable sources of food.
They are good at cracking open nuts, and the pods of cacao trees do not pose any challenge to the capuchin monkey.
The monkeys can easily break open the pods to access the sweet pulp inside. Moreover, capuchin monkeys love chocolate, which is why people who have pet capuchins often give them chocolates as treats occasionally.
Toucans are unique birds native to the Amazonian forest. You can easily distinguish the bird by its colorful beak.
The toucan is an omnivore, and they can survive on both animal and plant-based food. But the bird prefers various types of berries and fruits.
For instance, young cacao pods are easily broken apart by toucans because the bird’s sharp beak makes it easy for them to break open the outer casing of many fruits to access the soft pulp inside.
Like the capuchin monkeys, Toucans reject the seeds in the cacao pods and only consume the soft pulp.
This is because the high sugar content of the cacao pulp provides the bird with sufficient energy. But this is different from giving chocolate to the bird.
Toucans cannot be domesticated, but you can find these birds in zoos. However, even in a zoo, a toucan is never given chocolates because the chemical theobromine can prove dangerous for the bird.
Unlike other creatures that love to eat cacao pods, the sloths do not pose any danger to the cacao plant.
The primary reason for this is that sloths are slow eaters. They will eat a few leaves and consume only a few leaves a day.
It takes about thirty days for a sloth to digest a cacao leaf. Sloths eat cacao leaves and pods, but they prefer pods over the leaves because of the soft and sweet pulp inside the fruit.
When agroforestry or sloth rehabilitation is considered, conservationists often consider planting cacao trees. As sloths love to eat cacao fruit and leaves, they would enjoy living in the forest.
Peccaries are small pig-like animals found in South America. These medium-sized creatures are primarily herbivores, but they are known to consume insects and small animals.
Some species of peccaries consume cacti due to their high water content. Peccaries like to eat high water content fruits, and cacao pods fall in the particular category.
If a cacao pod falls to the ground and a peccary happens to be around, you will find that the creature will go towards it and break open the pod.
Its objective is to eat the soft pulp inside while discarding the bitter seeds.
The animals that eat cacao are fruit-eating bats, rodents, monkeys, toucans, sloths, peccaries, and squirrels.