When you think of young or matured coconuts, the thing that deters me the most is the sheer hardness of the fruit’s outer shell.
But it surprised me when I learned that several animals consume coconuts and search out these fruits in the wild.
During a discussion with a zoologist friend, I came across this unique piece of information that coconut is one of the most sought-after fruits amongst many animals in tropical rainforests.
Animals that eat coconuts:
- Coconut crabs
- Rhinoceros beetles
The nutritional value of coconuts, the high-calorie content, and even the taste of the fruit appeals to many animals other than primates.
However, the hard outer shell doesn’t seem to deter these animals from finding ingenious ways of breaking open the fruit to access the flesh inside.
Here are 7 animals that eat coconut:
Table of Contents
- 1. Coconut Crabs
- 2. Elephants
- 3. Rhinoceros Beetles
- 4. Monkeys
- 5. Bears
- 6. Gorillas
- 7. Aye-aye
1. Coconut Crabs
As it’s evident from the name, this giant crab loves to devour the flesh of the coconut. This crab lives entirely on land and consumes all types of fruits, nuts, and even the pith of fallen trees.
The coconut crab is the largest terrestrial arthropod that can break apart rigid objects with the help of its pincers.
These behemoths are omnivores, which means they can survive on both plant-based and animal-based diets.
But you might see a coconut crab trying to open a coconut to access the flesh inside. It does so patiently by first removing the fibrous outer layer of the coconut.
If you observe the pincers of a coconut crab, you’ll find that it has a comb-like structure that it can use to remove the fibrous outer layer.
After that, the crab will identify the weakest spot on the coconut while applying pressure to break it open.
This method of opening a coconut ensures that flesh remains intact while allowing it to scrape out all the fleshy juiciness from the fruit.
Sometimes the crab can even use its pincers to crack open a coconut without removing the husk, mainly if it provides significant resistance.
Coconuts are one of the favorite foods of elephants. They love to eat the thick white flesh of this tree nut.
But elephants are not equipped to remove the flesh from the shell of the coconut, and hence, they have to consume the whole fruit.
While some elephants will use their feet to crack open this tough fruit, other elephants will sometimes find it difficult to crush this tree nut with their feet because the coconut will roll away due to its circular or oval shape.
However, the crushed coconut definitely makes it easier for the animal to chew on while the high fiber content helps the elephants with their digestion and enables them to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Similarly, coconuts are high in calories, which is necessary to help elephants maintain their body weight.
In the wild, elephants can’t access coconuts unless they’ve fallen off the trees.
However, they can break off and consume the bunch of coconuts from the branches, provided that the coconut tree bears the fruit lower than normal and the entire branch of coconuts has fallen from the tree.
When these creatures are domesticated, they’re given a regular supply of young coconuts.
3. Rhinoceros Beetles
The rhinoceros beetle is a giant tropical beetle. The male can be easily distinguished through the curved horn extending from its head.
These tiny insects are powerful enough to bore through the crown of coconut trees.
Most farmers who have coconut plantations have to be careful of rhinoceros beetles as these insects can destroy an entire plantation.
An infestation of rhinoceros beetles would not only wreak havoc to the fruits but also the trees.
These beetles can bore into the fruit and even break through the outer fibrous layer.
The beetle doesn’t consume the entire coconut but damages the harvest throughout the whole year. These beetles typically thrive on mulch and compost.
When an infestation occurs, you’ll find the beetles attacking the tree leaves, fruits, and even the bark of the trees.
They feed on the sap and fluids found in the fruits, nuts, and other parts of the trees.
Monkeys are excellent climbers, and the ones found in countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia are trained to pick coconuts.
This is often considered tantamount to animal cruelty, as it’s still debated whether monkeys can naturally consume coconuts.
These monkeys are usually taken from the wild and trained to identify and collect coconuts. In some instances, these monkeys are instructed not to consume the coconuts.
While monkeys have been known to drink coconut water in the wild, they’re also known for using ingenious methods to break open coconuts to access the flesh inside.
Usually, they consume the flesh of young coconuts, as the mature ones have a tough fibrous outer layer, which these creatures can find difficult to open.
However, researchers’ opinions often differ regarding which species of monkeys consume coconuts.
Bears are omnivores and are known to love different types of nuts. You’ll find bears in the wild looking for acorns, chestnuts, and even coconuts.
The primary reason why bears eat coconuts is because of the sweetness of the water and the juiciness of the white flesh.
Since black bears can climb trees, this ability allows them to have access to the coconut fruit whenever they wish rather than having to only consume the fruit when it falls to the ground.
When it comes to breaking open a coconut, the bear can easily do it with the help of its powerful forelimbs.
It tears open the tough fibrous outer layer to access the flesh inside.
Bears, primarily sun bears found in the tropical regions, are known to look for coconuts and consume these when other food supplies are unavailable.
Sun bears bred in captivity are often given coconuts as a part of their diet to help them maintain their body weight.
When it comes to the young coconuts, you’ll often find the bears chewing on the green outer shell as the flesh is tender when compared to the husky texture of a matured coconut.
The bear can easily access the flesh with its sharp claws and then extract it from the coconut by chewing the outer shell.
Gorillas are herbivores that belong to the family of apes. They’re known to consume coconuts in the wild, and when they’re bred in captivity, they’re given a steady diet of ripe coconuts.
Gorillas can eat both young and mature coconuts. They usually break open a coconut by striking it against a rock or hitting the seed with a stone.
Once they open the coconut, they only consume the flesh inside the kernel. This makes it easier for the gorilla to scrape out the flesh.
Gorillas are mighty creatures with strong jaws which would allow them to rip through the outer fibrous layer of the coconut if they wanted to.
The fruit is not only high in calories but is also rich in minerals and vitamins.
Gorillas, especially the ones bred in captivity, have to be provided with a healthy diet to ensure that they can maintain their body weight.
They need to consume nearly 40 pounds of food daily to maintain their body weight and bone health.
This is a rare squirrel-like lemur that’s found in Madagascar. This arboreal is easily distinguishable by its huge eyes.
You’ll discover aye-ayes inhabiting tall trees, and they’re often found consuming coconuts.
An aye-aye has an extended finger which is ideal for scraping out the flesh of the coconut.
Aye-ayes don’t have to wait for the fruit to fall from the tree. The unique hand structure of the aye-aye makes it capable of breaking off young coconuts from a tree.
Aye-ayes can easily remove the coconut’s green outer and fibrous layer by scraping it with its sharp fingers.
Additionally, the extended third finger can easily create a crack in the outer layer of the young coconut, making it easier for the lemur to break open the entire fruit.
Once it can open the fruit, scraping and removing the flesh becomes easy for the creature.
The animals that love eating coconuts are aye-ayes, gorillas, bears, monkeys, rhinoceros beetles, elephants, and coconut crabs just to name a few.