What Animals Eat Coconuts?

Written by: Annemarie Dutton

Even though coconuts have a tough shell, it is surprising to find that several animals consume coconuts and seek out this fruit in the wild.

The coconut  (Cocos nucifera L.) is widespread in all tropical areas and comprises about 38% shell, 52% kernel, and 10% water. 

Thanks to its unmistakable smooth taste, it is the protagonist of many different recipes for ice creams, sorbets, smoothies, and cocktails.

But which animals eat coconut?

This article will explore the nutritional value of coconuts and the animals that feast on this tropical fruit.

Nutritional Value Of Coconuts

Chemical-Physical and Nutritional Average Values for 100g

NutrientAmount
EnergyFats1209Kcal – 293 KJ
Fats30 g
-of which is saturated24.0 g
Carbohydrates3.6 g
-of which is sugar3.6 g
Proteins1.6 g
Salt0.07g
Total Solids36 g
Soluble Solids7 °Brix
Acidity (Citric Acid)0.15 g

The nutritional value of coconuts, the high-calorie content, and even the taste of the fruit appeals to many animals other than primates.

Animals find ingenious ways to break the hard outer shell to access the water and flesh inside.

What Are Coconut Crabs?

As evident from the name, this giant terrestrial anthropod breaks apart the hard shells of coconuts and devours the flesh inside.  

The Coconut crab is an omnivore, and apart from feasting on coconuts, its diet also consists of fruits, nuts, birds, and other small animals.

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 of the coconut.

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 the crab 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, particularly if it provides significant resistance.

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Coconuts – Favorite Food of Elephants

Coconut is 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 meat from the shell of the coconut, and they must therefore consume the whole fruit.

Some elephants will use their feet to crack open this tough fruit. The crushed coconut makes it easier for the elephant to chew on, while the high fiber content helps the elephants to maintain a healthy digestive system.

Similarly, coconuts are high in calories, which are necessary to help elephants maintain their body weight.

In the wild, elephants can’t access coconuts unless they’ve fallen off the trees or provided that the coconut tree bears the fruit lower than usual, and the entire branch of coconuts has fallen from the tree.

Domesticated elephants are given a regular supply of young coconuts.

What Are Aye-ayes?

Aye-aye is a rare squirrel-like lemur that’s found in Madagascar. They inhabit tall trees and are often found consuming coconuts.

Aye-ayes don’t have to wait for the fruit to fall from the tree. Their unique hand structure makes them capable of breaking off young coconuts from a tree.

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 has opened the fruit, scraping and removing the flesh becomes easy for the creature.

Rhinoceros Beetles and Coconuts

The rhinoceros beetle is a giant tropical beetle.  The male can easily be distinguished by the curved horn extending from its head.

Rhinoceros beetles are powerful insects that can bore through the crown of coconut trees. An infestation of rhinoceros beetles can destroy a whole coconut plantation.

The beetle does not eat the entire coconut but damages the harvest throughout the year.  

During an infestation, the insects will attack the tree leaves, fruits, and even the bark of the trees.

Rhinoceros beetles feed mainly on the sap and fluids found in the fruit, nuts, and other parts.

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Do Monkeys Eat Coconuts?

While monkeys are 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.

What About Gorillas and Coconuts?

Gorillas are herbivores that belong to the family of apes. They’re known to consume coconuts in the wild, and when bred in captivity, they are 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. It makes it easier for the gorilla to scrape out the flesh. 

Bears and Coconuts

The primary reason why bears eat coconuts is because of the sweetness of the water and the juiciness of the white flesh.

Black bears climb trees which allows them to reach the coconut fruit whenever they wish rather than waiting for it to fall to the ground.

When it comes to breaking open a coconut, the bear can do this easily with the help of its powerful forelimbs. It tears open the tough fibrous outer layer to access the flesh inside.

Bears bred in captivity are often given coconuts as a part of their diet to help them maintain their body weight.

The bear can easily access the flesh with its sharp claws and then extract it from the coconut by chewing the outer shell.

Do Rats Eat Coconuts?

Rats can also eat coconuts stored for food.  On the atolls of Tokelau, over 87% of the diet of Polynesian rats was found to be coconut. Globally, of the three species, the black rat is considered the most detrimental to coconut, destroying around 30% of crops every year.

Final Thoughts 

The list about animals eating coconuts may not be complete, but it is a good starting point. Coconut is a delicacy for arthropods and mammals alike.  

It might seem difficult to break the hard outer layer of the coconut shell, but it does not deter animals from finding ingenious ways of breaking open the fruit to access the juicy flesh inside.

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