African Forest - keepers warn visitors not to feed the monkeys

Woburn Safari Park's keepers are urging visitors not to feed the troops of Barbary macaques that live in the African Forest section of the Park.

The monkeys have a specialised diet that has been carefully selected for them by their trained keepers. This includes special pellets which are nutritionally balanced, providing essential vitamins and minerals.  

Threat to their health

In recent months, keepers have noticed an increase in visitors entering the monkey section with food placed on top of their vehicles, or handing the monkeys items directly from open windows.

Monkeys are naturally very inquisitive animals, so will unknowingly take and eat potentially deadly items from visitors, some examples of which can be seen below.

Dangerous Items Given To The Animals

Dangerous and unhealthy items 

A common misconception is that the monkeys eat bananas - something that keepers regularly find visitors are feeding them. Bananas are not incorporated into their diet, due the fact that human cultivated fruits have been modified to be very high in sugar, while low in protein and fibre - compared to the fruits monkeys would find and eat in the wild. As a result, fruit can rot their teeth, cause diabetes and obesity as well as gastrointestinal problems.  Other foods that the monkeys are regularly fed by visitors include:

  • chewing gum
  • sweets (chewy, sour and hard boiled)
  • alcohol (bottles of beer)
  • soft drinks (cans of fizzy drinks and cartons of juice)
  • bread (sometimes whole sandwiches made by visitors for their own picnics)
  • crisps (including the plastic packets)
  • chocolate 

It's not only food and drink that keepers have to ask visitors not to give the monkeys. Rubbish including food wrappers, drink cartons and cans, and even glass bottles are handed out of open car windows to entice the monkeys over to vehicles. All of these pose a serious threat to the animals' health, but most shockingly for staff is the amount of cigarettes; both lit and unlit, that are given to the animals.

The impact of sugar

Visitors feeding sugary foods and other inappropriate items can also negatively affect troop dynamics by increasing levels of aggression and decreasing sociability. Monkeys often fight over possession of items. Keepers are concerned that monkeys may also become too 'full' to eat their specially designed diet therefore missing out on essential nutrients.

Chris Smart, Head of Section said: "Most people are aware of the dangers of feeding domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, anything other than an appropriate diet.  The animals at the safari park should be treated with the same respect. It's frustrating for the dedicated team of keepers to see the animals they care for be treated badly, whether unintentionally or otherwise."

Visitors are handed leaflets at the Admission lanes, which contain the rules of entry. There are also numerous signs at the entrance to the African Forest informing visitors that feeding the animals is forbidden and the dangers this poses to their health.  Keepers patrol the area to ensure that visitors don’t feed the animals, but it is difficult to watch every vehicle travelling through this large woodland area.

How you can help

  • Please keep your windows up when driving through the African Forest. This is for your health and safety, as well as the animals'
  • If you need to get the attention of a keeper on patrol, please sound your horn and someone will come over to assist
  • Report any vehicles that are feeding the animals to the keepers on patrol.