Animals that eat coconuts range from herbivores to omnivores, with humans leading the line.
But coconut fruits have a stony, hard covering that can only be cracked by humans who usually use tools. Right?
Wrong. Some animals are equally up to the task, thanks to their sharp claws and teeth for breaking open the fruit, and agile enough to get the water before it spills.
And like humans, other animals use tools to break the coconuts to access the meat and water.
There are also a few individuals who are only interested in coconut flowers.
Want to learn more about these peculiar animals that devour delicious coconuts? Read on.
List of 13 Animals That Eat Coconuts
1. Coconut-eating Crabs
Also called palm thieves, coconut crabs are the largest terrestrial arthropods that live in the Indian Ocean and Central Pacific Ocean.
The crabs are notorious for eating coconuts, which made it easy for scientists to name the arthropods.
The crabs have an arsenal of adaptations that make them devour the tasty fruits in the most effortless means. Although small, the crabs are strong and have comb-like structures on their pincers that they use to scrape out the fibrous husk of the fruits. They then identify the weak spots of the coconut and apply pressure to open it to eat the flesh. But in other cases, the crabs break the fruits without removing the husk.
However, the diet of coconut crabs is not limited to coconuts, as the animals also feed on small mammals, carrion, and other animals of their kind.
2. Sun Bears
Sun bears are the smallest bears in the world and inhabit tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
All bears eat coconuts, but sun bears have the most appetite for the fruits. In fact, their uncontrollable desire for coconuts is responsible for most conflicts between sun bears and humans, as they usually live around coconut trees and oil palms.
And because sun bears are agile tree climbers, when they can’t find coconuts in the ground, they go up to get them when even fresh – like humans. These animals have strong jaws and teeth for breaking (or even chewing) open the coconut fibrous husk, while their long tongues allow them access to the coconut water.
3. Rhinoceros Beetles
Rhinoceros beetles are enormous (at least among animals of their kind) black, cylindrical beetles found in parklands and woodlands worldwide.
Growing to about 15 inches and being an insect, rhinoceros beetles are the last animals you’d think can eat coconuts. But contrary to what you might think, the insects have an uncontrollable appetite for coconuts, hence why they’re known by other names such as coconut palm rhinoceros and coconut rhinoceros beetle.
The insects use their curved horns – that extend from their heads – to bore into the fruits to suck the juice without breaking them. They feed not only on the fruits but also on the coconut trees themselves, as the insects are more interested in the sap.
Due to their notorious appetite for coconuts, rhinoceros beetles are the primary pests for coconut and oil palms.
4. Fruit Bats
Fruit bats inhabit tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Eurasia, and Oceania. You can distinguish fruit bats from other bats thanks to their dog-like faces and simple ears.
Despite their predator looks, fruit bats are herbivores with a sweet tooth. That means their diet comprises bananas, mangoes, and wild dates. But the bats are also spotted around coconut trees, and you might wonder if they are strong enough to break the hard fruits. Well, they’re not powerful enough to do so and are only interested in coconut flowers, sucking nectar to satisfy their cravings for sweet foods.
Well, all rats are omnivores and eat pretty much everything they come across, including coconuts. But there are three species with an intense craving for coconuts; Polynesian rats in the pacific basin and brown and black rats found in Africa, Asia, and America.
Their intense craving, however, is understandable as these rodents live in regions with plenty of coconut trees.
These rats have sharp, powerful teeth they use to crack open hard coconuts to access the flesh and water which they enjoy drinking. As they create holes in the fruits, these rats are considered nuisance pets in their regions.
The largest herbivores, elephants have plenty of plant materials to eat, and coconuts are a regular food on their menu. Even domesticated elephants are fed young coconut fruits regularly.
The massive mammals rely on their weight and strength to open up coconut fruits by just stepping on them to access the flesh content. But sometimes, the coconuts will roll away due to their oval shapes, and as intelligent creatures, the elephants are wise to forego crushing and instead gobble them whole.
When elephants don’t find coconut on the ground, they can break off fruit-bearing branches if they are low enough.
The largest nocturnal primate in the world, the aye-aye is a massive lemur with long fingers and rodent-like teeth.
The primates are omnivores, and coconut fruits are regular food on their menu, as aye-ayes are found in tall trees, including coconut trees – so they don’t give the fruits time to fall.
The animals use their ever-growing sharp incisors to open the coconuts while holding them with the extended fingers, hence they rarely fall.
8. Pig-tailed Macaques
All monkeys are known to have an intense craving for soft and easy-to-peel fruits, especially bananas.
But they’re also a few individuals whose love for fruits extends to coconuts.
Pig-tailed macaques, monkey species native to Southeast Asia, are notorious coconut eaters that also use them as refreshments. In fact, their obsession with coconuts makes the primates steal the fruits from people!
And like humans, these primates employ ingenious methods to open up the hard fruits. In most cases, they use the surrounding stones as tools for breaking coconuts – the same way humans do. If the coconuts are too hard or when the monkeys cannot find stones, they consume the flesh from young fruits.
But due to their excess love for the coconuts, hungry and lazy humans take advantage of the primates and often use them to pick the fruits for them thanks to their excellent tree climbing skills. This act is, however, considered animal exploitation.
Gorillas are another group of primates that can’t turn away from a meal of coconut fruits.
And like monkeys, the intelligent apes use tools in two different ways. First, they can use stones with sharp edges to make a hole in the coconut fruit. Second, they can use huge stones to crash the coconut against. But the most delightful method is when gorillas rely only on their muscular and stocky bodies to break open the coconuts.
But unlike monkeys, gorillas discard the water and are only interested in the flesh.
Even in captivity, ripe coconuts are a regular food for the apes.
Chickadees are little North American birds most people consider cute thanks to their curiosity and oversized round heads.
Chickadees’ beaks are not strong enough to allow the birds to enjoy coconuts in the wild. But out of curiosity, the birds try it when you offer them in your yard. And bird lovers who feed these chickadees coconut meal rinse it first to avoid risking their health, as birds generally don’t digest milk.
Squirrels are omnivores, and those that inhabit areas with coconut trees tend to munch on the fruits, although in small quantities.
In Tumpat, Kelantan, Malaysia, squirrels are the primary pests that invade coconut farms. You can find these playful critters jumping and doing other antics on branches of coconut trees and think they’re only playing. But they also feed and enjoy the coconut flesh – once they leave, you’ll find punctures on your fruits.
Parrots are tropical birds native to Central America, Australasia, and South America. They’ve also found themselves in many homes because of their beauty, charming behavior, and intelligence – they can mimic your voice.
Our feathered friends are primarily herbivores and will relish a meal of coconut. It’s, in fact, a healthy addition to their diet, as it improves their immune system and heart health.
But since domesticated parrots struggle to open the hard fruits, most people feed them commercial coconut meals. If you do so, it’s advisable to consult a veterinarian to guide you to the specific coconut food that suits your pet.
Last on our list are monkeys who have an intense appetite for coconuts. Monkeys love fruits like bananas, coconuts, mangoes, and berries. Monkeys usually go for soft fruits that can be easily peeled and eaten.
Monkeys love climbing trees and therefore catching coconuts from tall trees is no big deal for them.