Contemporary fruit, having been genetically altered over the years, is proving excessively sweet for zoo animals. Australian zookeepers have started reducing the fruit intake of some animals due to the heightened sweetness that may harm their health.
Modern-day farming technology has accelerated the breeding of crops, enhancing their resistance to diseases and pests. This progress, however, has led to significant changes in fruit characteristics. Business Insider reports that watermelons now have a deeper red interior, bananas bear smaller seeds, eggplants lack their traditional spines, and peaches have grown 64 times larger and 27% juicier.
Such sugar-rich fruits have adverse effects on red pandas and other primates, who prefer these modified fruits over their natural equivalents. These animals are experiencing weight gain and signs of tooth decay.
Contrarily, the fructose found in raw fruits is beneficial for humans due to its packaging within fibers, which slows its absorption into our bloodstream. This makes it harder to metabolize, hence preventing a spike in blood sugar levels, unlike the refined sugar found in candies and sodas, as per Quartz.
Zookeepers used to feed red pandas and monkeys a diet rich in fruit, emulating their wild diets. However, discovering the high sugar content in these cultivated fruits has prompted a shift towards healthier alternatives.
Dr. Senaka Ranadheera, a food scientist at the University of Melbourne, notes, “Almost all cultivated fruit varieties are sweeter than their wild counterparts.” Some fruits, like plums, have almost twice the soluble sugar content compared to two decades ago.