Gorillas are large, muscular apes with sharp teeth. To look at them, you might think that they are ferocious meat eaters, but this is not the case. So, what do gorillas eat and drink? Is their diet different in captivity than it is in the wild? Keep reading as we answer these questions and more!
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What Do Gorillas Like to Eat in the Wild?
Gorillas, like many animals, are opportunistic feeders; they eat a wide variety of things based on what’s available to them. That said, they are mostly herbivores; they eat many types of plant-based foods and very few, if any, meat-based foods.
Some of the foods they commonly consume include:
- Leaves: Gorillas will eat the leaves of many different kinds of trees and plants. They will break off small stems and branches and scrape the leaves off with their teeth.
- Stems: Sometimes, rather than eating the leaves off the stems, they will eat the stems as well. This is especially true of small, young tree and plant stems that are fairly soft to chew and contain plenty of nutrients.
- Bark: Sometimes, gorillas will eat the bark off trees, especially if it is fairly soft. They may break off pieces of bark from young tree trunks or scrape the bark off stems with their teeth.
- Young shoots: Gorillas will eat bamboo and other plant shoots that are still young and soft. These plants are full of nutrients and quite tasty to the gorilla.
- Fruit: Sometimes, gorillas will eat the fruits of native plants and trees that they find growing in their rainforest habitats. Gorillas enjoy the sweet juiciness of these fruits, which make up a small but important part of their diet.
- Ants and termites: Some subspecies, particularly the western lowland gorilla, supplement their plant-based diet by eating insects such as ants and termites. They often break into termite mounds or disturb large ant colonies for easy access to large numbers of the insects at a time.
What Do Gorillas Eat the Most?
As you can see from the above list, gorillas eat mostly plant matter.
There is no one food that they exclusively eat more than the others; again, it depends on where they live and what happens to be available in their region.
Regardless of what they eat, it’s clear that they eat a lot of it. The foods they eat are low in calories, so they have to eat large amounts of it throughout the day to get the nutrition that they require.
Just how much do they eat, exactly?
Of course, it depends on their age and size, but some adult male gorillas can eat nearly 40 pounds of food every day! That’s a lot of greens!
What Do Gorillas Eat in Captivity?
Gorillas that are kept at zoos have a somewhat different diet than they would if they lived in the wild.
As noted at the beginning of this article, they are opportunistic feeders. This means that they will eat many different kinds of food, even if these same foods aren’t available to them in the wild.
Some foods commonly fed to gorillas in captivity include:
- Fruit: Though they also eat some fruit in the wild, gorillas generally have access to a wider variety of fruits in captivity. Some of these fruits include bananas, apples, and pears, none of which are native to their natural environments.
- Vegetables: Captive gorillas are fed many different kinds of vegetables that they wouldn’t have access to in the wild. These include green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach, root vegetables such as carrots, and other “human foods” such as green beans and squash.
- Herbal tea: Sometimes, as an added treat, zookeepers will give their gorillas herbal tea. Though they do not need it, the gorillas seem to enjoy the flavors and added nutrients they get from the tea.
Check out this video to get an idea of what the gorillas at the Toronto Zoo are fed on a daily basis:
What Do Gorillas Drink?
Gorillas don’t have to drink anything. They typically live in rainforests and swampy areas, and the water-rich foods they eat supply all of the hydration they need.
That said, gorillas will sometimes drink water to supplement what they receive from their food.
Though they do not need to drink anything, those in captivity are sometimes given nutritious beverages, such as the herbal tea seen in the above video. In these cases, gorillas drink because they like the taste or because they can use the nutrition contained in the beverages.
Gorillas are primarily herbivorous, though they will sometimes supplement their plant-based diet with insects such as ants and termites.
Those living in captivity are often fed a wide variety of fruits and vegetables they don’t have access to in the wild; those living in the wild primarily eat leaves, stems, bark, bamboo shoots, and native fruits.