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What Are the Main Components of a Gorilla's Diet?

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  • Written By: Debra Barnhart
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Depending on their habitat and what is available, gorillas mostly eat different types of vegetation. Gorillas use up a lot of energy foraging for food, but unlike other animals they do not strip their habitat of vegetation. Although gorillas have largely been documented as plant eaters, evidence indicates that the gorilla’s diet consists of some meat as well.

The average male gorilla weighs between 300 lbs (about 136 kg) and 400 lbs (about 182 kg) and consumes about 40 lbs (about 18 kg) of vegetation each day, although some experts say that the full-grown mountain gorilla can eat up to 60 lbs (about 27 kg) a day. Gorillas are accustomed to using their strength to tear apart trees and other vegetation, but they can also use their nimble hands to select the choice parts. Gorillas also eat a few insects, but usually by accident since the insects are attached to plants.

A gorilla’s diet may vary based on its species and habitat. For example, the western lowland gorilla’s diet largely consists of fruit, with some foliage and seeds. The mountain gorilla, on the other hand, eats mostly leaves, stems, roots and flowers. Rainy season bamboos shoots are a favorite delicacy of the mountain gorilla. Only two percent of the mountain gorilla’s diet is fruit, because there are not many varieties of fruit growing in its habitat; although blackberries in season are a favorite.

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Baby gorillas rely solely on breast milk for the first several months of their life, but by six months old they are ready to begin foraging for vegetation. Foraging takes up a lot of energy, and though much of the vegetation consumed by gorillas is low in nutrients, they are able to make up for this lack by consuming large quantities. Overweight gorillas are pretty rare in the wild due to their high-fiber diet.

Whatever their habitat, gorillas are relatively gentle on the environment and do not strip their habitat of vegetation. They will move to a different area when food supplies start to get low. During months when less food is available, they eat less and sleep more.

Although gorillas are considered to be primarily vegetarian, some evidence indicates that they will consume meat when it is available. Knowledge about gorilla’s eating habits has relied in large part on studies conducted in areas where not much meat was available. Gorillas in captivity will eat some meat, and one study of western lowland gorillas found evidence of monkeys and antelopes in their feces.

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