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Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding


Daily Food Intake

  • Opportunistic - Depends on plant availability (season, geography and altitude)
  • Must consume large quantities since leaves / plants offer little nourishment
  • Vegetable diet probably meets water requirement - not observed to drink in wild


  • Folivore-frugivore - up to 230 items and 180 plant species
  • Highly selective - fruit & seeds favored, stems, pith & leaves
  • High-quality herbs of the Marantacae genera: Megaphrynium, Haumania, Marantochloa, Halopegia, Hydrocharis
  • Aquatic and semiaquatic vegetation found in "bais" is highly digestible, high in protein, salt, and minerals. (Cyperaceae and Gramineae families)
  • Leguminous tree Gilbertiodendron dewevrei produces seeds every 5 years. Gorillas will travel some distance for the seeds
  • In absence of preferred foods: roots, bark, low-quality herbs: Aframomum, Palisota
  • Aframomum is a potent antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory 'natural drug,' Might be preventive medicine as much as food.
  • 20 species of invertebrates (mainly termites & ants)
  • Mountain gorillas are totally folivorous. Chimpanzees are mainly frugivorous
  • Wild gorillas are strictly vegetarian but gorillas in managed care will readily eat meat

Morphological Adaptation

  • Enlarged hindgut associated with colic-cecal fermentation
  • Cecums contain large number of cellulose-digesting ciliates
  • Long gut retention time allows maximum absorption of nutrients
  • Mountain gorilla's teeth adapted for shearing leaves; strong jaws for repetitive chewing. Western gorilla teeth have enlarged post-canine dentition but more like chimpanzees (both are frugivorous)

Cultural Aspects of Diet

  • Some food preferences may be "learned" (insects eaten vary with different populations)
  • Tend to choose vegetation high in protein, low in fiber
  • Avoid leaves high in condensed tannins

Western Lowland Gorilla

gorilla eating cake

Vila (pronounced VEE-la) in 2016 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

In October 2017, troop matriarch Vila marked a milestone when she turned 60 years old. She was one of the world's oldest gorillas. Sadly, she passed away in January 2018.

Read more about Vila.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


gorillas eating

Western Lowland Gorillas eating leaves.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Remis, (2003)
Rogers, et al, (2004)
Deblauwe, et al, (2003)
Cipolietta, (2004)
Schaller, (1990)

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