The closeness of Mountain gorillas to humans and their endangered life status makes one wonder what they eat that makes them so strong. The fact that they do not survive in the captivity of zoos is another reason why people ask the question of what do mountain gorillas eat.
To put it simply, the diet of mountain gorillas is majorly made up of plant material such as leaves, stems, buds, piths, and barks among others.
The diet of gorillas varies with the availability of food in their habitat. this is because their environment doesn’t have a lot of fruits for them to eat. Since mountain gorillas live in high altitude areas, fruit trees are limited and thus fruits comprise a small (2 per cent) of their entire diet.
More than 85 per cent of a mountain gorilla’s diet consists of leaves, stems, buds, and seeds from more than 140 edible plant species in the mountain gorilla’s natural habit. The rest of the diet is flowers, roots, and invertebrates.
Mountain gorillas do not often drink water to supplement their diet. This is because a large portion of their diet is fresh leaves which are sufficiently hydrated already.
Since they live in high altitude areas, the temperatures are low and a gorillas body doesn’t lose much heat in sweating.
How much do Mountain gorillas eat?
An Adult Mountain gorilla eats an average of 27 kilograms of food in one day. This is because of their large bodies that need more food to produce enough energy.
Mountain gorillas are herbivores and the leaves, stems, and buds they eat are low in energy. This is why they have to eat much more food to be able to generate the required energy for survival.
Given the superior size of the silverback gorilla – almost twice the size of the adult female, it eats relatively more food than the female counterparts in order to get the needed energy.
A silverback gorilla eats an estimated 34 kilograms of food in a day. An adult female mountain gorilla eats around 20 kilograms of food each day. This difference in the portion sizes is due to the differences in the body sizes and can vary from one gorilla to the next.
Newly born gorilla babies are nursed by their mother for 2.5 to 3 years. At around the age of 6 months, baby gorillas begin taking slowly eating plant parts on their own. By the age of 8, they can fully ingest all solid foods.
Mountain gorillas’ eating habits.
Gorillas spend much of their day either searching for food or eating.
They leave their previous night’s sleeping nests early in the morning and go around the forest to find a suitable spot where they will spend some time eating and resting. The silverback gorilla is responsible for leading the group/family to a good spot with enough food such that they can all eat.
Mountain gorillas eat two times each day; in the morning and in the evening. Between the two meals, the adult gorillas will take rest while the infants will play with each other.
Gorillas do not overfeed in one area before moving to the next. The manner in which they harvest the leaves, shoots, stems, buds, and roots for food is very conservative and doesn’t harm the vegetation they feed on.
An astounding example of this is how a gorilla will not eat the roots of the same plant whose leaves or buds it just ate, but will instead go to another similar species for the roots.
Each family of mountain gorillas will feed in its own ‘zone’ and entering another group’s area is rare and can lead to fights as the silverback protects his own family.
Here are a few of some of the common types of vegetation mountain gorillas eat. The entire list contains more than 140 plant species.
We have picked the few which will not scare everyone with science names and the parts of these plants that gorillas eat
- Teclea Nobilis – eats both fruit and leave
- Solanum – eats leaves
- Symphonia – eats leaves
- Rapanea Melanophloeos – eats the leaves, fruit and dead wood
- Desmodium repandum – eats leaves
- Olea capense – eats both the leaves and fruits
- Chrysophyllum – eats both the fruits and the deadwood
- Ganodarma – which is a fungus
For the people who get the chance to trek the mountain gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda, the local guides show you and explain the various roles and importance of all the plants that a mountain gorilla eats. Some of these plants have medicinal purposes for the gorillas, and sometimes humans too.
Our gorilla trekking safaris are efficiently run to provide the highest value and the best experience in meeting these gentle giants. We invite you to check out some of our itineraries or directly send us a request (via the contact form) so that we can plan along with you.