Gorillas, the largest and highly intelligent great apes, are native to Sub-Saharan Africa. These magnificent animals are divided into two species, the more numerous western gorillas inhabiting the tropical forests of countries including Cameroon, Gabon, and the Congo, while the less common eastern gorillas dwell within the mountains of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as in their lowland forests. Tragically, both species are listed as critically endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. Efforts from conservationists around the world are focused on protecting the remaining gorillas in the wild and sanctuaries while studying their unique features and behaviors.

Intrigued by the lifestyle of these extraordinary primates, we will delve into the dietary habits of gorillas. We will highlight the different types of food they consume, examine their foraging habits, and explore variations in diets between wild gorillas and those in captivity. Additionally, we will compare the diets of baby gorillas with those of adults, presenting a comprehensive understanding of gorilla eating patterns and habits. Join us as we unravel the fascinating world of gorilla diets.

What Do Gorillas Like to Eat?

Gorillas, despite their muscular stature, mostly consume plant-based diets. They enjoy a variety of locally available fruits and vegetables in the wild. Nevertheless, they fulfill their protein requirements by eating insects such as ants, termites, and grubs.

The typical diet of gorillas consists of a variety of plants and plant parts, including:

  • Leaves: A significant source of fiber and nutrition for gorillas.
  • Stems: Provides gorillas with additional fiber and nutrients.
  • Shoots: Tender parts of plants that gorillas enjoy.
  • Pith: The soft inner part of plants, supplying the gorilla with additional sustenance.
  • Fruit: Gorillas enjoy a diverse range of fruits, adding variety to their diet.
  • Flowers: Edible flowers also offer nutritional benefits for the herbivorous gorillas.
  • Bark: Rich in fiber, gorillas consume tree bark as part of their diet.
  • Herbs: These plants provide a variety of flavors and health benefits to the gorilla’s meal plan.

While gorilla diets can differ based on their habitat, these food items are commonly consumed by gorillas across various regions.

How Do Gorillas Forage For Food?

Gorillas, like humans and other apes, depend on their senses to find food and survive. They mostly rely on their sight and smell when searching for food. Their ability to see in color allows them to identify ripe plants. With binocular vision, gorillas can also measure distances and depth accurately. Their keen sense of smell aids them in detecting unfamiliar smells.

Gorilla groups typically have a range between 1 and 6 square miles, but they usually travel no more than 1.5 miles daily to search for food. When they’re not actively foraging, gorillas rest before moving to another area. Since their ranges are relatively small, these gentle giants do not often compete for food.

Gorillas also use their nimble hands to handle food, such as tearing branches or stems. Their powerful jaws and teeth are well-adapted for tearing and chewing leaves. In addition to terrestrial plants, gorillas will consume aquatic plants if they’re available. Occasionally, they’ll break open termite or ant nests to feast on the larvae.

Some key points about gorilla foraging habits include:

  • Senses: Gorillas rely mainly on sight and smell to find food.
  • Range: Gorilla groups have a range of 1 to 6 square miles, with limited daily travel.
  • Food handling: They use their hands to tear branches or stems and have strong jaws for chewing leaves.
  • Diet: Gorillas eat both terrestrial and aquatic plants, as well as insect larvae.

Overall, gorillas’ foraging and feeding habits are primarily based on their well-developed senses, allowing them to thrive in their natural habitats.

What Do Gorillas Eat in the Wild?

Wild gorillas’ diets shift based on available plant life and seasonality. For instance, western gorillas primarily rely on seasonal foods and consume a higher percentage of fruits than eastern gorillas. When fruits are abundant, these western lowland gorillas prioritize foraging for them, while in dryer seasons, they mainly consume leaves, stems, and other vegetation. In contrast, eastern gorillas mainly eat foliage, as fruits are less accessible in their habitats.

Gorillas, including mountain gorillas and cross river gorillas, have an extensive natural diet, encompassing around 200 different plant types. Among their favorites are fruits such as berries, bananas, and guavas, as well as pith, a tissue derived from certain flowering plant stems. Nevertheless, high-quality stems and leaves make up most of their diet. To find the best leaves, shoots, and seeds, gorillas often travel considerable distances.

During scarce periods, gorillas consume roots, bark, stems, and less desirable vegetation. Additionally, their diet extends to insects and invertebrates like termites, ants, and grubs. Over a single day, these extraordinary mammals may eat between 20 and 40 different foods. Thus, gorillas in the wild maintain a diverse and predominantly vegetarian diet, occasionally supplemented with small animals and insects.

## What Do Captive Gorillas Eat?

In comparison to their wild counterparts, captive gorillas tend to consume a more fruit-rich diet. An adult gorilla can consume up to 40 pounds of food per day and may need to be fed up to six times daily. Common fruit options for them include bananas, berries, guavas, and apples.

Alongside fruits, a captive gorilla’s diet also comprises a variety of foliage. Zoos occasionally offer processed cereals as special treats, but these are not part of their standard gorilla diet and are given sparingly. Insects like ants and termites, which are often found in a wild gorilla’s diet, are not typically included in their meals at a zoo. However, alternative protein sources, such as grubs and larvae, may be provided since they are readily available.

Captive gorillas also require nutrients like protein and iron, which are essential for their overall health and well-being.

What Do Baby Gorillas Eat?

Baby gorillas, weighing around 4.5 pounds at birth, cling to their mothers for several years. During their early years, the primary food source for baby gorillas is their mother’s milk1. They typically nurse for 2.5 to 3 years before transitioning to an adult gorilla diet. Although their diet mostly consists of milk, some infant gorillas also consume ants or other insects, albeit in minimal quantities.

Gradually, as they grow and develop, baby gorillas start eating the same diet as adult gorillas1, which includes various plants, fruits, and leaves. It is important to note that the dietary habits of baby gorillas may differ slightly between the various subspecies, such as the Eastern Lowland Gorilla and Western Lowland Gorilla.

Gorilla Diet Summary:

  • Baby Gorillas: Primarily mother’s milk, occasionally ants or insects.
  • Adult Male Gorillas (Silverbacks): Plants, fruits, and leaves.


  1. Transition between nursing and adult diet may vary between individual gorillas and subspecies. 2

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