Gorillas need greens, not processed food!

The leading cause of death for male gorillas in zoos is heart disease. Sadly, animals that live in close contact with (and fed by) humans end up with human chronic diseases.

Gorillas are the largest of the primates, and they are one of the four species of great apes (great apes make up the Hominidae superfamily, which includes chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas).  Following chimpanzees, gorillas are the closest living relatives to humans, differing in only about 3% of our genetic makeup.

Gorillas are herbivores that live in the forests of central Africa, where they can eat up to 50 pounds of vegetation each day, mostly leaves and fruit. Although most gorillas have a preference for fruit, they also eat large amounts of leaves, plus herbs and bamboo, and occasionally insects. In the wild, gorillas spend most of their day foraging and eating.1

In the wild, gorillas eat an extremely high fiber diet, and derive a significant proportion of caloric energy from the fermentation of fiber by bacteria in the colon, producing short-chain fatty acids. The approximate proportions of macronutrients in a wild gorilla’s diet is 2.5% of calories from fat, 24.3% from protein, 15.8% (non-fiber) carbohydrate, and up to 57.3% from short chain fatty acids derived from bacterial fermentation of fiber.2

In contrast, the standard diet for gorillas in captivity is usually not made up of natural leaves, herbs, and fruits – it is a diet of nutrient-fortified, high-sugar, high-starch processed food.

This unnatural diet has contributed to signs of heart disease and enlarged hearts for both of the male gorillas at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo. Researchers at the zoo and at Case Western University decided to change the gorillas’ diet, bringing it closer to what it would have been in the wild.

Since late 2009, the two gorillas have been eating endive, dandelion greens, romaine lettuce, green beans, alfalfa, apples, and bananas. Each of them eats about ten pounds of vegetables each day. The gorillas also spend more time eating (50-60% of their day rather than 25%), which is similar to wild foraging behavior.  After one year on their new diet, each gorilla has lost about 65 pounds, their health is improving and the researchers are noting and documenting their decrease in heart disease risks.3

My question is: why were they feeding processed foods to gorillas instead of their natural food diet in the first place?

Heart disease and heart attacks are just as unnatural for a gorilla as they are for humans.   I guess it is pretty low for the zookeepers to be feeding a gorilla a processed food diet for convenience that will expedite its death. How could they not know that gorillas should eat a natural diet?   But how did our society develop the universal eating cult that permits and encourages the feeding of disease-causing fast food, processed food and junk food to human kids, damaging their future health potential? I guess maintaining our food addictions to processed foods are a more powerful drive than our desire to have our children be healthy.   Maybe humans should not be in charge of feeding humans or animals? Maybe we should hire the gorillas to raise our children? Did you ever watch the Planet of the Apes? Okay, so maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. 



1. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International: Learning About Gorillas. http://gorillafund.org/Page.aspx?pid=769

Wikipedia: Gorilla http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorilla

Doran-Sheehy D, Mongo P, Lodwick J, Conklin-Brittain NL. Male and female western gorilla diet: preferred foods, use of fallback resources, and implications for ape versus old world monkey foraging strategies. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2009 Dec;140(4):727-38.

2. Popovich DG, Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, et al. The western lowland gorilla diet has implications for the health of humans and other hominoids. J Nutr. 1997 Oct;127(10):2000-5.

3. Case Western Reserve University (2011, February 21). Gorillas go green: Apes shed pounds while doubling calories on leafy diet, researcher finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 14, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/02/110217091130.htm

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Comments (8) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
mike rubino - March 15, 2011 11:27 AM

Left to their own in the wild humans would probably do pretty well too.

Joe Mc - March 15, 2011 11:57 AM

Great story. How true. Just like the China Study. Take the gorillas out of their native environments and feed them a Standard American Diet (SAD) diet and they have heart attacks. You just can't make this stuff up...

Fat Fudge - March 15, 2011 3:43 PM

I bet they fed them because crap because it was cheaper to give them processed food rather real food.

Kristen - March 15, 2011 11:54 PM

It makes me wonder about the food we are feeding our pets, and what we really should be feeding them.

Garrett - March 16, 2011 10:29 AM

Kristen: This is something I've been telling a lot of people. The food that people feed their pets (including cooked food) is highly unnatural for them to eat. In the wild, no animal will EVER eat an animal that has been burned. Ever! If you feed a lion in the zoo cooked food, it will die. A cat fed pasteurized milk will develop chronic diseases that humans have.

Getting back to raw food, in the amount that is truly necessary for our bodies, is the key to saving lives, and being healthier. Why are the 2 strongest land animals (gorilla and elephant) herbivores? ;) That's gotta show something!

Sam - March 16, 2011 12:10 PM

Kristen: Agreed. Most store products are garbage. There are some excellent options (some examples below) out there but they do cost significantly more.

The primary products we feed our dog:

Fawn - March 24, 2011 10:40 PM

It sickens me that we can't even feed our captive wildlife a healthy, natural diet. It's one thing to feed ourselves poorly but another entirely to perpetuate disease in other species. For some reason I thought zoos implemented better practices; in hindsight, I'm not sure why.

Peter - November 30, 2011 4:16 PM

What if people fed them Mercola's nutritional typing diet that also has meat and products from grass-fed animals?

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