What do chimpanzees eat?

This question was featured in the summer 2014 edition of Chimp Chatter, our quarterly newsletter.

Dear Patti,

What do wild chimpanzees eat?  What do you and your friends at the sanctuary eat?

From, Sarah

Dear Sarah,

Chimpanzees, like humans, are omnivorous, although we eat primarily fruits and vegetables.  In the wild, we supplement our diet of fruit with leaves, leaf buds, seeds, blossoms, bark and nuts.  In addition, 2-3% of our annual diet consists of meat from insects and small animals (including monkeys).  However, this part of our wild diet tends to be seasonal.  Wild chimpanzees spend most of their day foraging for food in small parties, which themselves are part of a larger social group (this is called a fission-fusion society).

The chimps at Chimps Inc. eat a diet consisting of predominately fruits and vegetables.  However, unlike chimpanzees in the wild, we can afford to be picky about what we eat.  Our caregivers are very nice about customizing our meals so that we get a healthy diet without being offered things that we don’t like.  For example, Emma won’t eat bananas, but she really likes corn.  None of us like zucchini, yellow squash or hot peppers.  None of my friends here like mushrooms, but I’ll eat the stems.  I also really like broccoli stems, though I’m not as fond of the tops.  We all enjoy lettuce — I prefer the iceberg variety as an evening snack — so it makes a daily appearance in our meals.  Another thing we get daily is monkey chow, a nutritional biscuit which supplements our diet with all the vitamins, fiber and nutrients we need to stay healthy.  Very occasionally, we get meat, although this is only really popular with Topo and Herbie.  We also sometimes get special treats like hot chocolate and Cheerio necklaces.

We also frequently get forage for enrichment, usually an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, pretzels and dried fruit, scattered throughout our indoor and outdoor habitats.  This is great fun, as we then get to look for the hidden food, just like chimps in the wild.  Not to boast or anything, but my sister, Thiele, and I are two of the best foragers at the sanctuary!

Love, Patti