What do Mountain Gorillas Eat?
Excerpt for the occasional ant or two, gorillas are strictly vegetarians. While most types of gorillas eat a lot of fruits, mountain gorillas rely primarily on roots, leaves, and stems because fruits does not grow well in their high elevation home.
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Plants like wild celery have water content. Mountain gorillas rarely drink, likely because their food provides them enough water.
Although mountain gorillas eat more than 170 different plant species, they tend to focus on just a few types. In many groups, five species account for 80% of their diet.
Gorillas don’t use tools, but they do carefully manipulate plants to locate the part and to protect their lips from thistles and thorns and stinging nettles.
For mountain gorillas, food is plateful all year round. Bamboo shoots are an exception, appearing only during the two rainy seasons. They are gorilla’s favorite, they are high in energy – the equivalent of a gorilla candy bar. Gorillas are therefore very playful during the bamboo shoot season.
Mountain gorillas can sometimes be seen outside the park feeding on the pith of the eucalyptus tree. Our research shows that this is especially high in sodium, which may explain why gorillas seek it out. When eating eucalyptus, mountain gorillas are seen striping the bark and then scrape the pith wit their teeth. Unfortunately, this can kill the tree, which creates problem for local farmers who rely on it for lumber and firewood.
Through their feeding, Mountain gorillas help in seed dispersal, create natural fertilizer, and shape plant communities. Mountain gorillas really serve as the gardeners of the forest.
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