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Keywords:

  • chimpanzee;
  • diet;
  • phenology;
  • seasonality;
  • fig fruits

Abstract

The diet of chimpanzees was investigated by direct observations, feeding remains, and fecal analysis from January 1994 to December 2000 in the montane forest of Kahuzi-Biega National Park. A total of 171 food items were identified, among which 156 items were plant materials belonging to 114 species from 57 taxonomic families. Chimpanzees consumed 66 species of fruits (62 species of pulps and four species of seeds). Results of fecal analysis showed that fig fruits were the most frequently eaten. Their seeds occurred in 92% of a total of 7,212 chimpanzee fecal samples. The chimpanzees changed their diet according to seasonal and annual variations in both abundance and diversity of fruit species. However, they are very selective frugivores. Only a few pulp-fruit species are regularly identified in their fecal samples. During the rainy season, when ripe fruit was scarce, chimpanzees relied heavily on piths and leaves. They swallowed leaves of two species of Commelinaceae without chewing, probably for medical purposes. Animal foods were eaten infrequently. The montane forest of Kahuzi, where chimpanzees range up to 2,600 m above sea level, may be the highest altitudinal limit ever recorded for their distribution. Compared to other chimpanzee habitats, Kahuzi has a low diversity of fruit species and the availability of a few pulp-fruit species may be critical to the survival of Kahuzi chimpanzees. Am. J. Primatol. 58:1–21, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.