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Keywords:

  • Gorilla gorilla beringei;
  • ranging;
  • diet;
  • optimal foraging;
  • feeding;
  • primate;
  • Mountain gorilla

Abstract

Relationships between the movement patterns of free-ranging mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei) and the abundance and distribution of foods in their home range were examined. During an 18-month field study, the ranging of one group of G. gorilla beringei was recorded on a 250 × 250 m grid system, from which measurements of frequency and duration of use, travel rate, and rate of revisitation of each quadrangle by the group were derived. Food items were sampled in selected quadrangles throughout the home range and various measures of food abundance, frequency and diversity were calculated. Analyses based on both spatial and temporal variation in food availability give supporting evidence for the prediction that mountain gorilla ranging patterns are influenced by the distribution and abundance of foods. Quality of food appears to be an important factor, as shown in analyses of yearly patterns and monthly changes in ranging. The gorillas studied spent more time in the higher quality areas of their home range, responded to a correlate of decreasing food abundance by increasing their rate of travel and area used, and revisited regions more frequently when the renewal rate of foods was clearly greater. Each of their foraging tactics can be explained as serving to increase the efficiency of harvesting foods.