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Keywords:

  • western gorillas;
  • diet;
  • fruit;
  • density

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to collate information on western gorilla diet from six study sites throughout much of their current range, including preliminary information from two sites (Afi and Lossi), where studies of diet have begun only recently. Food lists were available from each site, derived from indirect signs of gorilla feeding (such as feces), with some observational data. Important staple, seasonal, and fallback foods have been identified, and a number of striking similarities across sites have been revealed based on a much larger data set than was previously available. It was confirmed that the western gorilla diet is always eclectic, including up to 230 items and 180 species. The greatest diversity is found among the fruit species eaten, fruit being included in western gorilla diets from all sites and throughout most or all of the year. Eight plant families provide important foods at five, or all six, sites, suggesting that it may be possible in the future to predict which habitats are the most suitable for gorillas. Gorillas exploit both rare and common forest species. Similarities and differences among sites can be explained superficially on the basis of geography and the past history of the forest. Gorilla density across sites appears to be most affected by the density of monocotyledonous bulk food plants, but its relationship to the density of important tree food species has yet to be tested. Am. J. Primatol. 64:173–192, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.