Diet of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda, 1. diet composition and diversity


Correspondence to: David P. Watts, Department of Anthropology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208277, New Haven, CT.


Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are ecologically flexible omnivores with broad diets comprising many plant and animal foods, although they mostly eat fruit (including figs). Like other ecologically flexible nonhuman primates (e.g., baboons, Papio spp.) with broad diets, their diets vary across habitats. Much data on diets come from short studies that may not capture the range of variation, however, and data are scant on variation within habitats and populations. We present data on diet composition and diversity for chimpanzees at Ngogo, in Kibale National Park, Uganda, collected over a 15-year period, with a focus on the plant components of the diet. We compare Ngogo data to those on chimpanzees at the nearby Kibale site of Kanyawara, on other chimpanzee populations, and on some other frugivorous–omnivorous primates. Results support the argument that chimpanzees are ripe fruit specialists: Ngogo chimpanzees ate a broad, mostly fruit-based diet, feeding time devoted to fruit varied positively with fruit availability, and diet diversity varied inversely with fruit availability. Comparison of Ngogo and Kanyawara shows much similarity, but also pronounced within-population dietary variation. Chimpanzees fed much more on leaves, and much less on pith and stems, at Ngogo. Figs accounted for somewhat less feeding time at Ngogo, but those of Ficus mucuso were quantitatively the most important food. This species is essentially absent at Kanayawara; its abundance and high productivity at Ngogo, along with much higher abundance of several other important food species, help explain why chimpanzee community size and population density are over three times higher at Ngogo. High inter-annual variation at Ngogo highlights the value of long-term data for documenting the extent of ecological variation among chimpanzee populations and understanding how such variation might affect population biology and social dynamics. Am. J. Primatol. 73:1–16, 2011.  © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.