WHAT DO CHIMPS EAT?
What do chimps eat?
Unlike other apes such as gorillas and orangutans which are almost entirely herbivorous (plant-eating), chimps are classified as omnivores. This means that, like humans, they eat a variety of plant and animal foods.
While the vast bulk of the chimpanzee’s diet is made up of plant foods including fruits, seeds, nuts, leaves and flowers, they will also eat insects and even larger animals that they have hunted and killed themselves.
The world’s foremost authority on chimpanzees is Dr. Jane Goodall who, beginning in 1960, studied them for decades in their natural habitat. Very early in her work with chimps, Dr. Goodall discovered a startling new answer to the question “what do chimps eat?” when she observed them using thin sticks to fish termites out of a termite mound. Until that time, chimpanzees had been considered to be strict herbivores just like the other great apes.
But it was the use of sticks to collect the termites that was the part of Dr. Goodall’s discovery that people found most surprising. Dr. Goodall observed the termite-fishing chimps actually stripping leaves from their termite sticks in order to make those sticks into better tools for the job at hand. Until that time, tool-making and tool-use had previously been believed to be restricted to humans.
Dr. Goodall received another startling answer to the question of what chimps eat when she observed groups of male chimpanzees conducting seemingly organized hunts of red colobus monkeys. After they had captured their prey, the chimps ate every part of the monkey, including the brain. They sometimes also shared some of the meat with female chimps who had not participated in the hunt.
Despite their hunting behavior, however, only a very tiny percentage–perhaps as small as two percent–of a wild chimp’s diet consists of meat or insects.
Dr. Goodall’s website is a terrific resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the question of what chimpanzees eat, or anything else chimpanzee related. Dr. Goodall conducted most of her research at Gombe National Park (formerly Gombe Stream Reserve) in the western part of the East African nation of Tanzania.