Dr. Andrew Halloran on Chimpanzee Nutrition

Watch Dr. Andrew Halloran as he discusses the diets of wild chimpanzees and how they compare to the diets of our residents. Our residents LOVE bananas, but do wild chimpanzees eat bananas!? Find out >>


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Your Nutrition Questions Answered

During nutrition month, we received questions regarding the diets of our residents and chimpanzees in the wild. Save the Chimps’ Director of Chimpanzee Behavior and Care, Dr. Andrew Halloran, recently returned from his annual conservation work in Sierra Leone and is here to answer your questions!

Q. What do wild chimpanzees eat?

A. It depends on where they are. At the site in Sierra Leone, there is so much deforestation that the chimpanzees have been squeezed into small forest fragments. There is not enough nutritional value within the fragment to sustain the population. Therefore they rely on crops that farmers have grown beside them. This makes them deeply unpopular and, as a result, they get killed in areas like these. The Tonkolili Chimpanzee Project aims to mitigate conflicts between chimpanzees in humans in these areas by bringing alternative agriculture to the human villages while protecting the chimpanzees in the forest. Learn more about this project at www.tonkolilichimpanzeeproject.com

In less human-dominated landscapes, chimpanzees eat a variety of wild fruit, insects, and even some larger meat such as monkeys and even small pigs.

Rebel and Abdul

Q. How does the diet of a chimp at Save the Chimps compare to the diet of a chimpanzee in the wild?

A. Our resident chimpanzees eat a very healthy variety of fruits and vegetables (prepared by our own renowned Chef Josh).

Additionally, they eat “primate chow” which ensures that they get all of their nutritional needs.

Q. What tools do chimpanzees use to acquire food?

A. In the wild, chimpanzees will use sticks to “fish” for termites, rocks to crack nuts, and anything else that they might learn from their own unique cultures (check out this National Geographic clip on the subject).

We try to mimic this type of behavior with our very robust enrichment program.

Q. What medicinal plants do wild chimpanzees use? Do residents of Save the Chimps ever use foods medicinally?

A. Chimpanzees will swallow leaves to relieve upset stomachs, rub plants on their skin as antifungals, and even chew the pith of a plant to control tumors! There is an excellent book chapter (In a book called Chimpanzee Cultures) by primatologists Michael Huffman and Richard Wrangham that documents these accounts.


Q. Do wild chimpanzees face any challenges in acquiring the food and nutrition they need to survive?

A. Yes – one of the biggest impacts of deforestation on chimpanzees is the fact that their access to wild nutrition is extremely limited. They then either resort to raiding crops or subsisting off foods that are not as nutritionally valuable. Both can have grave consequences for chimpanzee populations.