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Thursday, February 28, 2013

No More Monkey Chow

Salads are healthy, even for gorillas.  You can eat twice as much and still lose weight if that's all you are eating.  So that's pretty much what is served to the gorillas living in the Forest Glade at the North Carolina Zoo. Salad! No, it's not all mixed up in a big bowl and tossed with a lovely balsamic vinaigrette, but the vegetable components are there: carrots, peppers, celery, big heads of lettuce. And something called browse,  branches full of leaves. You will often see the gorillas picking up a branch and carefully eating each of the nourishing and vitamin filled leaves.

Six month old Baby Gorilla Bomassa
At one time, our NC Zoo gorillas ate a mix of foods, including something called Monkey Chow.  But heart disease was becoming the top killer for male western lowland gorillas. So a few years ago, some zoos returned gorillas to a more natural diet in order to see if they would lose weight and become more healthy.  It's called high fiber foraging, and it seems to be working! The new program has increased the time spent in eating. The gorillas used to spend only about 25 percent of their day eating the artificial food so densely packed with calories. But now they need to forage and eat for about fifty to sixty percent of their day. North Carolina is one of the four zoos to pilot the program under the direction of the Species Survival Plan. You can observe natural fed gorillas in Toronto, Columbus, and at the +Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.  Above, Bomassa's picked up a piece of celery. He's got a nice set of teeth, so it's possible he is actually eating some, but these days everything goes in his mouth. He was working on this piece for quite some time!

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