Chimpanzee Diet and Nutrition
Did you know: 8,000 lbs of food is delivered to the Sanctuary weekly.
In the wild, chimpanzees spend the majority of their waking hours foraging for the foods required to meet their daily nutritional needs. Constantly changing and damaging environmental influences can leave wild chimpanzees with the challenge of finding enough food in nutritionally depleted forests. These chimpanzees are forced to expend significant caloric energy to simply survive. In sanctuary life, these stresses are removed.
Because we are not able to replicate the exact seasonal, chronological, and nutritional intricacies of the food in their natural habitats, the role of nutrition operations here at Save the Chimps is to make the best dietary decisions we can for the chimpanzees in our care. We do this by taking a holistic approach to our feeding strategy. This involves providing a diet that contains all the nutrients a chimpanzee body needs to function properly; stimulates natural feeding behavior; is consumed consistently; and is practical and economical.
The residents here at Save the Chimps are fed a diet that can be broken down into three categories: a base diet, specific meal items, and enrichment foods. The base diet is a nutritionally complete food for chimpanzees that comes in the form of manufactured “biscuits” commonly referred to as “Monkey Chow” or “Primate Biscuits.” The base diet is the anchor that allows our nutrition operations team greater flexibility and variety in the food we can include in specific meal items and enrichment foods.
The specific meal items are our fresh produce that we feed in conjunction with the base diet at meal times. These items include fruits like bananas, apples, and oranges, and vegetables like carrots, corn, green peppers, and leafy greens like kale, collard greens, and bok choy. To ensure each chimpanzee gets the proper nutritional variety, the caregivers hand feed these items to each individual chimp during mealtimes. This method also helps forge a relationship between caregiver and chimpanzee. These relationships are important from a nutritional standpoint in cases if/when an individual chimp or chimps need nutritional supplementation or monitoring.
Enrichment foods can make an important nutritional contribution to the diet but are not as critical as the base diet and specific meal items are in the delivery of daily nutritional needs. Typical foods in this category include but are not limited to produce, nuts, browse (banana leaves, sugar cane etc.), and cereals. Most importantly, enrichment foods promote social activity and encourage natural feeding behavior and posture.
The nutrition program here at Save the Chimps plays one of the most vital roles in our ability to provide sanctuary and lifelong care for our residents.
Academy-award winner, Gene Hackman, once commented after touring our commissary,
“A person might think that you just give these guys a bunch of bananas and they are fine. But this is an extraordinary operation.”
From diet formulation, to logistics, to delivery, the nutrition program here at Save the Chimps is constantly evolving to best meet the needs of our residents.