Fast Facts

  • Chimpanzees are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Chimpanzees also ingest foods to combat diseases.
  • More than 50% of the food eaten by wild chimpanzees is fruit. Almost all of this fruit is made up of a variety of figs. In addition to figs, chimps may eat Musanga fruits (from the African corkwood tree), Drypetes fruit, custard apples (fruit from the Annonaceae family of plants) and berries from a wide variety of trees and shrubs that surround them in their African jungle home.
  • Other plants eaten by chimpanzees include seeds, flowers, leaves, and nuts. The most common type of nut eaten by chimpanzees is the oil-palm nut. Chimps also eat kola nuts and panda nuts, whose shells are so tough that chimps use hard stones to crack them open.
  • Meat and animal products, like honey and eggs, make up less than 5% of a chimp's diet. Animals eaten by chimps include termites, colobus monkeys, beetle grubs, birds, bush babies . . . and, sometimes, other chimpanzees.
  • Foods eaten to combat diseases include: soil (which contains anti-malaria minerals) elm bark (which fights bacterial infections), cordia flower stems (which reduces the risk of tuberculosis), and unripe figs (which have de-worming properties).
  • Foods that are NOT eaten by wild chimpanzees? Anything that comes in a polystyrene cup.

For Further Exploration

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

bacteria

Plural Noun

(singular: bacterium) single-celled organisms found in every ecosystem on Earth.

bark

Noun

typically hard, outer covering of a tree.

chimpanzee

Noun

large, intelligent ape native to Africa.

disease

Noun

a harmful condition of a body part or organ.

flower

Noun

blossom or reproductive organs of a plant.

food

Noun

material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

Encyclopedic Entry: food

fruit

Noun

edible part of a plant that grows from a flower.

ingest

Verb

to take material, such as food or medicine, into a body.

jungle

Noun

tropical ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.

malaria

Noun

infectious disease caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes.

mineral

Noun

inorganic material that has a characteristic chemical composition and specific crystal structure.

omnivore

Noun

organism that eats a variety of organisms, including plants, animals, and fungi.

Encyclopedic Entry: omnivore

seed

Noun

part of a plant from which a new plant grows.

stem

Noun

main stalk of a plant.

tuberculosis

Noun

infectious, sometimes deadly, disease of the lungs.

Credits

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Photographer

Randy Olson

Producer

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

Sources

Jane Goodall, Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior (Belknap Press, 1986), 22-23.

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