Learn About Chimp Diets

What is a chimpanzee diet?

  • Chimpanzees eat a wide variety of foods in the wild.
  • Chimpanzees are omnivores, which means they eat plants and animals.
  • At Chimp Haven, chimpanzees receive a nutritional diet that a team of animal care staff prepare each day with lots of chopping and measuring!
  • At Chimp Haven the chimpanzee diet is made up of chow (a chimp protein biscuit), leafy greens (like kale), non-leafy greens (like cucumbers), starches (like potatoes), fruits (like bananas!), forage (like nuts and seeds), and sometimes food enrichment.
  • The chimpanzees don’t get human treats like pizza and ice cream in their diets, but they may receive sugar-free popsicles or natural fruit snacks.
  • Chimp Haven sources local seasonal produce, and also grows its own with fruit trees and a greenhouse.
  • The chimpanzees may receive novel fruit treats like kiwi. The first time the colony received it they didn’t know what it was! It became a resident favorite once they realized it was edible.
  • Last year the colony went through 200,000 pounds of produce! How many pounds of produce do you think your family ate last year?
  • Chimp Haven’s veterinarian helps decide what each chimp group eats to maintain a happy and healthy colony. She does this by looking at caloric intake and considering things like age and activity level.
  • Each chimpanzee troop has a labeled bucket marked with the number of family members. The labels help staff weigh out and distribute the diets.
  • The chimpanzees receive their diets mostly outdoors either in their habitat or on a trough (like a table) outside of their habitats. Feeding outside means that animal care staff can spread out diets ensuring each chimpanzee gets their share.

What is chow?

  • Chimpanzees need protein. Some vegetables like kale and broccoli are rich in protein, but the sanctuary includes a supplement to ensure the colony stays strong and healthy!
  • Chow is a primate protein biscuit, and it’s an important part of the chimpanzee diet at the sanctuary. Think of a nutrient rich cookie or cereal bar!
  • Last year the colony went through 137,000 pounds of chow!
  • The chimpanzees are fed chow twice a day.
  • The chimpanzees like to stuff a whole bunch of chow into their mouths and then soak them with water. This is called a “wadge.”
  • Some chimpanzees only put a few chow biscuits into their mouth at one time while others put up to TWENTY!

What is a chimpanzee’s favorite food?

  • Chimpanzees have likes and dislikes just like humans.
  • The chimps are known to turn their noses up at zucchini and yellow squash, but otherwise, there’s not much they won’t eat!
  • Okra and romaine lettuce are examples of some of their favorite leafy greens. While most prefer other leafy greens to kale, Betsy will trade her banana in for a serving!
  • Bananas are the ultimate favorite, and they get one each day!
  • Chimp Haven goes through about 150 pounds of bananas each day and 50,000 pounds every year! That’s a LOT of bananas.
  • Bananas are usually passed out one by one to the chimpanzees to make sure everyone gets theirs. Animal care staff will always put a few extra in the diet buckets just in case there is a banana thief.
  • Some chimpanzees peel their bananas, like we do (watch out for Sheba…she’ll try to return the empty peel for a refill)! Some will even refuse bananas without peels while others eat them skin and all.

What is Chimp Haven?

  • Chimp Haven is a big sanctuary where chimpanzees live together in family groups, also known as troops.
  • Chimp Haven is located in Louisiana.
  • More than 300 chimpanzees live at Chimp Haven today!

Video: Care Coordinator Awbrea shows us what the chimps eat in a day

Video: Watch Candy the chimp use a large bowl to gather all the chow she wants!

Who doesn’t love lunchtime?? Scroll through to see the chimps enjoying their favorite foods.

Activity Sheet #1: Draw the perfect meal for a human and one for a chimp

Activity Sheet #2: Help Chimp Haven care staff feed Flora’s group and make sure there are enough bananas for everyone!

Activity Sheet #3: Create a yummy treat fit for a chimp (and then enjoy it yourself!)

Are you a picky eater? Chimps have food preferences just like us. Click the image above to read about Chimp Haven’s Picky Eaters Club from Caregiver Miranda.