Are Gorillas Carnivores or Omnivores? (Do They Eat Meat?)

Gorillas are one of the largest apes and are mainly found in central Africa. Gorillas live in family groups led by a silverback male and consisting of females and their offspring. These families travel together through the dense rainforests looking for food.

Gorillas are omnivores, which means that they eat both plants and animals. Gorillas eat a lot of plant material but they also eat a few insects. While gorillas may eat meat when fed to them in the zoo, they are not considered carnivores in the wild.

Although gorillas are technically omnivores, they are mostly herbivorous, eating leaves, stems, bark, flowers, and fruits. They also eat insects and small vertebrates, but only rarely.

Gorillas are mostly vegetarian, eating leaves, stems, berries, and other plant parts. They also eat some insects, such as ants and termites.

Gorillas live in Africa and eat what is available in their habitat. If they live in an area with lots of fruits and vegetables, they will eat more fruits and vegetables. If they live in an area with more bamboo, they will eat more bamboo.

More about gorillas and what they eat!

The gorilla is a large, mostly terrestrial ape that lives in the forests of equatorial Africa. The adult male gorilla weighs from 115 to 180 kg (249 to 400 lb), while females are smaller and weigh about 85–110 kg (187–242 lb). Gorillas are the largest living primates.

They have thick black hair and are covered with long chestnut-brown hair. When threatened or agitated, gorillas become red-faced, their sharp canine teeth become bared, and they emit a characteristic deep throaty roar or “growl.”

The diet includes leaves from trees such as figs and leaves from bamboo, bark, shoots, fruits, and termites that they fish out from the inside of termite mounds using sticks.

Gorillas may also eat soil invertebrates including worms and grubs, and sometimes, but rarely, animals like lizards, small snakes, and eggs of birds (especially those belonging to ground-dwelling species).

Gorillas are mainly plant-eaters.

Gorillas can consume a lot of food each day—about 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of vegetation per gorilla! This diet helps them maintain their large body size.

When we compare the digestive system of gorillas to the ones of carnivores, we can easily see that we are dealing with a herbivore rather than a predator.

The gorilla’s digestive system works very slowly since it takes several hours for nutrients ingested at one meal to pass through its digestive tract into circulation where they can then be used by cells throughout its body.

On the contrary, carnivores have shorter digestive tracts as meat holds a higher nutritional value and is much quicker to digest compared to plant material.

This slowness results both in frequent feeding times even if there is plenty available because it may take hours before enough nutrients have been absorbed into its bloodstream for energy needs plus leads to excessive water consumption if available which

Humans and other omnivores with a much more meat-heavy diet have a much shorter digestive system than herbivores like a rabbit. Gorillas are hindgut fermenters and their digestive system resembles that of the rabbit more than that of a human. Figure from Wikimedia. CNX OpenStax, CC BY 4.0.

We, humans, have an even shorter digestive tract that evolved when we learned to use tools and fire to “digest” our food externally. This is part of what allowed our bodies to expand our brains into what it is today!

Do gorillas ever hunt other animals?

Although gorillas have the size, weight, and canine teeth to look like dangerous predators, they do not typically hunt for food but they may instead rely on opportunistic scavenging, taking advantage of any available carcasses.

In captivity, gorillas will have an even broader diet than in the wild and occasionally eat meat from larger animals if offered to them.

However, this does not happen very often in the wild due to the fact that there is always competition with carnivores for these sources, and gorillas are smart enough to keep away and feed on safer food sources.

When Are Gorillas Carnivores?

Gorillas can act as carnivores, but do so very rarely. Gorillas have been known to eat meat on occasion when plant food is scarce or if they happen to encounter a weak animal or a fresh carcass.

But more commonly, they act as carnivores when they eat insects like termites as shown in the video below.

They do not actively hunt though, and would never attack larger animals for food.

When Are Gorillas Omnivores?

Gorillas are omnivores when they feed on the occasional insect or two as a supplement to their main vegetarian diet.

They prefer eating plants, but do not restrict themselves to a vegetarian diet if the opportunity for eating other animals like insects arises and that makes gorillas omnivores.

Are All Primates Omnivores?

No, not all primates have the same diet. Some primate species are strictly herbivorous, while others are primarily frugivorous (fruit-eating), and still, others, like the orangutan, are omnivores (consuming both plants and animals).

You can read more about all the different types of apes and monkeys here.

Most primates are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. However, the proboscis monkey, the Ugandan Red Colobus monkey and the aye-aye monkey are exceptions to this rule.

The proboscis monkey is a pure herbivorous monkey that only eats leaves!

The proboscis monkey and the Ugandan Red Colobus monkey eat exclusively plants and the aye-aye monkey (that is strictly speaking a lemur) eats only insects.

Baboons also have a diet that consists mostly of animals, but they will also eat plants.

You can read more about monkey diets in my post on what different monkeys eat in the rainforest!

Is a Gorilla a Producer, Consumer, or Decomposer?

Gorillas are consumers because they eat other living things. Gorillas are omnivores, which means that they eat both plants and animals. Only plants as well as some bacteria and protozoa are producers.

Gorillas are not decomposers as only certain insects, bacteria and fungi fulfill that role in the rainforest.

What Type of Consumer is a Gorilla?

Gorillas are omnivores. This means that they eat both plants and animals. Gorillas eat a lot of plant material but they also eat insects. Gorillas are omnivores, which means that they eat both plants and animals. Only plants as well as some bacteria and protozoa are producers.

Can Gorillas be Considered Scavengers?

No, gorillas do not generally eat dead or decaying matter and are therefore not scavengers.

The bacteria in the gut of the gorilla play a very important role in their digestion and these microorganisms are not optimized for the digestion of meat or carcasses but are much better at digesting plant material.

Whereas gorillas may eat dead plants, they are not considered scavengers.

However, they do sometimes eat dead plants in the form of fruit and leaves. This helps reuse the nutrients of plants that would otherwise have to go through the slow process of decomposition by microorganisms on their own.

By eating dead plants, a gorilla speeds up this process and offers some of the raw nutrients back to the environment when leaving its feces.

Where are Gorillas in the Food Chain?

Gorillas are fairly low in the food chain because they only eat plants. Animals that only eat plants are primary consumers and are placed on the second trophic level in the energy pyramid.

Gorillas are somewhere in the middle of the food chain, leaning towards the 2nd trophic level of herbivores.

The energy transferred by the gorilla is the energy from the fruit, leaves, or other plants that they eat.

This energy is transferred to the animals that might eat the gorilla, for example, a leopard or a hyena.

Food chains simply demonstrate how energy moves from one organism to the next, in a straight line.

Why are Gorillas Important to the Ecosystem?

Gorillas are important for the ecosystem because they help to control the populations of other plants and therefore, indirectly, other animals.

If there were no gorillas, then the population of some plants would explode, as there would be no natural predators to keep them in check.

Gorillas are an important part of the lowland tropical rainforests ecosystem.

This would lead to an overgrowth of vegetation, which would eventually lead to an increase in other animal populations as there would be more food available to them.

Conversely, if gorillas were not around to eat animals, this would not have a huge impact as animals constitute such as small part of their diet!

Do gorillas have any natural predators?

Yes, gorillas do have some predators, including leopards and hyenas. Pythons may also eat gorillas by wrapping themselves around the gorilla and constricting its breathing until it suffocates.

However, the biggest threat to a large gorilla is often other gorillas as they will fight for mates and dominance in the internal social hierarchy.

Unfortunately, human poachers do also hunt and kill gorillas in the rainforest to eat or sell their meat (so-called “bushmeat”) to customers in the cities.

Conclusion

Different primate species exhibit differing dietary habits and some are purely herbivores or carnivores.

Gorillas are fascinating animals. They are the largest living primates, are extremely strong and powerful, are very intelligent, and live in complex social groups.

Whereas gorillas are technically omnivores, they do have a digestive system of a herbivore and they are not as good as other animals at digesting meat, and therefore they tend to have a mainly vegan diet.

Gorillas eat both plants (mostly fruit and leaves) and other animals (mostly insects, ants, and termites), and have even been observed catching and eating small animals on rare occasions.

On this site, you can read more about monkeys in general and you can read more about their diets in my post on what different monkeys eat in the rainforest!