, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 1043-1072

Dietary Variability of Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

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Abstract

Data on intraspecific dietary variability has important implications for understanding flexibility in foraging behavior, habitat utilization, population dynamics, and social behavior and may also assist in conservation efforts. We compared food availability and diet of a group of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) at a high altitude site and 2 groups at a low altitude site in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, from September 2001 to August 2002. Plant species diversity was greater at the low altitude site than at the high altitude site. The two groups at the low elevation consumed more plant species (140 species vs. 62 species), and a greater number of fruit species per mo (7 vs. 3 species) and per yr (36 vs. 11 species) than the high altitude group did. Furthermore, each group shared <51% of important fibrous food items in their diet with the 2 other groups. There is no significant difference in the proportion of days fruit remains were found in the dung among groups. Finally, according to Ivlev's electivity index, all groups positively selected the majority of food items in their diets. We attribute a large proportion of dietary variation between locations to differences in fruit availability and plant species composition between sites. Differences between groups at the low altitude site may be due to variation in food profitability—more profitable foods available to choose in the same area—within their overlapping home range, or group traditions. A comparison of our results with the diets of gorillas of the Virunga Volcanoes in Rwanda and Kahuzi-Biega, DRC shows that eastern gorilla populations have highly variable dietary patterns with limited overlap in species consumed among groups and populations.