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Termite Feeding by Gorilla gorilla gorilla at Bai Hokou, Central African Republic

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Abstract

Though insectivory by large-bodied gorillas may be unexpected, researchers have reported it in all populations of gorillas studied to date. Our study of 2 well monitored groups of western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) at Bai Hokou in Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic provides information on frequency and variability of termite consumption (the most commonly eaten insect) as well as some of the first direct observations of the behavior. Pooled data from both groups indicate termite feeding on 34% and 83% of days, through fecal analysis and feeding trails, respectively. Direct observations revealed that termite feeding occurred on 91% of the days for 1 group, in which the silverback fed on termites during 13% of all feeding scans, making termites the most commonly observed food item. The group that had a higher density of termite mounds in its home range consumed termites more frequently than the other group did. A higher proportion of fecal samples from the silverbacks contained termite remains than the ones from adult females and juveniles. Termite consumption was lower during the dry season, but it does not correlate with rainfall, measures of fruit availability, or fruit consumption. Displacements at termite mounds occurred more than expected, indicating that they are a patchy, sought-after food resource. Gorillas did not use tools to extract termites, but they used 2 different techniques to remove them from the cells. Though culture or social traditions may cause the variation in termite consumption across sites, further investigation of termite availability and consumption is necessary to rule out ecological and methodological explanations for observed variations.

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Acknowledgments

The study was part of the Primate Habituation Program of the Dzanga-Sangha Project, with funding by WWF—US and grants from WWF—Germany. The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Rufford Foundation provided funds for estimating termite availability. We thank all the BaAka trackers, local assistants, and student volunteers who assisted with the project. Daniel Stahl provided statistical advice. We also thank David Greer for his support of the project.

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Correspondence to Martha M. Robbins.

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Cipolletta, C., Spagnoletti, N., Todd, A. et al. Termite Feeding by Gorilla gorilla gorilla at Bai Hokou, Central African Republic. Int J Primatol 28, 457–476 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-007-9129-5

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