Zoo Keepers Put Big Boy Gorillas On Vegetarian Diet To Fight Heart Disease

GreenTracker| Just like people, heart disease is the number one killer of male Western lowland gorillas, the only species of gorillas in North American zoos. The diet designed to enrich the health and nutrition of gorillas was also killing them early says Elena Hoellein Less, a PhD candidate in biology at Case Western Reserve University.

No more buckets of vitamin-rich, high-sugar and high-starch foods that zoos have used for decades. Cleveland Zoo’s Mokolo and Bebac now receive a wheelbarrow of romaine lettuce, dandelion greens and endive to eat. Alfalfa hay might be the main course, green beans on the side, a few young tree branches, a handful of flax seeds and three Centrum Silver multivitamins inside a smashed banana for dessert.

No more sitting around waiting for the bucket of food handout. Now the duo spends 50 to 60 percent of their time feeding and foraging, comparable to their life in the wilderness.

Science Daily reports that although they are now eating twice as many calories on the new diet, “the big boys of the primate house have dropped nearly 65 pounds each and weigh in the range of their wild relatives.” Zookeepers around the country are evaluating applying these results to the other 350 gorillas in America’s zoo population.

Next up for the nation’s gorillas: an exercise routine, at least in Cleveland. Does any of this sound familiar?