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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: An experimental study of nettle feeding in captive gorillas

Published source details

Tennie C., Hedwig D., Call J. & Tomasello M. (2008) An experimental study of nettle feeding in captive gorillas. American Journal of Primatology, 70, 584-593

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Primates: Provide cut branches (browse) Management of Captive Animals

A replicated, before-and-after study in 2006 at three zoos in the Netherlands and Germany (Tennie et al. 2008) found that western lowland gorillas Gorilla gorilla gorilla, presented with stinging nettles Urtica dioica, used the same processing skills as wild mountain gorillas, Gorilla beringei beringei. Eight of nine captive western lowland gorillas gathered and processed leaves before eating them (just as wild mountain gorillas do). A captive gorilla with no experience of nettles gathered and processed leaves 32% of the time and omitted the process stage 59% of the time. As a comparison, captive gorillas given willow plant Salix sp., omitted the process stage 79% of the time and 17% of the time ate the leaves as soon as the willow was obtained. Leaves were offered either inside or as a scatter feed outside. Sixty-eight hours of video contained 296 behavioural sequences of nettle feeding from nine gorillas and 176 behavioural sequences of willow feeding from 11 gorillas.    (CJ)