Great Ape Nutrition

We are often asked what our chimpanzees and orangutans eat. To answer simply: we give them three meals a day of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and “primate biscuits” (which are basically thick, granola bar-looking biscuits that have additional vitamins, minerals, and protein needed for their diets ). Orangutans are vegetarians in the wild as well as captivity. Our chimpanzees enjoy a mostly vegetarian diet, but chimps in the wild will sometimes hunt small game and eat it. Our ape nutritionist weighs out the primate biscuits, veggies, and fruits using a formula based on each individual apes’ weight to make sure they are all receiving the proper amount of food in their diets.

This is the Center for Great Apes Feedroom

CGA Feedroom

We’ve found that some of our apes who were raised as pets were not always given the nutritious and healthy meals they should have been given (i.e. pizza, cake, cookies, candy, sodas, etc.). So, once they arrive at the sanctuary, it is difficult to get them to enjoy a nice head of romaine lettuce and fresh vegetables. They would rather have candy or a soda (and who can blame them!). But our ape nutritionist does an excellent job of finding delicious gluten-free and sugar-free recipes for our apes. Surprisingly, with a little tweaking of the recipes, orangutans and chimpanzees can enjoy some of the same foods that we eat! Some favorites are meat-free veggie & bean tacos, Primarily Primates’ version of “Sloppy Joe’s”, fresh greens cole slaw with orange juice dressing, extracts mixed with water to create flavored popsicles, etc.

Different types of primate biscuits

primate biscuits

For our elder apes, they enjoy a nutritious Ensure smoothie with their veggies and primate biscuits to give them the extra boost of vitamins and minerals that they need. A special shake of Spiru-tein mix and whey protein is given to those apes in need of a protein boost, as is oat bran for fiber.


As mentioned in a previous blog, the apes all get “cake” for their birthdays. It isn’t covered in icing or dripping with candy-coated toppings, but it certainly is a special treat. For our summer birthdays, our ape nutritionist will create a frozen masterpiece by freezing sweet fruits in with a juice mixture and decorating the outside with edible flowers and more fruit. Our apes who like to share their birthday treats with their companions really enjoy monkey chow cupcakes, and some will get a big monkey chow cake with peanut butter “icing” and fruit. Another treat the apes love is soft serve ice cream (which is all just really healthy, frozen fruit!) using our Yonanas® ice cream maker. Our apes’ health is one of our top priorities, but we also want them to enjoy their meals.




3 responses to this post.

  1. Looks like my diet for the new year!! haha


  2. Posted by Don on January 9, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this blog! The photos alone make the food look so good! I can imagine how difficult it was for an individual like Denyse, who used to eat junk food, to have to eat more nutricious meals – and look at the clever way you guys get them to eat a balanced meal! I always enjoy reading about the “birthday cakes” – Love to read about the ‘cupcakes’ and the ‘popsicles!’ You guys provide nutrional, and imaginative meals and treats for all of the residents! Love this!


  3. love the creative ideas! I may borrow some for the chimps I work with! 🙂


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