Gorillas: Maybe Not as Gentle as We Thought

Ape vegetarian in the wild, but can turn carnivore in captivity
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2009 11:55 AM CDT
This undated photo shows an adult female bonobo.   (Great Ape Trust)
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(Newser) – King Kong aside, gorillas have somehow been able to hold onto their reputations as gentle giants, while myths about the belligerent chimpanzee and the promiscuous bonobo have long since been dispelled. But with new research into ape behavior, the last fable may fall, the Economist reports after primatologists studied apes and their interactions with other animals at 71 zoos around the US.

Chimps proved their killing-machine rep, but were outdone by the supposedly vegetarian bonobos, who slaughtered wildlife at every zoo. Most surprising were the gorillas, which seem to eat only plants and insects in the wild, but often killed and ate local wildlife. It’s possible that captivity boredom provoked new behaviors, but either way, the research further jars loose cemented primate stereotypes.