Possible mineral contributions to the diet and health of wild chimpanzees in three East African forests

Vernon Reynolds, Alejandra Pascual ‐ Garrido, Andrew Lloyd, Peter Lyons, Catherine Hobaiter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present new data on the ingestion of minerals from termite mound soil by East African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) living in the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda, the Gombe National Park and the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. Termite mound soil is here shown to be a rich source of minerals, containing high concentrations of iron and aluminum. Termite mound soil is not, however, a source of sodium. The concentrations of iron and aluminum are the highest yet found in any of the mineral sources consumed. Levels of manganese and copper, though not so high as for iron and aluminum, are also higher than in other dietary sources. We focus on the contribution of termite mound soil to other known sources of mineral elements consumed by these apes, and compare the mineral content of termite soil with that of control forest soil, decaying wood, clay, and the normal plant-based chimpanzee diet at Budongo. Samples obtained from Mahale Mountains National Park and Gombe National Park, both in Tanzania, show similar mineral distribution across sources. We suggest three distinct but related mechanisms by which minerals may come to be concentrated in the above‐mentioned sources, serving as potentially important sources of essential minerals in the chimpanzee diet.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22978
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2019


  • chimpanzees
  • diet
  • geophagy
  • Pan-troglodytes
  • Tanzania
  • termite mound soil
  • Uganda
  • minerals


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