Specialist diets for our animals

The food we feed to our animals is very important, not only the quantity but the variety and quality are just as important. Each animal has a diet tailored to its own individual needs. 

Gorillas and primates

Our gorillas / primates receive somewhere in the region of 50 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, many organically grown. These include apples, beans, carrots, cauliflower, leeks, melon, oranges, pears, peppers, spinach and sweet potatoes.

There are seasonal variations which ensure that, while there are basics and staples available throughout the year, there are also a wide range of exotics as locally grown produce which are available during the summer and autumn time i.e strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, plums, damsons etc

A large variety of woodland browse is offered throughout the year from our managed woodlands and we have an increasing number of in-house plantations on site, growing various species of bamboo and willow. Something that other collections do not seem to cater for is herbs, which the gorillas especially love. Such things as parsley, thyme, rosemary and coriander are all great favorites.

Additionally the primates/gorillas receive concentrated vitamin pellets, cheese, eggs, honey, peanut butter yoghurt, mealworms crickets and an ever increasing array of (appropriate) food items in order to maintain interest and stimulation. Winter treats for the gorillas include legs of lamb, baked potatoes and sausages. Some of the small primates receive rose petals that have been picked during the summer months and frozen for use throughout the winter.

Our gorilla groups at Port Lympne are particularly fond of hummus, dhall, mushy peas and marmite(mixed together!) put into the honey pots as a savoury dip.

Scatter feeds are done up to 6 times daily which stimulates natural foraging behavior and again helps promote and encourage general activity and interest in the animal’s environment. Various environmental enrichment devices add to this ensuring that there is something for the animal to do at all times of the day, if it so chooses.

Elephants and hoof stock

The elephants and hoof stock like our herd of black rhino receive a wide variety of vegetables, pellets and browse; along with small amounts of fruit as occasional treats (too much fruit for many of these species is not good as their digestive system is not designed to process sugary, acidic foods).  Again scatter feeding is the technique used to stimulate the animals and ensures that they have to work for their food and that there is always activity within the animal groups.

Hay, lucerne, wheat and barley straw are the principal bulk feeds. Complex grains such as flaked maize, oats and wheat are offered in small quantities, mainly during the winter time, to provide additional energy. The elephants are also given a small daily ration of homemade linseed cake, which they adore and is designed to promote healthy growth of toe nails; some thing that is very important in captive elephants.  Linseed oil is also feed daily to our rhino herd not only for nail growth but to maintain good skin condition.  

We feed a wide range of woodland browse to our animals including white popular, hornbeam, hazel and beech. In addition our black rhinos particularly like field maple, willow, oak, hawthorn, apple, wild cherry and black thorne.


The carnivores receive a hugely varied diet ranging from beef, mutton and horse to entire carcasses. Goat, rabbits, rats, fish, crayfish (American invaders not European crayfish), chicken, chicks, duck, quail, pheasant, mice, squirrels and pigeons are also regular items.

Meat is fed both on and off the bone and again environmental enrichment plays a large part in how food is offered to the animals. For the most part the carnivore diets are pretty straight forward, however it’s crucial that we don’t over feed our animals because captive cats can easily become over weight. To replicate some semblance of a wild existence we feed don’t feed every day, this aids digestion and ensures that the animals are always keen when they are fed