Chimpanzee facts

What is a chimpanzee?

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are the closest living relative to humans, one of the four species of great apes (the others being gorillas, orangutans and bonobos).

Great apes are often confused with monkeys, but in fact have clear differences: they have much bigger and more developed brains, they are larger, walk upright more often and don’t have tails.

There are four known subspecies of chimpanzee, with the possibility of a fifth subspecies:

Central chimpanzee or Tschego chimpanzee

Area of origin: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Western chimpanzee

Area of origin: Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation is working to protect western chimpanzees in Guinea.

Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee

Area of origin: Nigeria and Cameroon.

Eastern chimpanzee

Area of origin: Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zambia.

A fifth subspecies of chimpanzee

Scientists have also argued for a fifth subspecies, South-eastern chimpanzees in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

How many chimpanzees are left in the wild?

It is estimated that between 170,000 and 300,000 chimpanzees remain in the wild.

Where do chimpanzees live?

Chimpanzees are native to Africa and can be found in 21 different African countries (see above).

What is a prime chimpanzee’s habitat?

Chimpanzees are a highly adaptable species – they live in a variety of habitats, including dry savanna, evergreen rainforest, mountainous forests, swamp forests and dry woodlands.

They have an advanced map in their heads of their home ranges, with knowledge of where to repeatedly find food. Every night they make a nest in a new tree, with every chimp in a separate nest other than infants or juvenile chimps, which sleep with their mothers.

How do chimpanzees behave?

Chimpanzees live in advanced social communities composed of family groups of three to six individuals. The communities altogether can be quite large, sometimes up to 50 chimps.

Hierarchies are formed and led by the adult males in the communities, normally one alpha, who can be challenged by another for the role. Adolescent females can sometimes move freely between communities, although territory is strictly patrolled, and conflicts can occur between neighbours.

On the ground, chimpanzees usually walk on all fours using their knuckles for support with their hands clenched, a form of locomotion called knuckle-walking.

What do chimpanzees eat?

Chimpanzees are omnivores, meaning they eat a wide variety of food including fruit, nuts, seeds and insects, and are also known to occasionally hunt and eat meat.

Nearly all chimpanzee populations have been recorded using tools for food and water. They have been known to modify sticks, rocks, grass, and leaves and use them when foraging for honey, termites, ants, nuts and water.

Despite the lack of complexity, forethought and skill are clearly seen in the making of these tools. Highly respected primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall made a discovery in the 1960s that modern chimpanzees use tools, and new research was published in 2007 indicating that in fact they used stone tools dating back to 4,300 years ago.

How much do chimpanzees weigh?

An adult male chimpanzee usually weighs between 40kg and 60kg (88lbs and 132lbs) and females 32kg to 47kg (71lbs to 104lbs). However, large wild male chimps can weigh up to 70kg (150lbs).

How long do chimpanzees live?

Chimpanzee lifespans can vary – if they survive infancy, they can live up to 50 years old.

Are chimpanzees bonobos?

Chimpanzees, whilst they look similar to bonobos, are a separate species.

What is a group of chimpanzees called?

A group of chimpanzees is called a ‘troop.’ Another commonly accepted collective noun for chimpanzees is a cartload of chimpanzees.

World Chimpanzee Day is held annually on 14 July.

Why not use this as your chance to fundraise to help protect chimpanzees from extinction?