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.

chimpanzee facts for kids


How many chimpanzees are left in the wild?

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


How many species of chimpanzee exist?

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

Central chimpanzee (or ‘tschego’)

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

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

Fifth subspecies

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


Where do chimpanzees live?

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


What is a 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 they in fact used stone tools dating back to 4,300 years ago.


How much do chimpanzees weigh?

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


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, while they look similar to bonobos, are a separate species.


Why are chimpanzees endangered?

In the last ten years, 14,000 chimpanzees have been lost to the illegal wildlife trade with only an estimated 170,000 to 300,000 individuals left in the wild. Find out why chimpanzees are endangered.


How to Help Chimpanzees

Please help us protect chimpanzees:


facts about chimpanzees