David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Chimpanzee Facts

Chimpanzees are one of the most intelligent animal species on Earth, being self-aware and having the ability to use tools. As modern apes, they share an ancestry with human beings, with us having diverged from their lineage between 9.3 and 6.5 million years ago, towards the end of the Miocene epoch. Here are some more chimpanzee facts.

What is the scientific name for chimpanzees?

Chimpanzees have a curious but recognisable scientific name – Pan troglodytes. ‘Troglodyte’ is formed from the Greek words meaning ‘cave dweller’ and to ‘go’ or ‘dive in’, whereas ‘pan’ means ‘all’ – as well as being the name of the bestial fertility god. You can certainly see why ‘troglodyte’ was and is such a negative slur in modern day language. But as chimps don’t live in caves, and certainly can’t be thought of as stupid, their taxonomic name doesn’t really suit what we now know about these amazing animals.

Nicholas Chapoy
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

The number of recognised chimpanzee species


The amount of DNA chimpanzees share with humans 


One chimpanzee is killed or illegally taken from the wild every four hours

Where do chimpanzees live?


Chimpanzees have the broadest geographical range of the great apes. They can be found in patchy distribution from southern Senegal, across the forested belt north of the Congo River, and into western Uganda and western Tanzania.

Highly adaptable, chimpanzees can also be found in a wide range of habitats. Although we often associate them with evergreen rainforest, they can also be found in swamp and montane forests, as well as more open woodland and even savanna environments. It has been shown that chimps have a highly advanced cognitive awareness of their home range and will make the most of seasonal windfalls and food sources.

Will Fortescue
Chimp hanging in tree

How does chimpanzee social organisation work?

Chimpanzees live in groups known as communities that can have as many as 150 members, although 15-20 is more typical. These societies were historically thought to have strictly male hierarchies, but it is now suggested that females play a significant role in ‘grooming’ would-be alphas by showing and encouraging favouritism. As a result, most disputes are solved without escalating into violence, despite the chimp’s reputation for aggression.

Each community forms and patrols a territory, which can vary in size greatly depending on where they live. Chimpanzees in rainforest or wooded areas have smaller territories of up to about 24 km2 (10 square miles). In grassland and savanna, this can extend to 150+ km2 (58 square miles). These territories are patrolled by small roving bands of males, and whereas internal squabbles tend to be non-violent, encroaching chimpanzees are met with severe aggression.

Are chimpanzees apes?

Yes, chimpanzees are not just apes – but great apes, putting them in the same group as gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans. There are only two types of lesser apes – gibbons and siamangs, both of which are limited to southeast Asia.

How much DNA do chimpanzees share with humans?

When it’s said that chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, it’s no joke. We share 98.7% of our DNA with our ape ‘cousins’.

How strong is a chimpanzee?

It has long been thought that chimpanzees are much more powerful than humans, with some claiming they are four times stronger. However, recent studies have shown that chimp muscle structure is only about a third stronger than an equivalent human one, and overall, chimps are roughly 1.5 x stronger than us, relative to body mass.

What do chimpanzees eat?

Chimpanzees are classed as omnivorous frugivores, meaning they predominantly prefer fruit as their diet. However, they also eat plants and plant material, including seeds, buds, and flowers. They are also known to supplement their diet with birds and their eggs, and meat from small mammals – including other primates like monkeys. In addition, chimps have been observed regularly using tools to collect honey, ants, termites, nuts, and water. In some communities, they use similarly sharpened sticks to spear small rodent prey. However, overall, meat still only accounts for approximately 2% of the chimpanzee diet.

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David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Matt Armstrong Ford

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