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Chimpanzee Facts

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Humans and chimpanzees share 95%-98% of their DNA.

Found in 21 countries on the African continent, chimpanzees are a fascinating group of primates. Its intelligence is remarkable, it has an extraordinary ability to learn communication skills such as sign language, and it has even been trained to play computer games! Unfortunately, the numbers of these amazing animals are dwindling and they are currently listed as endangered. Read on to learn more about the hilarious chimpanzees.

chimpanzee 1

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Chimpanzees are a species of ape native to a variety of habitats in West and Central Africa. Chimpanzees are closely related to other great apes, including orangutans and gorillas, and are a closely related animal to humans, as we share 98 percent of our DNA. Considered to be the most intelligent animals on earth after humans, they are known not only for expressing emotions, but also for being excellent problem solvers. They have even been known to not only use, but make tools to help them be more successful. Survive their surroundings.

There are two distinct species in the genus Pan , the common chimpanzee and the smaller bonobo (also known as the pygmy chimpanzee), which have a limited distribution south of the Congo River. However, although chimpanzees are adaptable and intelligent creatures, their natural habitat is still seriously threatened today, mainly due to hunting for bushmeat and deforestation.

Animal Profile: Chimpanzee
Humans and chimpanzees share 95% to 98% of their DNA.

© Lili Aini/Shutterstock.com


Pan fossils found in Kenya date back to the Middle Pleistocene, suggesting that both chimpanzees and humans inhabited the Rift Valley at that time, ranging from 126,000 to 770,000 years ago.

Bonobos separated from chimpanzees less than 1 million years ago. About six million years ago, researchers believe chimpanzees split from the human lineage, of which only Homo sapiens survived, making chimpanzees our closest relatives. Chimpanzees and humans diverged from gorillas 7 million years ago.

types of chimps

There are four subspecies of the common chimpanzee, the fifth being the proposed subspecies. These people used to live in more areas, but have now shrunk down to a smaller population. Four are:

  • Western chimpanzee ( P. t. verus ) – mainly found in Gabon, Cameroon and Congo. The most widespread subspecies with a population of about 115,000 individuals.
  • Central Chimpanzee ( P. t. troglodytes ) – Mainly in Côte d'Ivoire with a few in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Liberia.
  • Eastern Chimpanzee ( P. t. schweinfurthii ) – Mainly found in Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Ubangui/Congo River, western Uganda, Rwanda and western Tanzania.
  • Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee ( P. t. ellioti ) – found in Nigeria and Cameroon, is the rarest subspecies of chimpanzee with only 6,500 left.

The southeastern chimpanzee P. troglodytes marungensis is not recognized as a subspecies by ICUN, but it inhabits Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Portrait of a male bonobo walking in the jungle.
Bonobos (Pan paniscus) are not actually a species of chimpanzee, but belong to the same genus as chimpanzees – Pan.

©Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com

anatomy and appearance

Chimpanzees are large primates with long, sparse hair covering their entire body except for the face, palms, and soles of their feet. Not only does their hair keep them warm at high altitudes, it also provides some sun protection to their skin. The hairless parts of their bodies are light to dark brown in color depending on the individual's age (their skin darkens with age). They have large ears, good hearing, and bushy eyebrows. Like other great apes, chimpanzees have excellent vision and can distinguish colors, while their forward-facing eyes allow them to focus on a single object. They have long fingers and an opposing big toe, which helps them grasp things, and their arms are longer than their legs, which allows them to move around on all fours, which is called articulated walking. Chimpanzees have 32 teeth, very similar to humans, that not only help them grind up plant matter, but their longer canines also help in biting into flesh.

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Chimp features include long arms, opposable thumbs, a protruding mouth, and a body covered in brown or black hair.

©Thomas Lersch/Creative Commons

Distribution and Habitat

Chimpanzees are found in 21 different countries in West and Central Africa and are known to inhabit a variety of regions, from tropical moist rainforests to drier and drier savannas and open woodlands. They are excellent climbers and rely heavily on the trees around them, not only for protection from predators, but also for finding food and nesting places at night. Chimpanzees have been severely affected by the loss of much of their natural habitat as forests are cleared to make way for agriculture or trees are felled for tropical timber. As groups are pushed into smaller and smaller sizes, competition for food and nesting sites increases, and conflict may arise between different groups and between individuals living in the same community.

Chimpanzees have been hit hard by habitat loss as forests are cleared for agriculture or the timber industry.

©Ari Wid/Shutterstock.com

Behavior and Lifestyle

Chimpanzees are highly sociable animals, eating, playing and grooming with other members of the family during the day. Groups (also called communities) can vary in size from 15 to 120 individuals, depending on habitat and the amount of food available. They are very territorial and do not tolerate outsiders entering their midst, often killing individuals from another group. Chimpanzee groups have extremely complex social structures, and the dominant male is not necessarily the strongest individual, but the one who can rally the most supporters. Chimpanzees build their nests in trees at night by folding branches to provide them with a safe sleeping platform, building a new nest every day. Although they spend a lot of time sleeping and eating in trees and moving back and forth by swinging from branch to branch, most travel is done through a network of paths on the ground, using their knuckles for balance.

You can check out incredible facts about chimpanzees.

chimpanzee fight
Chimpanzees are very territorial and do not tolerate outsiders among them, often killing individuals from another group.


Reproduction and Life Cycle

Although bonds within groups can last for many years, there are no long-term bonds between males and females as far as reproduction is concerned. Female chimpanzees can give birth to a baby at any time of the year, which is born after a gestation period that lasts about eight months. After birth, babies cling to their mother's fur and stay securely with them for the first few years, after which time the cubs become more adventurous and begin to explore their surroundings more and more independently. Young chimpanzees observe their mothers to learn the skills they need to survive, including what to eat, how to make tools and build nests, and play with other young chimpanzees to practice grooming and wrestling skills. Females are thought to be able to reproduce at age 13, while males appear to develop a little later, around age 16.

Chimpanzee Lifespan - Baby Chimpanzee on Mom's Back
After birth, young chimpanzees cling to their mother's fur and remain by their mother's side for the first few years.


diet and prey

Chimpanzees are omnivores and can eat hundreds of different types of food. Much of their diet consists of seasonal fruits, seeds and flowers picked from trees, and insects such as ants and termites extracted from their nests on sticks. However, they are also known to eat larger prey, and when working together, subgroups can kill monkeys and birds, and even successfully hunt duiker. Chimpanzees are the only animals (other than orangutans and humans) that not only use tools but also make them. They've been known to strip leaves and twigs from tree branches and insert them into termite mounds, where the termites will climb the branches and the chimpanzees will lick them off. They're also known to use stones as hammers to crack open nuts, and they've even been known to use chewed leaves as sponges to absorb water, which they then suck out of the leaves.

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What Chimpanzees Eat - Chimps Use Tools
Chimpanzees use tools to hunt ants and termites.

©Danny Ye/Shutterstock.com

Predators and Threats

Because they spend so much time in the trees, chimpanzees are not threatened by many of the large predators found on the ground. However, some animals can live both on the ground and in the trees, and the leopard is one of the greatest natural threats to these animals. Chimpanzees are also preyed upon by large snakes and may be killed by other primates, including other chimpanzees. Babies are at greater risk than their parents as they are even captured and eaten by baboons sharing the range. However, the biggest threat to chimpanzees is that people are not only hunting them for meat, but also destroying large swaths of their natural habitat, meaning there are fewer and fewer trees to eat and rest in.

Leopards are agile in trees and are natural enemies of chimpanzees.

©Pavith Malaka/Shutterstock.com

Interesting Facts and Features

Chimpanzees are very sociable and spend a lot of time each day grooming each other. Not only does this keep them clean and free from parasites, but it is also thought to relax them and strengthen social bonds within the group. Chimpanzees have been known to make 30 different calls that they use to communicate with other members of the group, including panting. This series of screams and roars is the most common sound in adult chimpanzees and can be heard up to 2 kilometers away. While they do make a variety of sounds, most communication occurs through facial expressions. They have very flexible lips that curl up to create a "smile" when they are angry or feel threatened, which indicates fear. Chimpanzees are known to be among the smartest animals in the world, capable of not only remembering things but also recognizing themselves in mirrors.

Chimpanzees use facial expressions as their primary form of communication.

©Patrick Rolands/Shutterstock.com

relationship with humans

Chimpanzees and humans are thought to have a common ancestor that lived about 8 million years ago, but chimpanzees have been heavily influenced by their close relatives. Chimpanzees have been hunted for bushmeat to this day (albeit banned), and some populations have been decimated by living in areas of long-running civil war. However, it is the loss of natural habitat that affects chimpanzees the most, as they need surrounding trees to survive. Despite the lack of care for them in the wild, the human-like nature of chimpanzees has captivated people for years, both in the scientific community and in zoos, where there are always crowds enjoying watching them interact. Much of what we know about chimpanzees is due to the work of Jane Goodall, who spent 30 years studying them in the wild in Tanzania's Gombe National Park.

Ham, the chimpanzee who traveled to space.
Because of their high intelligence, humans train chimpanzees to perform important tasks, such as space travel.

© NASA, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons – Licensed

Protect the status quo and life today

Today, chimpanzees are listed as endangered in their natural environment by the IUCN and therefore are threatened with extinction in the near future if nothing is done to change this situation. It is estimated that there may be as few as 100,000 left in Africa, and the population is thought to have declined rapidly over the past 30 years. As deforestation continues to increase, chimpanzees have been squeezed into smaller, more isolated areas of their once vast natural range, leading to further population declines in many parts of Africa.

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about the author

Abby Parks is the author of novels, plays, short stories, poems and lyrics. She has recorded two albums of her original songs and is a multi-instrumentalist. She manages a folk music website and writes about singer-songwriters, folk bands, and other music-related articles. She is also a radio DJ for folk music shows. As well as being a pet parent to rabbits, birds, dogs and cats, Abby enjoys hunting for animals in the wild and has witnessed some of the more exotic ones such as Puffins in the Farne Islands, Puffins in Chiloe Southern Pudu (Chile), penguins in the wild, and countless wildlife of the Rocky Mountains (bighorn sheep, goats, moose, elk, marmots, beavers).

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Chimp FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are chimpanzees herbivores, carnivores or omnivores?

Chimpanzees are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and other animals.

To which kingdom do chimpanzees belong?

Chimpanzees belong to the animal kingdom.

Which category do chimpanzees belong to?

Chimpanzees belong to the class of mammals.

What phylum do chimpanzees belong to?

Chimpanzees belong to the phylum Chordate.

What family do chimpanzees belong to?

Chimpanzees belong to the human family.

What order do chimpanzees belong to?

Chimpanzees are primates.

What type of mulch do chimpanzees have?

Chimpanzees are covered with hair.

What genus do chimpanzees belong to?

Chimpanzees belong to the genus Pan.

Where do chimpanzees live?

Chimpanzees live in West and Central Africa.

What type of habitat do chimpanzees live in?

Chimpanzees live in tropical forests and wooded savannas.

Who are the natural enemies of chimpanzees?

Natural enemies of chimpanzees include leopards, snakes and humans.

How many children do chimpanzees have?

The average number of babies a chimpanzee has is 1.

What interesting facts about chimpanzees?

Chimpanzees have 32 teeth, including fang-like canines!

What is the scientific name of the chimpanzee?

The chimpanzee's scientific name is Pan troglodytes.

What is the lifespan of a chimpanzee?

Chimpanzees can live 50 to 60 years.

What is the name of the baby chimpanzee?

Baby chimpanzees are called babies.

How many species of chimpanzees are there?

There are 2 types of chimpanzees.

What is the biggest threat to chimpanzees?

The biggest threat to chimpanzees is habitat loss.

What is another name for a chimpanzee?

Chimpanzees are also known as common chimpanzees.

How many chimpanzees are left in the world?

There are only 100,000 to 200,000 chimpanzees left in the world.

How fast are chimpanzees?

Chimpanzees can travel as fast as 25 miles per hour.

What is the Difference Between Chimps and Gorillas?

Chimpanzees differ from gorillas in appearance and size. Gorillas weigh significantly more than chimpanzees, and chimpanzees live in slightly different habitats compared to gorillas.

What is the Difference Between Chimpanzee and Orangutan?

The key differences between orangutans and chimpanzees include size, reproduction and lifespan, social behavior, skin, and habitat. Although each has its own strengths, what is most striking about orangutans is their cognitive ability to understand the reasons behind certain behaviors.

What is the Difference Between Chimps and Monkeys?

The key differences between monkeys and chimpanzees include their family type, appearance, diet, intelligence, and communication style.

What is the Difference Between Bonobos and Chimpanzees?

The key differences between bonobos and chimpanzees include their appearance, diet, behavior, body language, and social structure.

Who would win a fight between a chimpanzee and a human?

Chimpanzees would win battles with humans. Although both chimpanzees and humans are carnivores and have strong fighting abilities, chimpanzees are far more aggressive and violent than humans.

how do chimpanzees say in



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  1. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animals, The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife
  2. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) Encyclopedia of World Animals
  3. David Burney, Kingfisher (2011) The Animal Encyclopedia of Kingfishers
  4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) Atlas of Threatened Species
  5. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia
  6. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Animal Encyclopedia
  7. David W. Macdonald, Oxford University Press (2010) Encyclopedia of Mammals
  8. Chimpanzee information, available here: http://www.chimpworlds.com/
  9. Chimpanzee Conservation, available here: http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/15933/0