Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild


Chimpanzees are our closest living relative, sharing more than 98 percent of our DNA. They are great apes and not monkeys; some obvious differences are that great apes have larger bodies and brains and do not have tails. Other great apes include gorillas and orangutans.


(C) Gary Wales

Their coat is dark brown to black, and as a chimpanzee ages the hair can thin and turn greyer in colour.  The face, fingers, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet are hairless and range in colour from pink to black, tending to get darker as the chimpanzee ages.

Although they normally walk on all fours, chimpanzees can stand and walk upright, helped by the fact that their feet are longer and stronger than their hands. They will often do this when carrying objects for example.  They are able to grasp an object with both their hands and feet, as their big toes stick out sideways like thumbs. Like humans, each individual chimp has a unique fingerprint.

Chimpanzees are remarkably clever animals and are one of the few species which use tools. They will use sticks to fish for termites or dig grubs out of logs, use rocks to crack nuts and will even throw large sticks at leopards or people if they feel threatened.  Chimps show complex communication in the form of body posture, facial expressions and calls. They can even be taught to use some basic human sign language. 

(C) Michael Wilson
(C) National Geographic

Chimps live in groups of up to 80 individuals called troops, which are led by the dominant or alpha male. They spend up to 15 hours a day looking for food and the rest of their time is spent playing and sleeping. They spend equal amounts of time in the trees and on the ground, though they sleep in the trees in a nest which they make each day.Chimps sometimes chew leaves to make them absorbent and then use them as a sponge, dipping them in water and sucking out the moisture. They also use grass stems or twigs as tools, poking them into termite or ant nests and eating the insects that cling to them. They are able to wedge nuts between the roots of a tree and break the shells open with a stone

Adult chimps, particularly males, can be very aggressive. They are highly territorial and will sometimes kill other chimpanzees that intrude onto their territory.  Within their own group chimpanzees are very sociable and have been seen to kiss each other in greeting.

Chimpanzee numbers are in constant decline. They have already been wiped out from 4 of an original 25 countries in Africa.  Within 20 years it is estimated that 10 more countries will have lost all their chimpanzees. They are threatened by poaching, habitat loss and disease. Humans poach chimpanzees for their meat, to protect their crops and for the illegal trade in pets and body parts. Chimpanzees may also be caught in traps or snares meant for other animals. As human populations increase these threats are set to worsen.

Body Height: 120-170cm
Weight: 60-70kgs
Life Expectancy: 40-50 years
Diet: Fruit, leaves, buds, blossoms, berries, seeds, termites, antelope, other monkeys
REGION: Africa
HABITAT: Forests, woodlands
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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