Apes are primates. Primates are mammals that share the following characteristics:

  • hair instead of fur
  • fingernails instead of claws
  • opposable thumbs
  • higher brain-to-body size ratio, high level of intelligence
  • prehensility (ability to grasp with fingers and/or toes)
  • padded digits with fingerprints
  • binocular vision i.e. both eyes focus on one object (depth perception)
  • reduced olfactory sense and dependent on vision more than smell

People often confuse apes and monkeys. Although there are a number of differences between apes and monkeys (apes have a longer lifespan, larger body size, larger brain-to-body size ratio, and higher intelligence); the main difference is that monkeys have tails and apes do not have tails.

The difference between great apes and lesser apes is general size. There are two types of lesser apes: gibbons (SE Asia) and siamangs (SE Asia). There are four types of great apes: gorillas (Africa), bonobos (Africa), orangutans (SE Asia), and chimpanzees (Africa).



Chimpanzees are great apes that live in the tropical rain forests of Africa from Sudan and Tanzania in the East to Senegal and Angola in the West. Democratic Republic of the Congo has the largest population, although chimpanzees have become extinct in some areas. They grow to reach heights of three to five feet, and weigh up to 120 to 200 pounds. They are predominantly black, sometimes with gray on their back after 20 years of age.


Orangutans are found in the tropical rain forests of only two islands in the world: Sumatra (in Indonesia) and Borneo (in Malaysia and Indonesia).

They are the largest arboreal (tree dwelling) animal in the world, reaching heights of four to five feet and weights of 125 to 235 pounds or more. Orangutans are reddish-brown in color and some males grow white or yellow beards. Also characteristic are their bare faces with round eyes and small ears; their long, shaggy hair; long arms; and curled fingers and feet.


We Need Your Help

As the only accredited orangutan sanctuary in the country and one of a handful of accredited chimpanzee sanctuaries, the Center for Great Apes has been rescuing great apes for 30 years. The Center for Great Apes does not receive funding from the federal or state governments. We are supported by donations from generous people like you, who care about the future of our orangutans and chimpanzees (both endangered species).

Center for Orangutan and Chimpanzee Conservation, Inc. dba Center for Great Apes is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, FEID 65-0444725.

© 2020 Center for Great Apes. All Rights Reserved.

Scroll to Top