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.
Distinctive habits and characteristics of Chimpanzees
- Chimpanzees are the most social of all the apes and live in communities of between 15 and 120 individuals.
- Their communities are often split into a number of subgroups with a male as the leader of the group.
- Males seldom leave the community where they were born.
- Females often migrate to a new community during an adolescent estrus period.
- Chimpanzees travel mostly on the ground by knuckle walking.
- Chimpanzees groom each other daily, and this activity has an important social function of calming and comforting individuals and solidifying their bonds with each other.
- Mothers often travel alone with their offspring.
- Chimpanzees construct nests at night in which to sleep.
- Chimpanzee males in the wild cooperatively hunt for meat.
- Their diet is mainly fruits with regular amounts of insects, as well as birds and small mammals.
- Chimpanzees use tools to gain access to food, such as fishing for termites with sticks fashioned for the job and cracking open nuts with anvil-like rocks.
- Females in estrus have a prominent swelling of the pink perineal skin that lasts two to three weeks and occurs every four to six weeks.
- Females give birth every four to five years and their gestation period is eight to nine months.
- Chimpanzees have a long mother-infant dependency period. Infants will nurse on their mothers for five years and stay with their mothers several more years learning to care for younger siblings.
- The life span for chimpanzees is 40 to 50 years in the wild and over 50 to 60 years in captivity.
Other Interesting Facts About Chimpanzees
There are four distinct populations of chimpanzees in Africa:
- Pan troglodytes troglodytes (central Africa)
- Pan troglodytes vellerosus (Cameroon and Nigeria)
- Pan troglodytes verus (western Africa)
- Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii (eastern Africa)
Chimpanzee Life Stages
- Infant: Birth-to-five years (nursed and carried by mother)
- Juvenile: Five-to-eight years (still with mother but independent of her for transport and milk)
- Early Adolescence: For females, eight-to-ten years and for males, eight-to-12 years
- Late Adolescence: For females, 11-to-14 years and for males, 13-to-15 years
- Maturity: 16-to-33 years
The current chimpanzee population is estimated to be between 80,000 to 120,000. The number one threat is the bush meat trade that results in 6,000 chimpanzees per year being killed and eaten by humans. Chimpanzees are currently threatened to extinction by habitat destruction for logging and mining, as well as poaching for the exotic pet trade. When poached, mothers are killed, and if a baby survives the fall of the mother from the tree, the baby is taken by poachers.