10 amazing facts about chimpanzees

Discover fascinating facts about chimpanzees.

10 amazing facts about chimpanzees

Chimpanzee © Diane Seddon / Getty


1. Much like us

Chimpanzees (sometimes shortened to chimps) represent our closest living relative, sharing 98% of our genetic DNA.


Chimpanzees share 98 per cent of the same DNA as humans © Juergen Ritterbach / Barcroft Im / Barcroft Media / Getty


2. Complex social lives

Chimps live in vast social communities, consisting of up to about 100 individuals and comprising of several family groups. They have strict hierarchies, with one dominant alpha male.


3. How they get around

They get around by by swinging through trees and by walking on all fours (knuckle-walking), but they can also walk upright on two feet if they want to.


4. Varied diet

While chimps consume a wide variety of foods, including the fruits and leaves of hundreds of plants, they overwhelmingly prefer the fruit of fig or Ficus trees.

Though they also eat meat – their favourite is red colobus monkey – and invertebrates such as termites, this only makes up an estimated 3 per cent of their diet.


5. Reproduction

Females will reach reproductive maturity by age 13 and can give birth at any time of the year, usually to one baby. The infant will cling tightly to its mother’s fur, and then takes rides on her back until two years of age. 


Young chimps rarely have a twin, a female usually gives birth to just one baby © Juergen Ritterbach / Barcroft Im / Barcroft Media / Getty


6. Handy with tools

Chimps are one of the few animals that are known to use of tools. This includes the use of sticks to retrieve insects from the leaf litter, stones to open up appetising nut contents and leaves to soak up drinking water.


7. Not so cuddly

Chimps can be very aggressive. Groups of males will plan and execute attacks on other chimps, often causing serious injuries and fatalities. Serious, fatal attacks on humans have also been reported.


Chimps can be aggressive © Auscape / UIG / Getty


8. Extremely clever

Some chimpanzees have even been able to learn basic human sign language. Washoe, a captive female chimpanzee, was able to learn American Sign Language (ASL), with a vocabulary of 350 words.


9. Endangered

Chimpanzees are classed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List - numbers are decreasing because of habitat loss and fragmentation, killing for bushmeat and the infant pet trade and disease.


10. Taxonomy

Chimpanzees are one of only two species in the genus Pan, the other being the bonobo, and both are found sub-Saharan Africa. It was once thought that chimpanzees and bonobos were one species, but they are now recognised as two distinct species.

The chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) is found north of the Congo river and is split into 4 sub-species. The bonobo (Pan paniscus) is found south of the Congo river and has not been split into any sub-species.


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