KINGDOM: Animalia (Animals)
PHYLUM: Chordata (Possessing a notochord)
CLASS: Mammalia (Mammals)
FAMILY: Homonidae (Great Apes)
SUB-FAMILY: Homininae (Hominids)
GENUS: Pan (Chimpanzees and bonobos)
SPECIES: Pan troglodytes (Chimpanzees)
Chimpanzees are endemic to West and Central Africa.
Chimpanzees are a tailless member of the great apes family. They typically have coarse black hair that covers their whole body, except for their faces, ears, fingers, palms, toes, and soles, which are bare. They have opposable thumbs that can grip things tightly and will also use tools.
Chimps live in various habitats, including: dry savannahs, evergreen forests, swamp forests, dry woodland-savannah mosaics, and grasslands. They are quadrupedal (walk on all fours), but will sometimes walk erect. They spend most of their day foraging on the ground, while sleeping in nests that they construct in trees.
Chimpanzees are highly specialised frugivores (fruit-eaters) and will seek out fruit, even when it’s scarce. They will supplement this with stem, buds, bark, pith, seeds, insects and eggs. Chimps are also known to hunt larger vertebrates on occasion, including red colobus monkeys, bush pigs, yellow baboons, blue duikers, warthogs and bushbuck.
Chimps are highly social animals and typically live in groups (called troops) ranging from 20-150 individuals. Groups can consist of all-male, adult females and offspring, both sexes, or one female and her offspring. These groups will split up into smaller groups for travelling. Chimpanzees are polygynandrous (males and females will both have several mates).
Social relationships are extremely complex and can range from neutral to friendly to enemies depending on the individual chimps concerned. Males are dominant over females and also have a dominance hierarcy amongst themselves. Males generally stay in their natal group, while females will leave and roam.
They will use various methods of communication and are quite noisy animals. Oral (sound) communication includes grunts, calls, screams and even drumming on hollow tree trunks. Chimps futhermore communicate through a variety of gestures, postures and facial expressions. Touch is also a very important method of communcation in chimpanzee society. They groom each other extensively and also exhibit behaviours such as holding hands and kissing when they meet. Interestingly, chimpanzees are very interested in smells, but the degree to which they use smell as a communcation device is unknown.
Chimpanzees are not strictly territorial. Instead, groups occupy a home range of about 5-560 square km, which males and females use differently.
They can be considered polygynandrous as both males and females will mate with multiple partners. Females usually give birth to a single offspring after a gestation period of 8 months. After the baby is born, it will cling to its mother’s breast, and can only sit up at approximately 5 months. It will still be suckled and sleep with its mother until it’s about 3 years old. Chimps only become independent from their parents at about 6 years of age. Females become sexually mature at 10-13 years and males at 12-15 years. Chimpanzees can reach a life span of 60 years old!
Chimps are preyed on by Leopards and humans.
The threats faced by chimpanzees include humans hunting them for food, deforestation, and human diseases. Chimps are closely related to humans and diseases such as ebola and HIV also affect them.
Did you know?
- Males hunt more than females
- They walk on the soles of their feet and their knuckles
- Chimpanzees use large sticks and branches as clubs or throw them at enemies like leopards and humans.
- They have excellent mental maps of their home ranges and use these to locate food resources repeatedly