Basic Facts About Chimpanzees
Closely linked by DNA, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are one of the four species of great apes that are the closest living relatives of humans – the other two being gorillas and orangutans. Great apes are different from monkeys for a variety of reasons: they are larger, walk upright for a longer period of time, don’t have tails and have much larger, more developed brains.
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Chimpanzees are omnivores, meaning they eat a wide variety of foods that includes fruits, nuts, seeds, and insects. Chimps occasionally hunt and eat meat.
An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 chimpanzees remain in the wild.
Chimpanzees can be found in 21 African countries. Chimps prefer dense tropical rainforests but can also be found in secondary-growth forests, woodlands, bamboo forests, swamps, and even open savannah.
Chimps live in communities. These communities are composed of family groups of three to six individuals, totaling about 50 animals. Hierarchies are formed by the adult males of the community, which is led by one alpha (the highest) male. Adolescent females may move freely between communities, although territory is strictly patrolled and conflicts can occur between neighbors.
On the ground, chimpanzees usually walk on all fours using their knuckles for support with their hands clenched, a form of locomotion called knuckle-walking.
Most mothers give birth to one young an average of every five to six years in the wild. Young chimps stay with their mothers for up to 10 years.
Habitat destruction is the greatest threat of the chimpanzee. Large population decreases are also blamed on hunting and commercial exportation.