9 amazing facts about chimpanzees

Discover fascinating facts about chimpanzees.

An extreme closeup portrait of the alpha male chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda. © Marc Guitard/Getty
1

How closely related are chimps to humans?

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

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2

Do chimps live in groups?

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 do chimps get round?

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

When do chimps reproduce?

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.

5

Can chimps use 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.

6

Are chimps friendly?

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.

7

Are chimps 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.

8

Are chimps in danger?

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.

9

Are chimps and bonobos the same?

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.

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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.