IUCN Status: Endangered

The endangered chimpanzee, one of five species of great ape, inhabits the tropical savannas and forests of central and west Africa. It is threatened by the activities of another great ape, one of its closest relatives in the animal kingdom, with whom it shares 98.7% of its DNA – humans.

Chimpanzee Facts


    Chimps keep a mental map of their environment, allowing them to repeatedly find many varieties of fruits and plants. 

    They are classed as omnivorous, and occasionally prey upon small to medium sized animals, such as monkeys and antelope, with meat making up around 2% of their diet.

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    Like humans, chimps are highly adaptable, and have been observed in diverse habitats such as dry savanna, evergreen, montane and swamp forests, and dry woodland-savanna. Forest chimps spend most of the day in the treetop canopies feeding and searching for food.

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    Like humans, chimps are highly communicative. Facial expressions, gestures, postures and calls all help to convey feelings and intentions. To assert their position, top males regularly engage in displays of aggression, but chimps are capable of expressing a range of other complex emotions – a sign of their intelligence, along with their use of tools.

    They supplement their diets with very small servings of insects, such as ants and termites.

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    Wild chimpanzees live in “communities” of between twenty and 150 individuals, organised in complicated social hierarchies. Grooming rituals, used to remove ticks and maintain cleanliness, help to strengthen social bonds between group members. Half of individuals remain with their community for life, while the female half tend to migrate between groups. 

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    Physical Characteristics

    Chimps weigh as much as 50kg, less than the average human, yet are around 1.5 times stronger. They are larger than bonobos, their closest relative, but smaller than gorillas. Large ears, a protruding mouth and prominent brow are other distinctive features.


    Sharp canine teeth for hunting are only found in mature males.

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    Physical Characteristics

    Chimpanzees are covered in coarse hair, which is typically black but can be ginger or brown. Their human-like faces are bare, as are their fingers, toes, palms and soles. Chimps also lose hair as they age, leading to bald spots across the body.

Our Closest Cousin Threatened by Extinction

Chimpanzees are almost universally loved across the globe for their social nature, intelligence and similarity to humans. Yet, along with poaching and disease, it is the demands of human society which threaten them most.

Chimpanzee Facts

  1. Chimpanzees can live to be 50 years old in the wild.
  2. The diet of the chimpanzee is very varied, comprising fruits, roots, nuts, leaves, plants, flowers, insects and a small amount of meat, normally derived from other primates which they occasionally hunt.
  3. As a highly intelligent primate species, chimpanzees communicate in a range of ways, including vocalizations, body language, facial expressions, hand-clapping, grooming and kissing.
  4. Chimpanzees are well known for their ability to make and use tools. This knowledge is passed down generation by generation.
  5. Being one of our closest cousins and sharing 99% of our DNA, chimpanzees are susceptible to many of the same diseases as humans.

Chimp Rescue

Baby chimps are still sold as pets for private and illegal zoos. Thanks to Virunga’s Rangers, Tongo was rescued from animal traffickers who had killed his family for bushmeat. An average of ten family members is killed when poachers steal a baby chimpanzee.

Tongo was taken to Lwiro Primates, a chimpanzee sanctuary, where he will join around 100 other rescued chimps.

Frequent Asked Questions

A. Incidents of cannabilism and infanticide are extremely uncommon amongst chimpanzees. On rare occasions, chimps have been observed killing and eating infants from other groups, yet never from within their troops.

A. Yes, chimps do cry, but not in the same way as humans. Both humans and chimpanzees change their facial expressions and make vocalizations when they are in distress, but only humans have the ability to release tears of sadness or joy. For chimps, tear ducts are only used for lubrication and cleaning purposes.

A. Although chimpanzees are mostly herbivorous, their diet contains around 2% meat, most of which is derived from the predation of smaller primate species.

A. Where encroachment upon chimpanzee habitat is low, so too are incidents of aggression against humans. However, there are a number of recorded chimpanzee attacks against humans, some of which result in death, in areas where a troop’s access to food is impacted by human activity.

A. Like other species of great ape, both captive and wild chimpanzees exhibit vocalizations that are comparable to human laughter in a number of scenarios, including physical play, chasing and tickling.

A. The general consensus is that chimpanzees, along with the other species of great ape, possess toe and finger patterns that are similar in form to the fingerprints of humans. No two apes have been found to have matching prints, meaning that prints can, in theory, be used to identify individuals.

A. Despite there being numerous examples of people taking chimpanzees out of their wild environment to be kept as pets, the species is not suitable for domestication. Those who ignore this advice often do so because of how cute chimps appear as infants. However, they quickly grow into powerful adults with wild temperaments, oftentimes resulting in severe consequences for both the chimp’s welfare and the humans who keep them.

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