Chimpanzees are one of the six remaining ape species. There are two sub-species, the Common chimpanzee and the Pygmy chimpanzee.

What do these babies look like?
Your typical chimpanzee will grow up to 2.5 - 5 feet tall, with males usually being slightly taller than females. After reaching their full height, most wild chimpanzees weigh 80-120 pounds, but chimpanzees who grow up in captivity can weigh even more at up to 150-200 pounds. These apes have very broad and muscular bodies and resemble human beings in many ways. Once fully grown, a male chimpanzee's strength is often several times greater than that of a human's.

Instead of fur, these apes have a coat of black or brownish hair on their body. This coat covers most of the body with the exception of the palms, soles of the feet and face. Their arms are longer than their legs. When standing upright their arms reach down below the knees. These arms are extremely strong and a chimpanzee will use them to support its body when walking and climbing trees. Its hands and feet are similiar to human's, with nails on each digit and opposable thumbs and big toes. However, being opposable, the big toe is able to touch all other toes.

Chimpanzees communicate through a variety of facial expressions and their loose, flexible lips aid them in doing so. Their mouths contain 32 molars for chewing meat, fruit and green vegetables. Males have large canine teeth that they will use to defend themselves with when attacked. Once again, their round eyes are alike to human's in many ways. The eyesight of a chimpanzee is excellent and allows them to view many different colours, and the eye itself is forward looking. Unlike alot of other animals, the chimpanzee will rely on its sense of sight alot more than its sense of smell. The nostrils on a chimpanzee are rather small. Ears, on the other hand, are large and sensitive to sound, to help detect danger. Overall the facial features of a chimpanzee resemble our own.

What tasty treats do they eat?
As an omnivore, a chimpanzee will feed on plants, fruits, eggs, honey, insects, birds and mammals, although plants alone make up a significant portion of a chimpanzee's diet. Each day a chimpanzee will spend 6-8 hours looking for food with the rest of its group. Being the clever creatures they are, they will eat the aspilia plant when they get a tummy ache -- because they knows it will help make themselves feel better! Some chimpanzees even use sticks to hook termites out of mounds or stones as hammers when trying to crack open hard shelled nuts.

I'm going on an ape hunt! Where can I find me a chimp?
They live in Central Africa, from Senegal all that way to Tanzania. Chimpanzees prefer rainforests and woodland, but will live in open areas if there is decent access to fruit, and when so, they'll often co-exist with baboons. They nest in trees but spend alot of time on the ground looking for food during the day. Of course, if you don't want to travel to Africa you could probably find one at your nearest zoo.

Hey baby! Who's your daddy?
Because a female chimpanzee will mate with several males in a group, it is never certain who the father of her baby is. The father will never recognise his own young. Therefore, males don't play a part in raising the offspring. The mothers are left with this task.

What's it like for a chimp to grow up in this harsh, harsh world?
Well, eight and a half months after conception a female will give birth to her young. The baby will feed on its mother's milk. It will start travelling around on its mother's back at the age of 3-6 months.

At three or four years of age the chimp will change from a diet of mum's milk to one consisting of solid foods. From this time on it will start becoming more independant, yet the close bond between mother and baby remains intact. It is also at this age that baby chimps are most playful. This benefits them by allowing them to learn how to interact with other chimpanzee's their own age, develop life skills and develop itself physically. Naughty little chimpanzees are punished by adults with a slap or a soft bight.

A chimp reaches adolescence at around eight years. It then reaches adulthood at thirteen. A female begins to breed, giving birth to new young every five or so years. Males may leave to join other groups. Once 20-30 years old, the adult is in its prime. Most have a lifespan of 40-45 years.

It is the duty of an adult male to defend the territory of his group. Every member of a group has its own rank, with males always outranking the females and young. There is often one or two dominate males within a group, and, interestingly enough, they tend to be the most intelligent rather than the largest. Dominate males are always the first to mate with a female. Chimpanzees are social creatures and live in groups of 20-100 apes, but this large group often consists of smaller families.

They sound like clever monk... er... apes!
They sure are! Some scientists have even developed ways of effectively communicating with them. Because their vocal chords aren't quite as developed as ours, they wont ever be able to talk. But some chimpanzees have been taught how to use sign language and can recognise symbols. Its also worth mentioning that the first thing America ever sent up to space was, infact, a chimpanzee!

Say, I heard somewhere that the Chimpanzee population is falling fast. Is this true?
Very much so. There are only 200,000 left in the wild today. Compare this with the millions that used to roam Africa 50 years ago.

One of the major reasons for this is the destruction of habitat. Many forests in Africa are being cut down for timber, leaving the chimps without homes and at increased risk to poachers. Another threat is the 'bushmeat trade'. Basically, local people are being forced by poverty to kill chimpanzees and other wild animals for food and profit. In areas around large amounts of chimpanzees it is not uncommon to find the meat of chimpanzees being sold at markets and served at restaurants.

These days it is against the law to own a chimpanzee in many countries. People often mistreat the animals when keeping them as pets, leaving them to die of malnourishment and disease. Some African countries have also created national parks and wildlife reserves in hope of protecting endangered species.

References cited:

Chim*pan"zee (?), n. [From the native name: cf. F. chimpanz'e, chimpans'e, chimpanz'ee.] Zool.

An african ape (Anthropithecus troglodytes <--, Pan troglodytes-->or Troglodytes niger) which approaches more nearly to man, in most respects, than any other ape. When full grown, it is from three to four feet high.


© Webster 1913.

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