Have you ever been interested in getting to know mankind’s closest relatives in the animal kingdom? This blog will take a glimpse into the incredible lives of Chimpanzees, and what we can do to ensure that they are protected now and going forward.
Chimpanzees are great apes found all across Central and West Africa. And along with bonobos, they are the closest living relatives to humans, sharing 98.7 percent of our genetic blueprint. Humans and chimps are also thought to share a common ancestor who lived some seven to thirteen million years ago.
Habitat and diet
Chimpanzees have the widest range of any great ape in terms of diet and habitat. Although many populations live in tropical rainforests, they can also be found in woodlands and grasslands spanning from Central to Western Africa. They usually sleep in trees—typically the sturdy Ugandan ironwood tree, which offers the most firm and stable place to sleep—and build themselves nests of leaves for warmth and comfort
The Chimpanzee also does most of its eating in trees. Chimps diet is primarily vegetarian and consists of more than 300 different items, mostly fruits, berries, leaves, blossoms, and seeds but also bird eggs and chicks, many insects, and occasionally carrion. They relish meat, and have been known to kill and eat monkeys, small antelope, and even tortoises, which they slam against trees to break open their shells. Chimpanzees hunt, both alone and in groups, stalking and killing various mammals They also appear to use certain plants medicinally to cure diseases and expel intestinal parasites.
Chimpanzees are unable to swim, but they will wade in water from time to time in the heat and while collecting water .
Location and Sanctuaries
This map shares the points where you can find Chimpanzee in the wild and also pinpoints three amazing sanctuaries, which believe in rescue and rehabilitation where seeing them in another setting is possible.
Situated in Uganda is the Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary which is incredible active in rescue and conservation of this precious species. If you want to visit them, whilst in Uganda get in touch with them. If you want to donate, there is also an option for that and all proceeds contribute directly to the welfare of these amazing animals.
Next, in Sierra Leone, is an unbelievable Chimpanzee Sanctuary which goes by the name Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. It has similar goals to Ngamba however they further offer a chance for guests to stay in their Eco-lodges. Famous individuals including Jane Goodall have volunteered and worked at this world renowned Sanctuary and you are bound to have an amazing experience with view and interacting with these animals there. Donations and Volunteering are also options at this Sanctuary should you wish to get involved.
Lastly, the Chimp Eden Sanctuary in South Africa in connection with the Jane Goodall Institute does incredible work for the Chimpanzee. Although these animals are not as close to their origin as possible, the conservation and rehabilitation of these animals are the priority of Chimp Eden. And animals which are suitable to be let into the wild are done so when the time is right.
Behaviour and Social Needs
Chimpanzees, like humans are highly social beings. They live in communities of several dozen animals, led by an alpha male and his coalition of male allies. Research has shown that male and female chimps have individual personalities, with females being more trusting, timid and thoughtful. Grooming is an important part of their social life, as it helps chimpanzees bond as they remove ticks and dirt from one another’s bodies.
Although Chimps usually walk on all fours (knuckle-walking), chimpanzees can indeed stand and walk upright if they so choose. Chimpanzees have long arms, hands, and fingers, which help them climb trees and swing from branch to branch (ideal for the terrain in which they reside).
Chimpanzees wake up at dawn, and spend their day in trees and also on the ground. After a lengthy midday rest, late afternoon is usually the most intensive feeding period for the chimps. In the trees, where most feeding takes place, chimps use their hands and feet to move about. They leap and swing by their arms skilfully from branch to branch when up top. Movement over any significant distance usually takes place on the ground. Although chimps are able to walk upright, they more often move about on all fours, leaning forward on the knuckles of their hands ie. knuckle walking.
Chimpanzees exhibit complex social strategies such as cooperation in combat and the cultivation of coalitions and alliances via ranging together, reciprocal grooming, and the sharing of meat (sometimes in exchange for mating opportunities).
An alpha male, for instance, may interfere with his rival in grooming with a third party ape because such a coalition might jeopardize the alpha’s status. On the other hand, the third party ape might show strategic opportunism in such a situation, since his assistance to either side could determine which of his superiors prevails. Chimpanzees, therefore, appear to have some understanding of the concept of “trade.”
They console, reconcile, and retaliate during fighting and so share emotions and aspects of psychology similar to those found in humans: self-recognition, curiosity, sympathy, grief, and attribution.
Although chimps take care of orphaned infants, they also tease handicapped individuals, conceal information that would bring disadvantage to themselves, and manipulate others for their own advantage by expressing deceptive postures, gestures, and facial expressions.
Intelligence and communication:
Chimpanzees are highly intelligent and are able to solve many kinds of problems posed to them by human trainers and scientists. A number of researchers have taught chimpanzees to use sign language or languages based on the display of tokens or pictorial symbols.
The implications of these language studies have been contested, however, critics claim that apes have not acquired true language in the sense of understanding “words” as abstract symbols that can be combined in meaningful new ways. Other investigators maintain that more recent language training has resulted in the chimpanzees’ acquiring a true recognition of “words” as abstractions that can be applied in novel contexts.
Communication between chimps in the wild takes the form of facial expressions, gestures, and a large array of vocalizations, including screams, hoots, grunts and roars. Males display excitement by standing erect, stamping or swaying, and letting out a chorus of screams.
Chimps use louder calls and gestures for long-distance communication (such as drumming on tree buttresses) and quieter calls and facial expressions for short-distance communication. Similarities to human laughter and smiling might be seen in their “play panting” and grinning, respectively.
These intelligent primates are one of the few species we know to use tools—which primatologist Jane Goodall famously observed in 1960. Her groundbreaking discovery led archaeologist Louis Leakey to declare, “Now we must redefine ‘tool,’ redefine ‘man,’ or accept chimpanzees as humans.”
As Goodall observed, chimpanzees shape and use sticks to retrieve insects from their nests or dig grubs out of logs. They use stones to smash open tasty nuts and employ leaves as sponges to soak up drinking water. And chimpanzees can even be taught to use some basic human sign language. This has shone light on the incredible similarities between mankind and these animals, after all we share remarkable amounts of DNA with them.
As previously mentioned, the observations of Jane Goodall created a lot of global attention to these endangered animals. Her connection with the animals was so apparent that it spiked the interest of the general public and allowed for more work to be done in their conservation.
Her story is not only inspiring but so fascinating! In July 1960, at the young age of 26, Jane Goodall traveled from England to what is now Tanzania and ventured into the little-known world of wild chimpanzees. She was merely equipped with little more than a notebook, binoculars, and her fascination with wildlife as Jane Goodall braved a realm of unknowns to give the world a remarkable window into humankind’s closest living relatives. Through nearly 60 years of groundbreaking work, Dr. Jane Goodall has not only shown us the urgent need to protect chimpanzees from extinction; she has also redefined species conservation to include the needs of local people and the environment. Today she travels the world, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees and environmental crises, urging each of us to take action on behalf of all living things and planet we share.
This video is so worthwhile watching to understand how Jane Goodall discoveries were purely groundbreaking!
When Jane Goodall entered the forest of Gombe, the world knew very little about chimpanzees, and even less about their unique genetic kinship to humans.
She took an unorthodox approach in her field research, immersing herself in their habitat and their lives to experience their complex society as a neighbor rather than a distant observer and coming to understand them not only as a species, but also as individuals with emotions and long-term bonds.
Dr. Jane Goodall’s discovery in 1960 that chimpanzees make and use tools is considered one of the greatest achievements of twentieth-century scholarship. Her field research at Gombe transformed our understanding of chimpanzees and redefined the relationship between humans and animals in ways that continue to emanate around the world.
The established Jane Goodall institution is a ‘global community conservation organisation’ that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, they improve the lives of people, animals and the environment.
The institution believes that “Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.”
Females chimpanzees can give birth at any time of year after a gestation period of about eight months, and typically to a single infant. The new born chimp weighs about 1.8 kg (about 4 pounds), is almost helpless, and will cling to its mother’s fur and later ride on her back until the time of weaning between ages three and five. Females reach reproductive age at 13 and often only two offspring survive during her lifetime, while males are not considered adults until they are nearly 15 years old.
The longevity of chimps is about 45 years in the wild and 58 in captivity. However, older individuals have been documented. For example, Cheetah the chimpanzee, an animal actor from the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and ’40s, was reported to have lived approximately 80 years.
Threats to survival
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared the chimpanzee as an endangered species—and the booming human population is primarily to blame. As humans move into more and more of the chimp’s geographic range, they clear away the ape’s forest habitat to make way for agriculture. Logging, mining, oil extraction, and new road and highway projects threaten to further degrade and fragment the chimp’s habitat.
In Western Uganda, habitat loss has fueled conflict between humans and our closest relatives. Deforestation not only makes it harder for chimps to find a place to live, but it also strains their wild food supply. In desperation, many resort to foraging from the homes of humans nearby. Though they mostly steal fruit and other food within reach, the apes occasionally snatch and kill small children. Humans kill chimps in retaliation and to protect their families from future attacks.
Bushmeat hunters target chimps because they provide more meat than smaller mammals, sometimes collecting their offspring as pets for themselves or to sell into the illegal pet trade. And chimpanzees are susceptible to infectious diseases, too. Since the 1980s, the Ebola virus has killed them in significant numbers.
Chimpanzees are protected by national and international laws, including the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Some of their habitat is protected as sanctuaries or reserves, too. Conservation organizations are always trying to expand these protected areas, while also pushing for an end to the illegal killing and taking of the animals.
Key to securing the future of the chimpanzee, though, is improving its relationship with humans. Many organizations work with communities to build awareness about the threats chimpanzees face, develop action plans to preserve their habitats, and help community members develop alternative livelihoods that do not jeopardize the animal’s habitat.
Have you enjoyed learning about our closest relative in the animal kingdom? There are many other primates which are fascinating and will probably spark your interest! Take a look at our blogs involving other primates such as Baboons in Africa.