Chimpanzees (Common or aka Robust)

Order: Primates

Family: Hominidae

Subfamily: Homininae

Genus: Pan

Species: Pan troglodytes

The first European contact with chimpanzees happened in Angola during the 17th century by a Portuguese explorer named Duarte Pacheco, the dairy that he kept was also the first documentation that they could make tools. The use of the word chimpanzee did not happen until 1738 and is derived from the Tsiluba word ‘kivili-chimpenze’ which means mockman or apes.

Chimpanzees live in a total of 21 African countries with the majority of the population being in what use to be the equatorial belt. They range from the west coast of Africa to as far east as western Uganda and Rwanda. There are three subspecies of common chimpanzee that live within a variety of habitats, from secondary regrowth forests and open woodlands with the greatest number residing in the rain forest. Chimpanzees are covered with black hair except on their faces, hands, and feet. Their arms are longer than their legs so to get around they will move quadrupedally and are known as “knuckle walkers”. Chimpanzee males are slightly larger than females weighing in at 90 to 130 lbs whereas the female will weigh between 70 to 104 lbs. The average height of chimpanzees is around 2.5 to 3 feet tall and their average life span in the wild can be anywhere between 40 to 45 years with life span in captivity being longer.

Chimpanzees are omnivores which means they eat seeds, fruits, nuts, leaves, and will also eat insects such as termites and ants along with meat from other mammals such as monkeys but meat only makes up about 2% of their diet. Due to them having such a wide variety of food that they are able to eat allows them to live in a variety of habitats. Yes, they eat monkeys with the most common prey being red colobus monkeys (Procolobus badius) and will even lead very coordinated hunts in order to achieve this. Chimpanzees spend around half of their day feeding and spend even more time moving from food source to food source. They will also make and use tools, an example of this is a taking a limb, removing the leaves so it is relatively clean, and then will use the stick to “fish” into termite nests. They have also been known to use rocks in a anvil and hammer manner to crack nuts, just like fishing this is a learned trait and is one that requires forethought.

Chimpanzee Hunt

Chimpanzees live in social groups called troops where there can be any number between 30 to 80 individuals with these large groups “fissioning” into smaller groups where it can  be all female, all male, and mixed groups. Chimpanzee groups are very fluid and smaller groups will also fusion together. Males will usually stay within their natal group while females emigrate into other groups but this is just a generality. Chimpanzees will become sexually mature around the age of 8 to 10 years old, females will show signs of estrus for up to 35 days and she will mate with a variety of males. There is a dominance hierarchy among the males in a group, and males will most always dominate the females. It needs to be stressed here that every troop of chimpanzees is different: behavior, calls, grooming, and of course tool-use which will vary from group to group.



Habitat loss in a huge issue when it comes to chimpanzees due to land being used for agriculture and the fight for natural resources such as commercial logging and mining. There are patches of isolated forest where the chimpanzees are living because of the demand for the land. Suitable habitat is one of the greatest threats to the long term survival of not only chimpanzees but great apes in general. Not only is habitat destruction a stress on the remaining wild chimps but there is also a huge problem with them being hunted for bushmeat and also for the live animal trade. They have been an endangered species since 1975 with populations still in decline to this day with only around 150,000 left in the wild.

Bushmeat Trade

There are populations of chimpanzees in captivity also and you may be thinking about those that are in zoos, there are some that is true. As I researched for this primate biology I ran across chimpanzees in captivity that we seem to forget about; those that are used for biomedical research, kept as pets, and those used in the entertainment industry. So I challenge you, the reader, to dig a little further into these relatives of ours that we seem to exploit so easily. . . read about what you can do to help by following this link:

Just so I don’t leave you, the reader, on such a depressing note I wanted to include something that I found exciting as a way to get the message out about how chimpanzees are more like us and the plight that they are in by including this nature documentary of Oscar . . .






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