Chimpanzees are a great ape, a genus of primates. Translated from one of the languages of African tribes, it means “like a human.” The similarity with people is limited not only by external characteristics, behavioral features, but also by genes: our DNA coincides by more than 90%. Scientists have proven that the evolutionary paths of the two species diverged only 6 million years ago.
These apes are capable of displaying emotions very similar to human emotions, they can admire beauty and compassion – and at the same time fight, hunt the weak for fun and eat their relatives. There are two types of chimpanzees: common and pygmy (bonobos).
Appearance and features
The entire body of primates is covered with dark hairs, only part of the muzzle, palms and feet remain hairless. Chimpanzees have no tail. They have protruding ears and very long arms. The total length of both limbs is approximately 1.5 times the length of the whole body. The upper limbs are longer than the lower ones. Chimpanzees have powerful jaws – they protrude forward, powerful fangs stand out. But their nose is small and flat. Facial expressions are well developed, and chimpanzees actively use them when communicating, as well as gestures, sounds. They can smile.
The male common chimp stands up to 1.2 m (3.9 ft) high. Male adult wild chimps weigh between 40 and 60 kg, with females weighing between 27 and 50 kg. The bonobo is slightly shorter and thinner than the common chimpanzee, but has longer limbs. Chimpanzees have a brain one-third the size of a human.
Bonobos are not much shorter than their regular counterparts, but due to the less traced muscles, they seem small and thin. The thumbs, like in humans, are set aside – this allows the animal to climb trees and use primitive tools to get food.
Primates are inhabitants of Central and West Africa. The main condition is the presence of tropical forests with sufficient vegetation and a suitable climate. The common chimpanzee is now found in Cameroon, Guinea, Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania. The habitat of bonobos is forests between the Congo and Lualaba rivers.
All the time they spend in the crowns of trees, dexterously jumping from branch to branch, they go down to the ground extremely rarely, most often to a watering hole. On the branches they build their nests – wide perches of twigs and leaves.
Chimpanzees are considered omnivorous primates. Their diet includes both plant and animal products. They need to eat often and in large quantities, as they lead a very active lifestyle and spend a lot of energy on it. It is also important for them to constantly maintain a certain amount of subcutaneous fat, this helps them to survive during periods of autumn rains or droughts.
Most often, their menu includes: stems and leaves; fruit; bird eggs; insects; honey; fish; shellfish.
Chimpanzees gather, walk around the area in search of food, memorize the most productive groves and make a daily route to get around them first. But sometimes they arrange a hunt, usually for genons or colobus (smaller apes) – it is carried out in a group and is planned in advance. During the hunt, the victim is surrounded, and then large males complete the process by climbing a tree and killing it. In addition to small apes, a wild pig can become a victim, usually a young one – it is dangerous to hunt adult boars. Bonobos do not practice organized hunting, but sometimes they can catch small apes.
The use of objects is known in all chimpanzee populations. Sticks, stones, grass and leaves are all materials that primates turn into tools and use to collect and consume honey, termites, ants, nuts, and water. While these tools may seem too primitive to be considered real tools, they require ingenuity and skill to create and use.
Like humans, chimpanzees need company to live comfortably and safely. Therefore, they always live in groups, which in common chimpanzees are led exclusively by alpha males, and in bonobos only by females. The group most often consists of 25-30 individuals.
The alpha male is always the strongest and smartest representative of the community, in order to retain power, he chooses a certain circle of friends for himself – the same strong, but more stupid fellows that are ready to protect his valuable life. The rest of the males, which may pose a threat to his reign, are driven away by the alpha to a safe distance and kept in constant fear. After his death or illness, the post of senior is taken by a competitor of equal strength.
Females also have their own hierarchy. More aggressive and physically developed females dominate the weak, control them and do not let them close to the opposite sex, they always get more food and mating partners. Female chimpanzees are considered more intelligent and quick-witted,
they are easier to train, they can show feelings for stranger cubs and weak relatives.
How Chimpanzees Communicate
Chimpanzees communicate with each other non-verbally by vocalizing, gesturing and using facial expressions. During communication, an area of the brain is activated, which in the human brain is responsible for speech.
Sound communication conveys a wide range of emotional states and intentions and often influences the behavior of those individuals who hear these sounds. One of the important sounds is “hooting”, which is most often emitted by adults to express pleasure from eating or arousal. Loud, dog-like screams are used to draw the attention of other members of the community to a possible hazard or food source, and to locate other groups in the area.
Chimpanzees can mate and reproduce at any time of the year; certain conditions other than desire are not required for this. Pregnancy lasts up to 7.5 months. Most often, only one cub is born, in rare cases there may be multiple births. The period between births is three to five years.
Immediately after birth, babies are weak and helpless, therefore they need constant maternal care and guardianship. Until they get to their feet, the mothers carry them on them. Young animals reach sexual maturity only by 10 years old, before that they are strongly attached to their mothers.
How many years do chimpanzees live?
The average lifespan of chimpanzees is 30 to 40 years, although in captive individuals it can reach 60-70 years.
Leopard attacks are often the cause of death for chimpanzees. These predators are strong and fast, camouflaged well, and most importantly, they are able to climb trees. When a leopard attacks, apes can escape only with the help of the actions of the entire group: they begin to scream loudly, calling for help from their relatives. If they are nearby, they also emit a loud cry, trying to scare the leopard, throw branches at it. Although chimpanzees cannot resist him, the leopard in this case prefers to retreat.
Chimpanzees can also die due to hostility from rival primate groups. A stronger group of chimpanzees can attack a group of weaker ones and kill those apes who have no time to escape.
Population and status of the species
Chimpanzees are one of the most interesting animal species for research. Most of all, scientists are attracted by their social structure and behavior, in many ways so similar to human behavior. But for research, first of all, it is necessary to preserve them in the wild – and so far, the efforts being made for this are not enough.
Researchers estimate that the wild population of chimpanzees ranges from 100,000 to 200,000. Zoos keep about 250 animals, and research institutions keep another 1200 animals.
Chimpanzees are one of the most vulnerable primate species. Several synergistic factors have led to rapid declines in chimpanzee populations across Africa, and some of the most serious threats are hunting, invasive alien species, habitat loss and degradation from industrial logging and the growth of human agglomerations, as well as disease and inbreeding.