Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are our closest living relatives sharing approximately 98% of our DNA. Humans and chimps thought to share a common ancestor who lived some four to six million years ago. Standing approximately 4 feet high, males weigh between 90 and 120 pounds, while females weigh between 60 and 110 pounds.
Chimpanzees have already disappeared from 5 African countries and are nearing extinction in many others. Chimpanzees used to live in 25 countries throughout tropical Africa, in an area almost the size of the United States. Today, chimpanzees are extinct in five of those countries and endangered in five others.
Chimpanzee are a legally protected species in most of their range and can be found both inside and outside national parks. There is thought to between 170,000 to 300,000 individuals living in the wild.
The biggest threats to chimpanzees are habitat destruction, poaching and disease. Chimpanzee habitats have been depleted by deforestation in Africa. Road building has caused fragmentation of chimpanzee populations.
In the wild, chimpanzees live in large groups of 15 to 120 individuals. They communicate with one another through a complex, subtle system of vocalizations, facial expressions, body postures, and gestures. Chimpanzees in the wild have different culture groups that live in different parts of Africa have unique behaviors, tools, and traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. In their natural habitats, chimpanzees are known to use plants with medicinal value to self-medicate themselves.
Although they normally walk on all fours (knuckle-walking), chimpanzees can stand and walk upright. By swinging from branch to branch they can also move in the trees, where they do most of their eating. Chimpanzees usually sleep in the trees as well, employing nests of leaves. Chimps are generally fruit and plant eaters, but they also consume insects, eggs, and meat, including carrion. They have a tremendously varied diet that includes hundreds of known foods.
The largest remaining populations occur in central Africa, mainly Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon. An important population once existed in Côte d’Ivoire but a recent survey found this had declined by 90% over the last 20 years.