- Chimp Photo
- Chimpanzees and humans share about 98 percent of the same genes.
- L Stark ©WCS
- Chimpanzee Photo
- Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS
The chimpanzee is the closest living relative to humans. In fact, research shows that chimps and humans share 98 percent of their genes. Living in social communities of 20 to as many as 150 individuals, these primates demonstrate learned behaviors and complex social skills. Chimpanzees also have the ability to gather and use various tools to get food from places that are otherwise difficult to reach.
There are four recognized subspecies of the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). They live in the mountains, tropical lowlands, and grasslands across western, central, and eastern Africa. A close relative to the chimp, the bonobo (P. paniscus) is restricted to the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Common chimpanzees rely mainly on a vegetarian diet of fruits, leaves, and herbs, but they are omnivorous and eat meat and insects as well. Chimps hunt in groups led by an alpha male. They have highly developed social relationships, exhibiting complex behaviors that range from empathizing with to deceiving other members of their community. Cultural variation among populations may also exist—for example, chimp groups may differ in how they use tools.
|Scientific Name||Pan troglodytes|
- Though chimpanzees feel at home both on the ground and
in the trees, they sleep in trees where they build nests of leaves and
- The Congo River divides the natural ranges of common
chimpanzees and bonobos, so the two species very rarely interact.
- The male common chimp can stand up to 5 and a half feet
tall and weigh as much as 154 pounds; the female is somewhat smaller. Chimps' arms are longer than their legs, which make them skilled climbers.
- Scientists have observed chimpanzees feeding on
medicinal plants when they are ill or injured.
Chimpanzees are endangered due to habitat loss and hunting
for bushmeat, the latter of which is widespread in Africa. Logging, mining,
agricultural encroachment, human settlement, and climate change threaten this
primate’s habitat. In a number of countries within the chimpanzee’s range, the human
populations are largely impoverished and often dependent on bushmeat for food
and money from selling the meat to local markets and high-volume urban markets. Where
law enforcement is ineffective, limited conservation awareness and few
alternative sources of income drive the wildlife trade.
Chimpanzees are vulnerable to more than 140 of the same
diseases as humans. As the numbers of researchers, eco-tourists, local people,
and soldiers grow in and around their habitats, chimps are more likely to fall prey to
viruses, parasites, and other pathogens.
Since 1999, WCS has supported the study of the behavioral
ecology of wild chimpanzees in northern Republic of Congo
, an area which includes the
Goualougo Triangle. This long-term research focuses on the social behavior,
feeding ecology, and spatial distribution of chimpanzee groups and their co-existence
with each other as well as with gorilla
populations. To minimize the impact of timber
exploitation (such as through road-building and habitat loss) on
chimpanzees and gorillas,
the research team is formulating recommendations for
government and private forestry interests.
In Cameroon, WCS supported the government in its creation of
Takamanda National Park, Deng Deng National Park, and Mbam Djerem National Park.
The parks help protect habitat for chimpanzees and other species. WCS also
advises the country on setting priorities for conservation, planning, and
the sustainable use of natural resources. With our partners, we have been
instrumental in developing regional action plans for the conservation of
chimpanzees across their range.
We are also exploring remote areas, such as the forests of
the Democratic Republic of Congo, to discover and count little-known common
chimpanzee populations that still occur in Central Africa.
In disease “high-risk zones,” WCS-Global Health field
veterinarians conduct ecological surveys to obtain data and diagnostic samples
from chimpanzee and gorilla carcasses. The surveys help to monitor the impact
of diseases and to minimize the pathways diseases might take between infecting
humans and apes. WCS’s Animal Health Monitoring Network provides critical
information to researchers and public health agencies about possible ways for
inoculating wild animals.
WCS works with the CIB logging company to reduce the pressures on gorillas, elephants, and other endangered wildlife in four timber concessions and to control the trade in bushmeat. This collaborative project is called PROGEPP: the Project for Ecosystem Management in the Nouabalé-Ndoki Periphery Area.
From the Newsroom
Forest elephants congregate en masse within TNS, a new World Heritage Site, sometimes in groups of 100 or more. Nowhere else in the world are this many forest elephants spotted together.
WCS VP for Species Conservation Liz Bennett details efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade and highlights the urgent need for additional security forces to slow and ultimately reverse the decimation of myriad charismatic species.
The Republic of Congo formally expands Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park to help protect a rare population of chimps, known for both their skillful tool use and greenness to people.
WCS conservationists and their partners announce a plan to protect the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee. Restricted to pockets of forest within the two countries, the subspecies is the world’s rarest chimp.
A WCS census confirms a healthy population of western lowland gorillas in and around Cameroon’s Deng Deng National Park.