Facts About Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees are hominids – a group that consists of all modern and extinct Great Apes. Four species of chimpanzees are known and all of these exist in Africa. These four species are the eastern, western, central, and Nigerian-Cameroon chimpanzees. The eastern chimpanzee is a species that lives in many African countries including Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C), Burundi, Tanzania, Central African Republic (C.A.R), and Sudan.

chimpanzee trekking in nyungwe national park


Travelers are interested in chimpanzee tracking pay anywhere from 200 USD (in Uganda) and 110 USD (in Rwanda) for a chimpanzee permit. Once purchased, the permit allows one to join a group of 7 other individuals, and spend up to 1 hour with a chimpanzee family in their natural habitat. Coming into close contact with a family of chimpanzees is an experience you can never be prepared for – watching them swing from one tree to another while mothers breastfeed their young.

Let’s look at some amazing facts about chimpanzees.

Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives.

It is believed that humans and chimps descended from a common ancestor that lived about 7 million years ago. Coupled with the fact that chimps move more by climbing and swinging but also knuckle-walking and in some incidences on two feet, it is no doubt that they are our closest living relatives.

Chimpanzees are highly intelligent.

Chimpanzees have been seen using self-made tools such as sticks to withdraw termites from their mounds, stones to crack and open hard nuts, and leaf sponges to collect drinking water. It was also observed that these traits were most common in chimpanzees that walked a long distance in the wild.

Chimpanzees are endangered.

Worldwide, chimpanzees are estimated to be between 170,000 and 300,000 individuals. This dwindling figure put chimpanzees on the IUCN Red List as endangered. Chimpanzees also have a slow reproductive rate where most females bear a baby once every 5 years. The dwindling figure is also a result of threats such as poaching and habitat loss due to logging plus diseases which contribute to the mortalities.

chimpanzee trekking in rwanda


Chimpanzees are omnivores.

The biggest proportion of a chimp’s diet is composed of bits of plant materials for example seeds, roots, small branches, and resin among others. To complement their diet, chimps also eat bird eggs, and small mammals like antelopes, insects, and honey.

Chimpanzees live in groups

Family groups vary in size from 15 to 150 individuals. The group is strictly led by a male who protects the rest of the family from danger and ensures peace and harmony among members. Being social animals, chimps can wander in other groups during the day to forage and join their families later.

Live up to 40 years

The life expectancy for male chimps is 31 whereas that for females is 39. This figure is relatively higher for chimpanzees in captivity. This is a result of the better diet and medical attention they receive in captivity.

Have an estrus cycle.

Just like female humans, chimpanzees have an estrus cycle that comes about once every month.

Have the ability to learn human languages.

Chimpanzees in captivity have been seen picking up American Sign Language (ASL) when communicating with their caretakers. Washoe – a female chimpanzee, was the first non-human to learn and communicate more than 350 signs using American Sign Language. She also taught some of these signs to her adopted son.