20 Fascinating Facts About Chimpanzees


Although they look cute and cuddly and are generally somewhat smaller than us, chimpanzees can be quite aggressive, and they are phenomenally strong. They can easily kill a human without really thinking about it – so testing the ‘cute and cuddly’ bit is not necessarily a good idea!

Here are 20 Interesting Facts About Chimpanzees.

Chimpanzee Facts – General

1 – The first thing one should remember about chimpanzees is – they are not monkeys! They are apes, like gorillas, orangutans and, of course, humans, and in fact are genetically our closest living relatives on this earth, sharing more than 98% of our genetic ‘blueprint’. That means that less than 2% of our DNA is different from that of the chimps! They are believed to have last shared an ancestor with us some 4-6 million years ago.

2 – Chimpanzees are African hominids of the genus Pan, of which there are two living species – the first is the Common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, from Central and West Africa, and the other the Bonobo, Pan Paniscus, that lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s forests. There are four sub-species of the Common chimp – the Central (P.t. troglodytes), Western (P.t. verus), Eastern (P.t. schweinfurthii) and Nigeria-Cameroon (P.t. ellioti) chimpanzees – guess where each one lives …!

3 – Although chimps are our closest living relative, their brains have been measured at around 282-500cc, and human brains are approximately three times that size, so we’re still well ahead of them in that area, at least. So far.

4 – Like many other animals, chimps are declining in the wild, and both the common chimp and the bonobo are listed as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN Conservation Red List, mainly due to the ever-worsening habitat loss and to hunting of them for bush meat. Estimates of remaining numbers are around 170,000-300,000 for common chimps, but it is thought that for Bonobos, there may only be around 29,500 to 50,000 animals still living.

5 – Because chimpanzee physiology is so similar to humans, they can catch the diseases and infections that afflict humans, but they don’t have the resistance and antibodies we’ve built up, leaving them far more vulnerable than we are – meaning that the more they come into contact with us, the more they are affected by our bugs etc, and problems that merely make us ill can kill them quite easily. It doesn’t help when we turn them into laboratory animals and perform nasty and gruesome tests on them, either.

6 – Chimps have only two major predators – leopards and humans. Leopards pose a particular danger because they can climb trees almost as easily as the chimps can, giving them nowhere they can easily get away. However, if they manage not to get killed first, they can live around 40 years in the wild, and up to 60 years in captivity.

chimpanzee facts

Image courtesy of Flickr under Wikipedia commons

Chimpanzee Facts  – Characteristics

7 – Male common chimps stand at up to 5ft 8in (1.7m) and can weigh up to 150lb (70kg), but the females are a fair bit smaller. They are generally stocky, and have very long arms, a petite body and short legs, allowing them to walk on all fours whilst their torso is more or less upright. The bonobo is generally a little shorter and thinner than its ‘common’ relative, but it has longer limbs.

8 – Chimps have black hair over most of their body, leaving just the face, palms of hands and soles of feet clear, and they are tailless. The exposed skin can be anything from pale pink to very dark, with older individuals generally having darker skin than younger ones.

9 – Chimps are partly terrestrial, spending significant amounts of time on the ground during the day, but they are mostly arboreal, especially when it comes to eating and sleeping. They are very agile climbers when up in the trees and find most of their main food, fruit, up there.

10 – Mostly diurnal, chimpanzees can be active at night when there is good moonlight to see by, and they prefer to live in the tropical forests of their home country, although those forests are receding every day now.

baby_chimpanzee - chimpanzee facts

Image courtesy of Delphine Bruyere under Wikipedia Commons