Chimpanzee at the San Francisco Zoo
•Chimpanzees have opposable thumbs used for climbing, picking fruits, and catching insects. These adaptable animals are known for making and using simple tools such as twigs for eating termites, and rocks for cracking nuts. They will also create leaf “sponges” for getting water out of tree-boles and crevices.
•Chimpanzees are relatives of other great apes — orangutans, gorillas, bonobos and man. Chimpanzees, and their cousins the Bonobos, are more closely related genetically to us (sharing 98.4% of our DNA) than they are to gorillas!
The hair of these tree-dwelling animals is long and coarse, usually dark brown or black. Baldness is common and more extensive in females. Males weigh from 126-176 pounds, while females weigh from 100-150 pounds. Their most common means of getting around is a four-footed walk with the hind legs slightly flexed, the body tipped forward and the backs of the fingers placed on the ground. Chimpanzees are capable of walking on their hind legs, but only with the toes turned inward.
Chimps live in west and central Africa, chiefly in rain forests, and never very far from trees.
Omnivores, chimpanzees have been known to kill animals for meat. Feeding is chiefly an individual activity, however, with fruit, leaves, seeds, bark, honey, insects and eggs forming the primary diet. At the Zoo, the chimps are fed a variety of foods, such as fruits, vegetables and monkey chow.
Chimpanzees live in large groups of 40 to 80 animals, with at least two levels of social units. It is rare to find the whole community in one place. Whenever possible, they eat large meals from a single food source so that they can rest an hour or two before going to the next tree to eat. Chimps build a tree nest of vegetation each night. Adults sleep alone, and infants sleep with their mothers until the next sibling is born.
Mother/child bonds are very strong, with the young staying with the mother until they are at least five to seven years old, although weaning starts in the third year.
Status In The Wild
Populations have been reduced due to habitat loss, hunting by humans for food, crop protection, and commercial exportation for the animal trade. In 1976, the USDI classified this species as threatened which resulted in regulations reducing legal importation to the U.S. They were reclassified as endangered in the wild in 1990, which strengthens regulations covering animals in captivity. Although chimpanzees are the most abundant and widespread of the apes, with many populations in protected areas, the declines that have occurred are expected to continue to occur.