Chimpanzees are mammals, primates, anthropoids living in the wild exclusively in Africa. They are almost 99% genetically related to humans and are more related to us than to any other great ape. Members of the genus Pan (as are bonobos), chimpanzees are part of the species troglodytes. There are four subspecies of chimpanzees, located in 21 African countries, from the east to the west, at the equatorial zone of Africa:
- The Western Common Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) live in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Ghana. Its estimated population is between 21,000 and 55,000 individuals.
- The Common Chimpanzee Central Africa (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) live in Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic and Angola. Their population is estimated at 115,000 individuals.
- The Eastern Common Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthi) live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan and Central African Republic. Their estimated population is between 76,000 and 120,000 individuals.
- The Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes vellerosus) have an estimated population of less than 65,000 individuals divided between the two countries.
Chimpanzees live mainly in the rainforest, wet or dry, and sometimes venture into savannah as is the case in Guinea.
Chimpanzees have black hair and their face, often pink and smooth, is sometimes dotted with darker spots. Young chimpanzees have pink and light faces, which will darken as they grow older and have white hair on their rear end which also disappears with age.
Like humans, chimpanzees are omnivores. They eat fruits and leaves, flowers, bark, sap, nuts, insects, but occasionally meat (monkeys, bush babies, small antelopes etc.). Their use of tools for obtaining food is now well known. They have multiple complex tool inventions that are used differently depending on their society (for example, using a twig as fishing rod to catch termites or ants, stones for cracking nuts, etc.).
Chimpanzees also use many herbs for healing. Studies of this behavior can be used to identify new medicinal uses for human!
They live in large social groups of several dozen individuals called communities up to 150 individuals. They gather in smaller groups (up to ten individuals) whose composition varies constantly throughout the day. In primatology, this type of society is called « fission-fusion ». A member of a community moves from group to group, looking for food, and social contacts. Males of the same community will defend their territory and never leave their home communities. Females can change communities, which allows genetic mixing. Societies are patriarchal, a single male dominant (alpha male) reigns over the entire community and the established hierarchy is very strict, but it is subject to frequent changes that result from alliances between males and also support from the females.
Females are fertile around the age of 10-11 years. The ovarian cycle varies between 32 and 35 days with cycle duration of 6-7 days. Gestation lasts between 230 and 260 days and the mother gives birth to a single offspring (twins are exceptional). Immediately after birth, infants cling to their mother. Around the age of 8-10 months, offspring will install themselves on their mother’s back while traveling. The young chimpanzees are weaned at four years, but often continue to travel with their mother for years after weaning. The mother will not be fertile until her offspring is weaned. Thus, like humans, chimpanzees have a very low rate of reproduction.