The chimpanzee is the part of great ape species like orangutans and gorillas, residing in the deep forests in different regions, mainly in Africa. They are the closest relative of humans as per evidence from DNA sequencing and fossils and we share 90% of our genes with them. They have two hands and two legs like humans, and they are also capable of standing upright. They are smaller in size than humans but about 1.35 times more powerful with stronger muscles than humans. They are fearful of humans but there are incidents of attack also for various reasons. They are suffering due to human interference and are under threat as well. Chimpanzees are unique and highly intelligent. They are already endangered species in African countries due to hunting and deforestation.
Chimpanzees: Habitat, behavior & facts
Chimpanzees are social animals who live in groups or communities. They are caring parents and live up to 50 years. An alpha male leads the community with other allied males. Chimpanzees’ long limbs help them to travel or swing on trees from one branch to another. They can also walk upright or on four limbs which is also known as knuckle-walking. Their face, palm, feet, and ears are bare while their full body is covered with hair. They are found in the tropical rainforests, woodlands, and grasslands from central to western Africa. Most of the time they eat and sleep on trees. They consume different kinds of food like plants, fruits, insects, nuts, monkeys, and tortoises. They are highly intelligent and can be seen using various tools for eating purposes. They use stones to break the nuts, vines to eat insects, etc. They also use leaves to drink water or to clean their body parts. The younger ones are also taught different tactics to use different tools as per their needs. This shows the culture of sharing or transferring information from one generation to another like humans.
The age of reproductive females is 13 and they can give birth throughout the year. The age of males reaching adulthood is 15. The infants stick to their mother till 3 years of age and may depend on the mother till 10 years of age. The incubation period of female chimpanzees is about 33 weeks or 230 days. The females can also give birth to twins. Adult chimpanzees are about 150 cm tall. The male chimpanzee’s weight varies between 40 -70 kg and females 27-50 kgs. Their arms are longer than the legs with long fingers easily used for grasping and swinging over the tree branches.
They are social animals and live in family groups of about 6-10 members within a larger community of chimpanzees. The community of chimpanzees can be up to 100 members or more with combined family groups. Chimpanzees use facial expressions, and body language to communicate with each other. They also groom each other by cleaning ticks or lice which is also a form of communication. There are four types of subspecies of chimpanzees as per their distribution and appearance:
- Central chimpanzee (P. t. troglodytes)
- Western chimpanzee (P. t. verus)
- Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (P. t. ellioti)
- Eastern chimpanzee (P. t. schweinfurthii)
They are inhabitants of tropical rainforests and mountain forests in central and western Africa. A scarce distribution is present throughout Equatorial Africa, western Uganda, western Tanzania, and the forest at the north of the congo river. At present, the estimate is approximately 150,000 to 250,000 and is widely spread and fragmented in many regions. The rest of the population can be seen in central Africa, Cameroon, Gabon, and DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).
Chimpanzees are used for human experiments for a long time. Two chimpanzees Ham and Enos were sent to space during the 1960s as dummies to understand the effect of space travel on humans. Ham was the first chimp used for space travel in 1961 by NASA and Enos was the second. After that, humans were sent to space by the U.S and the Soviet Union and it was successful.
They are also used for entertainment purposes like commercials, movies, or circuses. Oliver was a famous ape for its bald head and human-like appearance and was also called a humanzee (hybrid or pairing of human and chimp). Later in 1998 when a study was conducted on DNA and chromosomes, it was found that he is a regular Chimpanzee. A completely hairless chimp named Mongo at Twycross Zoo UK also became popular in 2016. He had a condition called alopecia which gave him an unusual appearance.
There was a bad incident that occurred with a pet chimpanzee called Travis in 2009 who was used in TV commercials. He attacked a woman and severely injured her and later the police had to shoot him down. There were more attacks reported later in different places. Travis was found to be suffering from Lyme disease-causing many issues like fatigue and memory problems. It is also assumed that side effects of the drug called Xanax may have caused the problem which was given to treat anxiety disorders.
Chimpanzees are intelligent and amazing species. They are under threat and numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate due to various reasons like deforestation, farming, or other human interventions like mining. Humans are also hunting them for Bush meat which is rapidly decreasing their population. Many organizations are working to protect and preserve the species and build awareness about Chimpanzees. U.S endangered species act was also implemented to protect Chimpanzees from illegal killing. More efforts are going on regarding awareness, protection, and preservation of their habitats. Some organizations in Africa are working with Government to manage and protect Chimpanzees in National parks. They are also working to reduce the bushmeat trade, illegal poaching, and effective law enforcement. Infant chimpanzees were taken and sold as pets. Steps to control these are also going on for the preservation of these wonderful creatures.