Chimpanzees

Sharing a lot in common

By Ikiwaner (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia CommonsChimpanzees are found in over 20 African countries, but a group in Tanzania are probably the best-known in the world. Chimpanzee families living in Gombe park (see Map) have been watched and studied for over fifty years.

Eastern chimpanzees

Tanzania is one of the few homes to the Eastern Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), one of four subspecies of the Common Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Though they have the name ‘common’ and are the most numerous of the great apes, chimpanzees are greatly endangered. Hunting and loss of habitat have reduced their numbers by more than 90%. There were over 1 million chimpanzees in the 20th century, but today there are estimated to be fewer than 300,000 in the wild.

The pioneer of this study was Jane Goodall, who came to Tanzania in 1960 to learn more about our closest living relatives.

Chimpanzees share 95-98% of the same DNA as humans. This means they’re like us in many respects. For example, they communicate in similar ways to humans – by kissing, embracing, touching hands and tickling.

Chimpanzees live in family groups and develop lifelong bonds. This is especially true between mothers and their children. During their first year of life, infants are in constant physical contact with their mothers, often travelling on their backs. By the age of two, they’ll start to move around by themselves. But they don’t become fully independent until at least 6 years old. If a mother dies, her young are sometimes adopted by brothers and sisters, or even by unrelated members of the group.