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There are two species of chimpanzee, the common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes - which is described in this fact sheet - and the very rare and endangered bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee, Pan paniscus. Both belong to the Hominidae family which also contains the other species of apes and humans. The bonobo are approximately half the weight of the common chimpanzees, but are otherwise not easily distinguishable.

The common chimpanzee has a wide distribution, across west and central Africa to Uganda in the east. There are estimated to be 191,000 wild chimpanzees in Africa. However, many are fragmented into small populations which makes it difficult for individuals to transfer between groups. Chimpanzees are listed on Appendix I of CITES - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which means that any
international trade of chimps or their parts is illegal.

Chimpanzees are intelligent and playful animals and they spend 45-60% of their time feeding, 25-39% of their time resting or grooming and 8-20% of their time travelling. They are primarily forest living animals, but they also inhabit forest-savana mosaic, woodland and even dry savana.

Female chimpanzees are pregnant for eight months and usually give birth to a single baby, twins are born at the same frequency as human babies. A baby will be dependant on its mother for four years, after it is weaned there is still a strong bond between the mother and her infant until it reaches seven or eight years of age. Females are ready to reproduce at about thirteen years old and males at fifteen years. Adult chimpanzees weigh 30-50 kg and they live up to forty five years.

Chimpanzees are extremely social animals living in groups, or communities, of 20-100 individuals with both males and females of all age classes. Females tend to outnumber males. When they are mature, male chimpanzees tend to stay with the groups in which they were born and it is the females that transfer to new groups to meet unrelated males. As they remain together for many years, very strong social bonds are formed between the males. They sometimes co-operate when they are hunting and they spend a lot of time
grooming each other.

Adult females are not as sociable as the males, and although not a lot is know about their social relationships it is believed that the older females are generally dominant to the younger ones. New females are lowest in the ranks when they first join a new group.

The dominance relationships are more complex in the males, although age is a good indicator of rank as adolescent males are dominated by the adults. As they mature the status of males increases, they are described as low, middle and high ranking. The highest rank that males can achieve is called alpha status which they typically reach around twenty to twenty-five years of age. Not all males reach alpha status, and as well as age it is influenced by size, physical condition and personality traits.

At any one time there is typically only one male holding the most dominant rank and he shows high levels of aggression towards the others. Aggressive behaviour between individuals does not normally lead to physical violence. The alpha male travels with his hair slightly erect and his shoulders frequently hunched to appear larger than he is, he typically holds the rank for three to ten years.

Chimpanzees are omnivorous. They forage both in the trees and on the ground, their diet is made up mainly of fruit and leaves, and is supplemented with nuts and seeds. Seasonal variation in availability governs the amount of the different types of food eaten. Meat is also eaten when it is available including ants, termites, caterpillars and occasionally small mammals such as antelopes and monkeys. Chimpanzees sometimes hunt for themselves or they steal prey from other predators. Meat is quite a prized food and it is usually the adult males who get the greatest amount, although they will sometimes share it with others who are prepared to grovel as well as females that they like.

When feeding on ants and termites chimpanzees sometimes use tools. They use sticks which they modify by removing any leaves and offshoots and adjusting them to the correct length, they then poke the stick into the ants' nest or termite mount. The soldier ants or termites that are protecting the nests from invasion stream up the stick and the chimpanzee then eats them from the stick. By doing this the chimpanzee is able to reduce the number of painful bites it receives from the very defensive insects. The females seem to be better at this skill than males.

Tool use is also observed for cracking nuts. Some groups use an 'anvil' which tends to be a protruding tree root on which they place the nut before striking it with a large rock. All tool use requires practice before perfection is achieved and young chimpanzees spend time watching their parents before attempting it themselves. Water is drunk when available, either by dipping the mouth directly into the water, or by using naturally occurring containers such as scoop-shaped dead leaves. Chimpanzees are also able to obtain water from holes inside trees, which provides an addition source of water during the dry season. They may either insert their whole head, insert their hand and then lick off the wetness or use a handful of leaves to act as a sponge.

Threats to Chimps

The greatest threat to chimpanzees is that posed by humans. Chimpanzees are heavily poached in many countries, even where they are legally protected. The spread of agriculture and timber extraction is now a problem throughout the species' range, and has increased the risk of hunting in areas where they were previously inaccessible - which helped to keep the primates safe.

Chimpanzees are hunted for several reasons. Babies are taken from their mothers in the wild for the pet trade both in their native countries and in the West. They are also taken for theentertainment industry, and for scientific and pharmaceutical research, although many of the individuals involved with this are now bread in captivity. Adults are not taken as they are too dangerous to handle, often the babies are so young that they have not learnt the skills they need to look after themselves. Unfortunately, when the babies grow into adults their owners very often find it difficult to cope with them and they are often dumped. Adults are killed to provide momentoes for tourists and for the bush-meat trade.

Disease has also been implicated as an important cause of death in chimpanzees especially in those captured for the pet trade or entertainment industry. They also suffer from malnutrition and dehydration as they are not properly cared for when they are transported.

Protecting Chimps
There have been several long term studies into the behaviour of chimpanzees. Much is now known about all aspects of their ecology and social behaviour. This knowledge is vital for many projects concerning their protection. Captive breeding and rehabilitation projects sometimes involve teaching the chimpanzees the skills that they need to survive in the wild, for example they have to be able to recognise what fruits and leaves are edible, they need to learn how to build nests to sleep in and they need to learn how to avoid

How We Help:
Bill Jordan Wildlife Defense Fund USA supports the conservation and welfare of chimpanzees through its association with Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya. The sanctuary is a place of rescue and shelter for orphaned chimpanzees where they are able to enjoy the companionship of their own kind whilst they learn how to play, explore and climb in their natural habitat.

Initially individuals brought into the sanctuary often require a lot of attention from the keepers, but in time become more independent. Unfortunately they are unable to be returned to the wild but through BJWDF USA's adoption scheme we are able to provide funds that go towards their long term care.