Because chimpanzees are so biologically and socially similar to humans, they offer us a great deal of insights into our evolutionary past, as well as into our future. As we observe and document the world of chimpanzees, we learn more about our own behaviors and social patterns, our impact on the ecosystem, and even our ability to spread disease.
10 Things to Know About Chimpanzees
- Chimpanzees are one of our closest living relatives. In fact, humans and chimpanzees share 95 to 98 percent of the same DNA!
- Chimpanzees make and use tools. In fact, they use more tools for more purposes than any other creature except human beings. Visit the video page to watch videos of tool use at Gombe National Park in Tanzania.
Raising awareness is a powerful means
We stand on the threshold of a future without chimpanzees in the wild.
The IUCN/World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Species says each of the species of African great apes – chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos – as endangered. African apes are largely confined to the relatively intact forests of Equatorial Africa as their last remaining stronghold. Chimpanzees are likely extinct in 4 of their 25 range countries (Gambia, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin).
Chimpanzees communicate in many ways, most notably through sounds and calls. They also communicate with each other through touch, facial expressions and body language.
- Biologically, chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to another species of great apes—gorillas. In fact, humans and chimpanzees share about 95 percent to 98 percent of the same DNA.
- Chimpanzees can catch and be infected with human diseases. Read more on this topic.
- In the wild, chimpanzees seldom live past age 50. Some captive individuals, however, have lived past the age of 60.
In 1960, Jane Goodall traveled to what was then Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in the British protectorate of Tanganyika to study the behavior of the wild chimpanzees. The groundbreaking discoveries she made in Gombe became the foundation of future chimpanzee behavioral research and dramatically changed how animal behavior is studied.
Threats to chimpanzees in Tanzania include unsustainable agriculture, fuel wood extraction, logging, expansion of human settlements, disease and a growing problem of hunting for bushmeat and witchcraft.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Ape Conservation Fund will help JGI and partners develop strategies designed to abate the most critical threats to chimpanzees and their habitats. These will include strategies to:
In his latest blog entry, Dr. Deus Mjungu, Gombe Stream Research Center’s director of chimpanzee research, discusses a recent illness at Gombe National Park, Tanzania.
Fansi Anaumwa! (Fansi is Sick!)
For an animal, getting sick is a simple fact of life. Despite this, it’s particularly concerning when a chimpanzee falls ill. At Gombe, disease is one of the main causes of death for chimpanzees. Therefore, we keep a particularly vigilant eye on the chimps in the park.