This article serves to introduce the reader to the chimpanzee in preparation for more in-depth articles in the future.
Bonobo at San Diego Zoo
Wild chimpanzees are only found in tropical Africa, where their population has decreased by more than 66% in the last 30 years, from 600,000 to fewer than 200,000. While this rapid decrease in population size is of great concern, there is increased concern due to the nature of chimpanzees; they are more akin to Homo sapiens than any other species alive today. Resembling humans genetically, behaviourally and physically.
From left to right: Human, Gorilla, Chimpanzee, Orang-utan, Gibbon
There are two species of Chimpanzee; Pan troglodytes (common chimpanzee) and Pan paniscus (Bonobo). The Chimpanzee is found primarily in west and central Africa with the Bonobo being found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Their scientific classification is below:
Chimpanzee taxonomy remains an active area of research, however, four subspecies of the common chimpanzee are commonly recognized:
- West African Chimpanzee Pan troglodytes verus;
- Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee P. t. ellioti;
- Central Chimpanzee P. t. troglodytes;
- Eastern Chimpanzee P. t. schweinfurthii.
West African Chimpanzee
- Chimpanzees are found predominantly in moist and dry forests, and forest galleries extending into savanna woodlands.
- They are omnivorous, and their diet is highly variable according to individual populations and seasons.
- Fruit comprises about half the diet, but leaves, bark, and stems are also important. Mammals comprise a small but significant component of the diet of many populations.
- Chimpanzees form social communities of 5 to 150 animals.
- Home ranges are larger in woodland forest mosaics than in mixed forest, and average 12.5 km² (range 5 to 400 km²).
Both species of chimpanzee are on a downward population trend due to:
- hunting for bushmeat
- killing of animals to capture infants for the pet trade
- loss of habitat to agriculture and mining
- habitat fragmentation leading to the isolation of small populations which are likely to become genetically unviable in the long term.
Chimpanzees are remarkably similar to humans sharing 98% of our DNA and having their own cultures and social structures varying from region to region combined with their use of primitive tools it is hard to imagine why anyone would want to harm a creature so akin to ourselves.
Below is a news piece about chimpanzee conservation from Africa TV:
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