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Scientific name: Pan troglodytes

CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Primates
FAMILY: Pongidae

STATISTICS: Height: 4-5.5 ft; Weight: males-75-155 lbs; females-57-110 lbs

Chimpanzees are distinguishable by their prominent ears, protrusive lips, arms that are longer than the legs, a long hand but short thumb, and no tail. Chimpanzees' faces are usually bare and black in color. Younger chimps have flesh-colored ears, nose, hands, and feet, and a white patch near the rump. At maturity, the overall skin color is dark, ranging from deep black to light brown. Chimpanzee hair is very coarse and ranges in color from dark brown to black. Facial hair will turn gray as the animal ages.

Western Africa and west Central Africa

Mainly in tropical rainforest, but also extend into forest-savanna mosaic and montane forest.

Like humans, chimpanzees have opposable thumbs. They use this adaptation to eat, throw objects at enemies, and grasp tree limbs firmly enough to support their body weight.

You can tell a chimpanzee from any other kind of ape by looking at its ears, which are unique among the ape family. They are big, hairless, and stick out from the side of the head. Baldness is common among both male and female chimpanzees. The male's bald spot is somewhat triangular and is located on the forehead; the female’s extends from the forehead to the crown of the head.

Like humans, chimps use facial expressions to show emotion. Researchers have discovered that they have a wide range of expressions, conveying several different emotions:

  • Passive expression: Shows that the chimp is calm and at ease.
  • Aggressive expression: Teeth bared and mouth open shows anger or warning to a rival.
  • Friendly expression: Lips positioned between a kiss and a straight face shows a peaceful greeting.
  • Pleased expression: Just a smile, with only the bottom teeth showing, says, "This is fun!"

Breeding occurs throughout the year. Estrus cycles last about 36 days, in which the females are receptive for 6.5 days. There is a minimum interval between births of three years in the wild. Gestation lasts on average about 230 days. The young ride on the mother's back for around three years until they are weaned, which takes place at 3.5 to 4.5 years. Young usually remain with their mother for 10 years. Puberty occurs at around seven years of age, but females usually don’t give birth until they are 13 or 14 years old. Males aren't fully integrated into the social hierarchy until they are 15 to16 years.

Prey to humans
Predator to insects, small deer, and other primates

Includes fruits, leaves, blossoms, seeds, stem, bark, resin, honey, insects, eggs. Occasionally will stalk baby baboons, colobus monkeys and small deer

The chimpanzee is listed as endangered with IUCN and is CITES Appendix I. High levels of exploitation and loss of habitat quality due to growing human activities are causing continued chimpanzee population reductions in the wild.


  • Along with facial expressions, chimps can make a wide range of calls to convey different messages to other chimps. Some calls can be heard two miles away.
  • Chimps usually live in groups of five to 125 individuals with 15 to 40 being the most common. Chimps are one of the more intelligent mammal species and have successfully used tools in a variety of ways. They use grass blades to fish for termites and can make nests by interlacing branches.
  • Pan, the Genus name, comes from the Greek mythological name for "god of pastures," forest and flocks. It belongs to the Ape and Pongidae family. Chimpanzees share more than 98 percent of the human genetic blueprint.


  1. Novak, Ronald M. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Volume I. Baltimore, Maryland. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1991
  2. National Geographic. September, 2008.
  3. IUCN Redlist Organization.  September 2008.
  4. UNEP-WCMC. UNEP-WCMC Species Database: CITES-Listed Species. September, 2008

Published: March 2009

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