Chimapanzees – our closest relatives
Chimpanzees are a species of great ape, and great apes are part of the Order Primates. Orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and humans together make up the great apes. Chimpanzees belong to the genus Pan which is split into two species: the common chimpanzee and the bonobo.
Chimpanzees and bonobos are tied for the title of closest living relatives of the human: 98,4% of chimpanzee genes are identical to our genes. Scientists have proven that they are much more similar to humans than formerly believed. New findings prove that they even have some sort of culture. We have known for a long time that chimpanzees use tools, but we now know that different groups use them differently. Each community uses its own technique, which is passed down from generation to generation. Researchers even call this tradition. Research>
Chimpanzees live on average 50-60 years and stand up to 150 cm tall. Their teeth are as strong as a lion and they are up to seven times as strong as humans. The females are sexually mature at about 12 years and become pregnant every 3-5 years; they will then nurse the baby for up to four years. A healthy chimpanzee mother can thus bring 5-6 young into the world. Full-grown chimpanzees have no natural enemies (except humans).
chimpanzees – an endangered species
Millions of chimpanzees were still living in equatorial Africa several centuries ago, but their numbers have now dropped to approximately 100,000 due to a variety of reasons. 90% of the remaining wild chimpanzees live in the Congo, which, thanks to its location at the equator, is home to the densest and mostly uninhabited part of the tropical rainforest. There are, however, no reliable estimates of this wild chimpanzee population. Chimpanzees have been listed by IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as highly endangered.
Chimpanzees are threatened by the progressive destruction of their habitat. One of their ideal habitats is the tropical rain forest, but the clear-cutting practises of the timber industry have shrunk the chimpanzee’s habitat at an alarming rate.
The hunt for “bushmeat” has also risen sharply, partly because populations living near chimpanzees are starving and have few other sources of food. In addition, some tribes believe that eating chimpanzee meat transfers the strength and power of the animal to humans, which has led to increased consumption of bushmeat in the cities as well.
In addition, human pathogens have been fatally transmitted to chimpanzees by researchers, poachers and eco-tourists.
Groups of up to 20 chimpanzees are still being killed by poachers so they can take the babies who are then sold illegally inside and outside Africa. Historically, many chimpanzees have been kept in laboratories for experimentation purposes while others are kept in appalling conditions in private households as exotic pets. Many are sold to disreputable zoos and tourist operations. Approximately 3,000 animals a year fall prey to this illegal trade.
The rampant poaching of antelope is also killing many chimpanzees who regularly get caught in the wire snares which they can escape only through terrible self-mutilation.
Chimpanzees are important for the health of the forests – when as few as ten chimpanzes are stolen or killed in an area, this has a huge impact on its biodiversity.