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Facts about the chimpanzee

Family: Hominidae
Height: 1 to 1.7 m
Weight: 40 to 60 kg
Sexual maturity: 11 to 13 years
Lifespan: 45 years

  • Hair absent from face, ears and fingers
  • Slender body and no tail
  • Arms longer than legs
  • Black and somewhat sparse fur covering

The common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), along with the bonobo (Pan paniscus), are the two species of chimpanzees, which, like gorillas and orangutans, belong to the same family as humans. This great ape is found in about 20 nations of equatorial Africa.

Land and tree dweller

ChimpanzéWhile it can be found in the savannah, the common chimpanzee prefers tropical forests. These rainforests offer an environment ideally suited to the chimpanzee’s land-dwelling and tree-dwelling way of life. Each clan occupies a territory that the members defend vigorously and with much noise.


Skilled climber

The chimpanzee climbs trees with great ease. Its agile body is characterized by feet and hands that are equally suited to climbing, making it easy for them to swing from branch to branch. On the ground, the chimpanzee usually moves by supporting itself on its arms, but when required, it can stand upright.

Smart learner

Well-known for its intelligence and learning ability, the chimpanzee possesses complex communication and behavioural patterns recalling those of humans. Remarkably resourceful in solving problems, it can choose which tool works best for extracting ants from an anthill or breaking the shell of a nut or fruit.

A fruit eater and a hunter

The chimpanzee’s diet varies according to the foods available. It feeds primarily on fruit, but also readily eats plants, insects and small birds. Occasionally, it can team up with other chimpanzees to capture animals such as other species of monkeys or small antelopes. In such cases, members of the group share the prey among themselves.

Life in the clan

ChimpanzésThe clan includes several dozen individuals whose leader is the dominant male. Sub-groups conduct the search for food, which occupies a large portion of the day. At dusk, members of the clan gather together in the trees, where each individual builds a nest for the night using branches and leaves. The youngest clan members sleep huddled up against their mothers.

One baby at a time

Chimpanzees mate year round, often with multiple partners. Females remain fertile until the age of 40 and give birth to one infant at a time, every three to four years. During her life, she will produce about five offspring. The gestation period lasts roughly 240 days.

Helpless newborns

At birth, the newborn weighs less than 2 kg, is highly vulnerable and completely dependent on its mother, who nurses her young for at least two years. Upon reaching sexual maturity, the young chimpanzee leaves its mother and gradually learns its place among the adults in the clan hierarchy.

Illegal trafficking

Illegally taken from their natural habitat, chimpanzees sometimes end up as pets, circus performers or laboratory research subjects. Clandestine trafficking of young chimpanzees results in numerous casualties. During capture, numerous adults are killed to take the young, who often do not survive being uprooted from their homes.


ChimpanzésA number of factors threaten the chimpanzee with extinction. Apart from illegal trafficking, the species is hunted for meat. Sickness and deforestation of its natural habitat have also taken a toll. Estimated at one million individuals in the 1960s, their population has since fallen by about 80 percent.

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