Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Primates
Family Hominidae
Genus Panthera
Species troglodytes

The first use of the name “chimpanzee” was not really known until 1738. It came from a Tshiluba language term kivili-chimpenze, which translates loosely as “mockman” or even just “ape” for the locals. The colloquial term “chimp” was coined in the late 1870s. Chimpanzees are members of the Hominidae family, along with gorillas and orangutans; it is the smallest of the great apes.


Chimpanzee in the tree. Image by Phillip Imler

Chimpanzee Facts and Description

Chimpanzees are also closely associated with the anatomy and features of humans. The male can reach a height up to 5.6 (1.7 m) when standing upright, and can weigh as heavy as 150 pounds (70 kg). Female chimpanzees are relatively smaller than the male ones. The common chimpanzee’s long arms when expanded, have a length that is one and a half times as long as the body’s height and its arms are longer than its legs.

They usually walk together on both their legs and arms with their hands (knuckles) serving as a support. The feet of the chimpanzee are broader with shorter toes as compared to their cousin the orangutan making it easier for them to walk upright if desired.

The color varies, but they are mostly black with other colors including brown or ginger. They have hair throughout their bodies with lengths varying depending on climate and sex. The skin will be pink for babies, but will be either black or tan for adults. As adults get older their skin will tend to get darker and possibly freckled.


What are the sub-species?

  • hecki
  • raineyii
  • jubatus
  • soemmeringii

What do Chimpanzees eat?

Chimpanzees are omnivorous which means they will eat both meat and vegetation. Their diets include fruits, leaves, buds, seeds, pith, bark, insects, bird eggs, and smaller mammals. They will actually eat other monkeys.

chimpanzee eating

Fruits are the main component of their food diet, and they spend at least four hours a day finding and eating varieties of fruits. Fruit accounts for approximately 68% of their diet, with leaves stems and bark accounting for another 28%. Only 4% of their diet comes from eating other animals.

Chimpanzees are able to devise simple tools to assist in finding food and for their other activities. They use stones to smash open nuts, sticks for catching termites, and they peel leaves from bamboo shoots for use as wash cloths to wipe off dirt or blood, and to collect rainwater from tree openings.

They are incredibly creative in getting at their food. A chimp may sit on a vine right about an ant colony so that it can eat ants without getting ants on them and getting bit.

Chimpanzee Mating Characteristics

Females will not start giving birth until they are approximately 13 to 14 years old. The gestational period lasts for 8 months and they will give birth every 4 to 5 years. Males will begin sexual activity as early as 2 years. Females with have intercourse with multiple males.

baby chimpanzees

Chimpanzee Family and Social Characteristics

The daily routine is pretty consistent. Chimpanzees spend 45 to 60% foraging for food with the focus being earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon. They will usually spend the mid part of the day taking naps. In the evening they will create nests that are more elaborate than their gorilla cousins.

chimpanzee family unit

Chimpanzees also have their own communities. These communities can range from 9 members up to 120 members, although They live in there together with other male and females. The ‘dominant male’ chimp is not always the biggest or toughest male chimp. It is usually rather a leading chimp that has more influence over others. Male chimpanzees usually attain dominance through developing allies who will then support him in case he vies for power. On the other hand, female chimps have hierarchy inside their communities. Young females can inherit power and influence from their prominent mothers. Power relations also occur in their community.

Where can you find Chimpanzees?

Chimpanzees are found in rainforest, montane forests, and savanna woodlands spanning from Guinea and Sierra Leone to western Uganda and Tanzania. Here are some national parks that feature the possibility of seeing chimps:

  • Gombe National Park
  • Mahale Mountains National Park
  • Kibale Forests

There is a nature preserve in northern Zambia that rehabilitates and preserves chimpanzees that have been wounded or lost their way. This is a great place to see and experience chimps. It is much closer to a true wild experience as compared to any zoo.

Chimpanzee Pictures

chimpanzee piggyback

Young chimpanzee getting a piggy back ride. Image by Phillip Imler

baby chimpanzee with parent baby chimpanzee chimpanzee picture