Chimpanzee Life

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At the turn of the 20th Century, they numbered between 1 and 2 million . . . now there are estimated to be fewer than 300,000 chimpanzees remaining in the wild. Incredibly—over the past 100 years—we may have lost as many as 1.7 million of the chimpanzees that roamed the forests of Africa.

When a 26-year-old Jane Goodall first arrived at the then Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in the British protectorate of Tanganyika, she brought only, her binoculars and notebooks. Her mission was clear: shed light on the little-known lives of the resident wild chimpanzees. But in response to the deepening environmental crisis throughout Equatorial Africa, over the years her work expanded. Today, Dr. Goodall and the Jane Goodall Institute strive to protect chimpanzees and their habitats through community-based conservation programs in Africa--while continuing the research that started it all more than 50 years earlier. Go to Chimp FAQ's or Fast Facts to see more information about chimpanzees.


The scientific name for the common chimpanzee is Pan Troglodyte. Pan is a reference to the Greek god of wildlife, while troglodyte comes from the greek word troglodytae which means cave-goers. Recent research suggests that 95% of human and chimpanzee DNA is the same, as such they have the largest brains of all primates and are considered the most intelligent.

For more information on the physiology of a chimpanzee click here.

Habitat and Food

Chimpanzees are native to sub-Saharan Africa more specifically the Congo jungle which is part of the equatorial forest belt and spans from the western coast of Gabon all the way to Tanzania. Although not commonly known, chimps build tree nests which they use to sleep both during the day and night for protection from other predators. These nests can be as low as 10 ft to as high as 150 ft and can include one or more trees. Chimpanzees are omnivores meaning they eat fruits, nuts, and leaves along with insects and smaller mammals.

For more information on the habitat of chimpanzees click here.

Family Relationships

Chimpanzees live in large communities with a social hierarchy that is ruled by an alpha male, typically the most political, whose job it is to maintain order in the group. Female chimps also have a hierarchy which can be inherited by the position of the mother, the support of the female community is often necessary for a male chimp to become alpha. The mother is the main infant raiser, though if the mother dies an older sibling will often take on the task of raising any young offspring.

For more information about relationships between chimps click here.


Chimpanzees communicate in many ways, most notably through sounds and calls, but also through touch, facial expressions and body language.

For more information on how chimps communicate click here.