Family Relationships

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Dr. Jane Goodall also observed enduring, affectionate and supportive relationships between chimpanzee family members―bonds that often lasted throughout the chimpanzees' lives. Her early observations of mother-child bonds because one focus of the long-term Gombe field study. Today, researchers continue to document mother-child relationships, some 50 years later.

Mother-Child Bonds

During their first year, infant chimpanzees are in constant physical contact with their mothers, often traveling on their mothers' backs. Around two years of age, young chimpanzees will start traveling short distances from their mothers, and will also begin moving independently. Mothers wean infants between the ages of 4 and 6 – often a very trying time for a young chimpanzee! Typically chimpanzees will become fully independent between the ages of 6 and 9, although they often maintain lifelong bonds with their mothers. Adolescent females sometimes join nearby groups for periods of time. Males stay within their group and spend their time with other males.

If a mother dies, her orphaned offspring may be unable to survive. Older siblings often adopt their orphaned brothers and sisters and sometimes chimpanzees are adopted by other members of the group that are not related to them.

When baby chimps are born, older siblings sometimes act in a jealous manner because of the loss of their mother’s attention.

To see a video about the relationship between mother and child click here


Twins born in the wild are extremely rare. Since the research began more than 50 years ago, there have only been three sets of twins born in Gombe! The most famous Gombe twins, and the oldest set of chimpanzee twins in the world, are Golden and Glitter who were born to Gremlin in 1998. Want to know more about the twins? To see them in action click here