The forest air is calm as a small group of chimpanzees forages for food in central Africa.Suddenly, the silence is broken as the chimps begin drumming on tree trunks andsending out a loud chorus of pant-hoots and food calls (a mix of grunts and barks) toother members of their community, some as far as two miles away!
They have discovered a fig treefull of ripe fruit; soon largenumbers of chimps gatherexcitedly around the fig tree andbegin feasting. Chimpanzees areomnivores, meaning they eatboth plants and animals—theyfeed on fruit, leaves, seeds,buds, bark, stems, insects, andoccasionally the meat of smallmammals.
Young chimpanzees learn from observing their mothers andother adults which foods are safe to eat and where ripe foodis located. For the first few months of its life a baby chimpclings to its mothers belly as she travels with it everywhere.
After that, young chimpanzees willspend the next seven to ten years attheir mothers sides learning how togroom, make nests in trees, findfood, and use tools. In the wild a chimpanzee may live to be 50 years old and weigh up to 121 pounds (55 kilograms).
No other animal uses so many different objects as tools. For instance,chimps often fish for termites using a long piece of grass. The chimp sticksthe grass into the entrance of a termite nest, wiggles it around, thenslowly withdraws it—without losing any tasty termites clinging to the grassstem. In one quick swoop the chimp eats the insects.
Chimpanzees are found in dense rain forests, open woodlands,and broad grasslands of Africa. The number of chimpanzees inthe wild has been reduced to about 200,000, scattered across21 nations in Africa.
The scientific name for the chimpanzee is Pan troglodytes.Chimpanzees areapes, like orangutans,bonobos, Gorillas, andgibbons. Apes belongto the primate orderthat includes lemurs,monkeys, andhumans.
On the ground, chimpanzees travel on all fours when walking.During the day chimpanzees spend most of their time in trees,sometimes swinging from branch to branch. They travel mostly on theground. They use a technique called knuckle-walking—their weight issupported on the soles of their feet and the back joints of their fingers.
Chimpanzees live in social groups calledcommunities or unit groups that consistof up to 60 members. Each chimpanzee has its own individual pant-hoot, a common call used in different situations.
Chimpanzees travel in small bands of up to six animals, though The membership of the travel groups changes as individuals separate or join other groups. Chimpanzees use various sounds and gestures to Communicate with other chimps.
Grooming is an importantbehavior for chimps, both sociallyand for skin care. Grooming helps chimpanzees maintain friendly ties with community members. A grooming session can continue for a few seconds or hours and include several chimpanzees of different ages.
In the wild female chimpanzees give birth every five or six years. Chimpanzees forage for food about six to eight hours a day.Chimpanzees can live about 50 years in the wild. In captivity, some chimps have lived more than 60 years. Adult males can weigh up to 121 pounds (55 kilograms).
The main threats to chimpanzees are the loss of habitat from agriculture and logging, and hunting by people for food.Male chimpanzees try tointimidate other males withdisplays of dominance:slapping their hands, stampingtheir feet, dragging branches,and throwing rocks.