About African Chimpanzees

The Chimpanzees way of life.

Our closest cousins, the chimpanzee, shares at least 94% of its DNA with humans. They are intelligent, communicative, and sociable.

The chimps most interesting and astonishing traits is their ability to use tools such as rocks for smashing nuts, empty pods for scooping water  and sticks for drawing termites from their nests.

The chimpanzees live in communities they hold hands, kiss just like humans, however they can also be aggressive, unfriendly, particularly towards unrelated individuals.

Diet.

They eat from trees; their diet includes leaves, fruits, flowers and seeds, Chimps occasionally hunt and eat meat, however when they get tired and feel like resting they sleep in those trees.

Mostly chimpanzees are found in African countries. Chimps prefer dense tropical rainforests but can also be found in secondary-growth forests, woodlands, bamboo forests, swamps, and even open savannah.

On the ground, chimpanzees usually walk on all fours using their knuckles for support with their hands clenched, a form of locomotion called knuckle-walking.

Reproduction.

Most mothers give birth to one young an average of every five to six years in the wild. Young chimps stay with their mothers for up to 10 years.

 

They are very energetic and enjoy wrestling, swinging on branches, playing by themselves or with other juveniles, eating, watching (and sometimes messing with) the adult chimps. The males also enjoy practicing their charging displays.

Adult chimpanzee females will often play   with their younger siblings. They have their first baby at 12 or 13 years of age. Until that time, they stay close to their mothers.

Every member of a chimp society has its own distinct rank or status, depending on its age and sex. The big, powerful males have high status, while smaller females rank lower. If a male is walking along a branch where a female is sitting, she will get up and let him pass.

Daily Activities.

A normal day in the chimp society starts at daybreak when they wake. The first activity is looking for breakfast. When a band of chimpanzees find a tree with plenty of fruit, they become very excited and bark loudly. This alerts other small bands of chimps, which make their way to the spot. After the excitement of meeting each other is over, they settle down to eat. Later, after each chimpanzee has eaten its fill, they sit around throughout the hottest hours. During this time, the juveniles will usually play together, while the infants will watch with great interest. After a while though, they will get tired and sleep. The adults will groom each other or sleep, and the females will also nurse their babies. Adolescent males enjoy practicing their charging displays, while adolescent females prefer grooming sessions. They get going again in the late afternoon. When chimpanzees sleep during the afternoon, they build nests in the ground by piling up a bunch of grass and leaves in a circle.

Chimpanzees like to groom each other. This not only helps to clean the chimps, but also creates friendships. It is said that chimpanzees find termites in the hair of other chimps and eat them. This however is not true. The contents of most chimpanzees’ hair consist of dirt, dust and ticks, and these are generally dropped on the ground.

When a chimpanzee wants to be groomed, it will sit in front of another chimp and point to the spot where it wishes to be groomed. While grooming, chimpanzees will often make clucking noises, or soft hoots.

When chimpanzees greet they will hug, kiss, pat each other, and touch. This is also used for comforting a chimpanzee after a fight.

When greeting a dominant chimpanzee, a subordinate will approach him with the correct submissive postures: holding out a hand, or, crouching and presenting the rump.

Juvenile chimpanzees and young baboons often play together on meeting. This may be surprising for chimpanzees will occasionally feast on infant baboons.

How do chimps make their nests?

Making a nest is very simple and consists of 4 steps. They are as follows:

  • Find a tall tree (15-100 ft.) with a fork in it.
  • Bend and intertwine leafy branches to make a soft, springy platform.
  • Cover the inside with leaves.
  • Make some minor adjustments, e.g. break off or bend any uncomfortable twigs, bunch up leaves    under the head to make a pillow.

Occasionally, they will come back to a nest that was built a while ago, but usually build a new one every night. A young chimpanzee (newborn to 3 or 4 years old) will sleep in its mother’s nest. From 3-4 years of age, a chimp will start trying to make its own nest, but never make one to sleep in until about 5 or 6 years of age.

Nests aren’t roofed for protection against water, so when it rains during the night, the chimpanzee will simply hunch its body and let rain fall off its back. The mothers shelter their infants from getting wet. Chimpanzees never shelter from the rain; they just sit in the open and look miserable, occasionally shaking themselves to throw off the raindrops clinging to their coats.

How Chimpanzees Communicate.

Chimpanzees have very expressive faces. They communicate with a number of facial expressions, gestures and calls. A few of the more common expressions are as follows:

 The Play face

This is a relaxed face, often with the mouth open and the top lip covering the teeth. It is used when playing happily.

The Pout face

This face is made with the lips pushed forward. It is used for greeting or begging from another chimpanzee. It is also seen in all infants, juveniles and female adolescent chimps when they cannot see their mothers.

The Grin face

 Open Grin

This is made with the mouth open and both top and bottom teeth showing. It can express fear, excitement or a tantrum.

Fear Grin

This is made with the top lip curled in and teeth showing. It is used when a chimp is frightened or unsure, such as when approaching a higher ranking chimp.

Chimpanzees also communicate through a number of calls. A few of them are listed here:

Fear

This is a long drawn out ‘wraa’.

Puzzlement

This call is a quiet ‘huu’.

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