Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin


Pan troglodytes


Chimpanzees range in lengths of 635-925 mm and stand 1-1.7 m tall when standing erect. Males tend to weight 34-70 kg while females tend to be smaller at weights of 26-50 kg. The arms of a chimpanzee are proportionally long, spreading 1.5 times the height of an individual. Legs are proportionally shorter than the arms. The hands and fingers are very long, aiding in climbing and gripping objects. Chimpanzees have large ears with a prominent super orbital crest. The face of adult chimpanzees is black or bottled with brown; some individuals have white hairs around the face. The hair covering the body is black-brown with no under-fur. Infants have a white tuft of hair on their rump which is lost as they mature.


This species can be found in the tropical forests of central Africa, from Gambia in the west to Uganda in the east (excluding regions of Congo). There are three subspecies of chimpanzee; Pan troglodytes versus is found in from Gambia to the Niger river, P. troglodytes troglodytes is found from the Niger river to Congo, and P. troglodytes schweinfurthi is found  from the northwestern corner of Zaire into western Uganda and Tanzania. Chimpanzees can survive in diverse habitats, typically in tropical rainforests, forest-savanna mosaic environments and mountain forests. Some populations are even found primarily in savanna habitat. They are not found at elevations above 2,750 m above sea level.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Chimpanzees are omnivorous; feeding on both plant and animal matter. A large portion of their diet consists of ripe fruits and young leaves’, typically feeding occurs while sitting in trees. This species will also consume stems, buds, bark, pith, seeds, and resins of plants. A variety of insects, small vertebrates, and eggs are consumed for proteins and soil is sometimes consumed for minerals. Occasionally chimpanzees will hunt other large vertebrates such as bush pigs.


This species is polygynandrous, which means both males and females have multiple partners. Sometimes the dominant male may control access to a female, preventing other males from mating with her. Females have an estrus cycle of about 36 days, of which females are only receptive to males for 6.5 days. Younger males tend to mate with females during the first part of the estrus cycle, when they are not likely to produce offspring. Mature males mate with females in the maximal tumescence stage, when females are most receptive to mating, the individual female becomes the nucleus of a multi-male party, during this time mating can be promiscuous. During the second half of maximal tumescence dominant males of the party become possessive of these females and have exclusive mating access. Chimpanzees have a gestation period of 202-260 days before a single young is produced. The female carries her young ventrally for 3-6 months before young are able to ride on the female without help. Young ride on their mothers during travel until they are weaned at 3.5-4.5 years.

Months and Times of Activity

This species is a social diurnal animal, which means chimpanzees are most active during the day. They spend a lot of their time in the trees but travel from place to place mainly on the ground. Nests are made in trees with vegetation for resting at night and during the day. Chimpanzees develop a fusion-fision society; a community of small parties (groups) which travel separately.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

  • Chimpanzees are the closest living relatives to humans and are heavily used in studies of behavior in both captivity and wild.
  • Habitat destruction caused by human developments have caused this species to be listed as an Appendix I species by CITES, considered endangered by the IUCN redlist considered endangered in the wild by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and threatened in captivity.
  • As chimpanzees age, both sexes lose hair on their heads, producing a bald patch. Hair along the back and lumbar region become gray with age also.
  • To read legends featuring this animal go to:
  • Children’s book featuring this animal: A CHIMPANZEE TALE by Karen Young


Shefferly, N. 2005. "Pan troglodytes" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at