Chimpanzee in Nyungwe Forest

Chimpanzees, also called chimps, are two extant hominid species of apes in the genus Pan. There are two species of chimpanzees and the Congo River divides these two native habitats; Common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes (West and Central Africa) and Bonobo, Pan paniscus (forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo)

Scientifically, chimpanzees are members of the family Hominidae, along with humans, gorillas, and orangutans. Chimpanzees are the closest to humans in terms of DNA and it is believed that they split from the human line about four to six million years ago. Chimpanzees are spread throughout the tropical rain forests of East, Central and West Africa. Here are some facts about chimpanzees.

The first use of the name “Chimpanzee” is recorded in The London Magazine in 1738 recorded as meaning “Mockman” in a language of “the Angolans” . The name is derived apparently from a Bantu language.

There are a few anatomical differences between the common chimpanzee and the bonobos. It is the sexual and social behaviors that markedly differentiate these two species. The common chimpanzee has an omnivorous diet, a culture of troop hunting with the beta males being led by an alpha male, and highly complex social relationships.On the other hand the bonobo has a mostly frugivorous diet and an egalitarian, nonviolent, matriarchal, sexually receptive behavior. It is a facts that Bonobos frequently have sex, sometimes to help prevent and resolve conflicts.

Chimps communicate in a manner similar to human nonverbal communication, using vocalizations, hand gestures, and facial expressions. There is even some evidence that they can recreate human speech.

In terms of aggression, adult common chimpanzees, particularly males, can be very aggressive. They are highly territorial and are known to kill other chimps while the bonobos are not so much aggressive!

Chimpanzees engage in targeted hunting of lower-order primates such as the red colobus and bush babies, and use the meat from these kills as a “social tool” within their community.

Feeding in Chimpanzees

Like human being, Chimpanzees are omnivores – meaning they feed on a variety of food staffs including plants and animals food. In other words, chimpanzees eat meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, leaves, plants, mushrooms, flowers, insects among others.

However, chimpanzees mostly feed on plant foods including fruits, seeds, nuts, leaves and flowers, they will also eat insects and even larger animals that they have hunted and killed themselves.

Chimpanzees are intelligent and they are capable of using tools like sticks, stones and so on to scoop termites out of a termite mound. Until that time, chimpanzees had been considered to be strict herbivores just like the other great apes.

Like human being, when chimps feel like eating meat, they can organize hunting prey red colobus monkeys. After capturing their prey, the chimpanzees can eat part and share the rest with the female chimps who did not participate in hunting.

Despite of chimpanzee hunting behavior, only small percentage of their meals consist of meat- therefore, chimpanzees feed on meat rarely.

An interesting observation has also been made where chimps deliberately eat medicinal plants like Aspilla leaves and minerals to relieve stomach pains or reduce internal parasites.

Would you like to see chimpanzees in the wild? Why not take a safari in Rwanda and see the chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Other best places to see chimpanzees are Kibale Forest National Park in Uganda, Kaniyo Pabidi and Budongo Forest in Uganda, Gombe Stream in Tanzania.

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