Chimpanzee Distribution

Chimpanzee Distribution

Where do chimpanzees live?

Chimpanzees are native to Africa, they inhabit specific areas of the continent, and they do not live in the wild in other parts of the world. Precisely, they live in a zone starting at central or equatorial Africa to the west. Approximately 21 or 22 countries have one or both species: the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and the bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus).

The countries where chimpanzees dwell are Liberia, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Ivory Coast, South Sudan, Cameroon, Congo and Burkina Faso. From these, Congo, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and possibly Cameroon are the countries with the largest populations.

Chimpanzees are native to Africa, they inhabit specific areas of the continent, and they do not live in the wild in other parts of the world.

Indeed, it might look that they dwell in many countries and that chimpanzees enjoy a broad range of distribution. However, these areas are discontinuous. Marking the areas where they live on a map, show isolated areas that may belong to the same species. For example, the subspecies “Pan troglodytes troglodytes” inhabits a vast area that includes territories of Gabon, Congo, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Angola and the Central African Republic, but in the latter country, there are isolated northern populations that never meet the southern groups.

Distribution of species and subspecies of chimpanzees

The geographic range of chimpanzees. / Author: User:Cody.pope. Public domain.

It is important to mention that bonobos only inhabit the Democratic Republic of the Congo, south of the Congo River. To the north, east and west of that area, subspecies of the common chimpanzee developed, between 13 degrees north and 7 degrees south:
– The Eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) dwells in the Congo basin.
– The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes vellerosus or Pan troglodytes ellioti) lives in Cameroon and Nigeria.
– The Western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) inhabits a region in the west of the continent.
– The Central chimpanzee (“Pan troglodytes troglodytes“) lives in west-central Africa.

The western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) is the subspecies with the second largest population, just after the central chimpanzee (“Pan troglodytes troglodytes“). The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes vellerosus) is the subspecies with the smaller population, and in fact, it is the most endangered of all. If its population continues to decline without any help, they will become extinct in a few decades.

The distribution range of the common chimpanzee was larger a few years ago and extended to the east of Africa. Today, in addition to the discontinuous areas, the range keeps shrinking very quickly, which contributes to aggravate the danger of extinction for the entire species.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo and possibly Cameroon are the countries with the largest populations of chimpanzees.

The Congo River separates the only two species, Common chimpanzees and bonobos and prevents them from meeting, and some scientists think that the formation of this river separated their ancestors and caused the creation of two different species.

It is likely that chimpanzees have already disappeared from Burkina Faso. Populations have declined dramatically in Ghana, Burundi, Rwanda, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. Previously they were also in Gambia, Togo, and Benin. The situation is alarming, despite international conservation efforts. If all people, not only in Africa, do not help to protect them, the range of distribution of both species will reduce even more and at a faster pace, and perhaps the life of the closest relative of man will reach a level of threat with no solution.



Eastern Chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes Schweinfurthii): Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, 2010-2020.


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