Common Chimpanzee

Common Chimpanzee

Common Chimpanzee – Pan troglodytes

The chimpanzee is one of the closest relatives of men sharing up to 98 percent of the genetic code. It has four subspecies:

– Central Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes)
– Western Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus)
– Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti or P.t. Vellerosus)
– Eastern Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)


All common chimpanzees are round-headed primates with large ears, prominent lips, arms longer than the legs, opposable fingers and large feet. Males are bigger than females; The former weighs 40 to 60 kilograms and measure up to 1.6 meters, while the latter weighs 32 to 47 kilos and have a height up to 1.3 meters. However, the average height is usually between 63 and 94 centimeters.

The face has a light pink coloration. The rest of the body, except the fingers, soles of feet and palms, is covered with a thick black or dark brown coat. Their large fingers allow them to quickly climb and hold two objects at the same time, one with the foot and one with the hand.

Order: Primates
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Pan

Distribution and habitat

Originally, common chimpanzee distribution was from east to west equatorial Africa, but today it is a discontinuous range; This means that they live in “patches” of land in Africa separated from each other. This species dwells between 13 degrees north and 7 degrees south, from southern Senegal to western Uganda and Tanzania. The largest populations are in Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon.

Their habitats are on lands from sea level up to 2,800 meters above the sea level and are mainly wet and dry forests, deciduous forests, grasslands and dry savannahs.

Common Chimpanzee characteristics

Common Chimpanzee – Pan troglodytes


Pan troglodytes are omnivorous. Most of their diet consists of fruits, but they also add leaves, flowers, seeds, barks, honey and insects such as termites. Eggs, meat and even carrion are occasional foods, but in spite of this, they can be pretty good hunters when chasing small duikers and monkeys like colobus and baboons. Some have been seen attacking and eating chimpanzees from other troops, but cannibalism is not a common practice. During hunting situations, groups coordinate to catch prey more quickly.

Some chimpanzees have been seen attacking and eating chimpanzees from other groups, but it is not part of their usual diet.


Chimpanzees live in medium or large groups, from 5 to 150 members, but when looking for food or traveling, they usually split into smaller groups. The area of territory defended by a group ranges from 5 to 400 square kilometers. They are diurnal and spend most of their lives in the trees, eating or resting. They build nests with branches, leaves and other plant parts where they sleep alone at night, or, in the case of females, in the company of their offspring (not weaned yet). When they are on the ground, they move on all four limbs on the knuckles of the hands and soles of the feet.

Males tend to be slightly more sociable than females. They stay throughout their lives in the group where they were born, so they build strong and lasting bonds. However, there is a hierarchy in which one chimpanzee dominates the others and is the one with the highest rank. In some groups, several males share dominance. Females have close relationships and are dominated by males in their group. They appreciate grooming, an activity that has the function of establishing and preserving social relationships, as well as relieving stress and, of course, eliminating parasites from their body.

They have a repertoire of more than 15 types of calls that sound different according to the purpose.

Chimpanzees show a remarkable use of the right limb. Also, they have the ability to use objects from their environment as tools, which they use to obtain food. A stick or long stem of a plant introduced into a termite nest helps to catch termites, and a rock big enough serves to break nutshells.

Robust chimpanzee, an endangered species

Young common chimpanzee

Chimpanzees can communicate through vocalizations and facial expressions. They have a repertoire of more than 15 types of calls that sound different and use for several purposes. For example, the screams and grunts that are heard up to 2 kilometers away are a warning of the presence of another animal, and others can recognize which member of the group emit them. Their intelligence is remarkable. Their large brain allows them to communicate through the sign language; Obviously, after the proper training by a specialist.


Their reproductive habits are varied and complex, but roughly, females usually mate with several males during their time of heat. Sometimes the latter prevents others from copulating with a female, and sometimes they mate with males from other groups.

Conservation status: Endangered.

Individuals reach sexual maturity at around 10 or 11 years old, but it can happen until they are 15 years old. Males are considered adults at about 16 years old. When a female is sexually receptive, her anogenital region becomes swollen, which indicates the males that she is ready to mate.
After an 8-month gestation, a single offspring is born that is nursed and fed by its mother. The infant is weaned when it is 4 to 6 years old.

Threats and conservation

The destruction and degradation of their habitat, poaching, and infectious diseases are the threats that endanger the common chimpanzee. They are legally under protection in several countries, and many live in protected areas, but this has not been enough to improve their conservation status. They are in danger of extinction.

Common Chimpanzee Infographic

Common chimpanzee infographic
(Click for expand)










Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf, Stephen R. Ross. The Mind of the Chimpanzee: Ecological and Experimental Perspectives. University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Friderun Ankel-Simons. Primate Anatomy: An Introduction. Academic Press, 2010.


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