All about the Chimpanzees, our Closest Relatives!

Africa is the destination of choice for many tourists to see the big five animals. Whereas for some travelers, a safari in Africa is all about chimpanzees!

I have outlined in this post, some facts about chimpanzees with the best places for chimpanzee trekking on the Dark Continent.

Over the last 50 years, much research has been done on chimpanzees.

Among the most striking findings is that humans and chimps share more than 98% of their DNA!

Another surprising finding is that over 80% of the primates are living outside the protected areas, namely the National Parks and Reserves.

Did you know that even chimpanzees are an endangered species? They are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Over the last century, the number of chimpanzees dropped significantly. At the turn of the 20th century, there were about 1 to 2 million chimps. Nowadays, the number of chimpanzees remaining in the wild is about 170,000 to 300,000.

Why the Chimpanzees Are an Endangered Species?

The chimpanzees are at risk of extinction because of the four following reasons:

  • The loss of habitat. As the human population increases, it reduces the chimpanzees’ habitat by destroying forests. The land is used for agricultural purposes, for building infrastructures, or for commercial purposes.
  • Poaching. Yes, unfortunately, the chimpanzees are in the sights of poachers! Because of deforestation, the poachers have easier access to chimpanzees. The commercial bushmeat trade has become the biggest threat to chimpanzees’ survival.
  • Illegal exotic pet trade. Each year, tens of thousands of chimpanzees are captured and sold on the black market as exotic pets. The poachers target the infants since they are so cute and kill the nursing mother to get them. Many of the chimps captured will perish before they reach their destination. In fact, for every chimpanzee traded on the black market for exotic pets, ten chimpanzees are killed in the process!
  • Infectious diseases. Since the chimpanzees share 98% of their DNA with humans, that makes them susceptible to human illnesses! The chimpanzees are not immune to human diseases. This exposure to new diseases comes from the exotic pet trade and the invasion of their habitat.

Now let me introduce you to a pioneer in the field of primate research: Jane Goodall.

Jane Goodall: The Primatologist

Jane Goodall is a well-renowned expert on chimpanzees. She studied the chimpanzees in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania.

Her research on chimp social behavior spanned over a period of 55 years!

Here are some of Jane Goodall’s findings, about the behavior of chimpanzees:

  • Making and using tools: For the longest time, many believed that only humans could make and use tools. Dr. Goodall showed that chimps use their environment to make tools. The chimpanzees can remove the leaves from a twig, and use it to retrieve insects from termite mounds.
  • Chimpanzees are omnivores. Before the 1960s, many believed that chimps were vegetarians. Dr. Goodall disproved this theory. The chimpanzees are in fact omnivores (meat-eaters). Surprisingly, their preferred hunting target is another primate, the red colobus monkey!
All about the chimpanzees — jane goodall is a famous animal scientist for studying chimpanzees.
Jeekc, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Aggressive and violent behavior. Most people see chimpanzees as cute and gentle creatures. Dr. Goodall’s research has shown that chimpanzees can display aggressive and violent behavior. As a matter of fact, the dominant females can exhibit violent behavior by killing the youngsters of other females in their group to assert further their dominant position.

 To help protect the chimpanzees from extinction, Dr. Goodall founded 1977, the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI).

Dr. Goodall’s studies are just a teaser, keep on reading if you want to become an expert on chimpanzees!

More Interesting Facts about the Chimpanzees

Did you know that:

  • The chimpanzees live in rainforests and savannah woodlands.
  • Their lifespan in the wild is about 50 years.
  • Chimpanzees live in groups called troops. The size of the troop varies between 30 to 80 chimps.
  • The males are larger and weigh between 88 and130 lbs (40-60 kgs). The females weigh between 70 and 100 lbs (33-46 kg).
  • Although a chimpanzee is smaller in size than a man, the chimp is five times stronger!
  • Chimpanzees are quadrupeds or “knuckle walkers”.
  • They spend as much time on the ground as in the trees. Usually, the chimps sleep and feed in trees.
  • Chimpanzees sleep in nests that are made from leaves and branches. They always make a new nest each night; they never sleep in the same “bed” twice!
  • The infant chimpanzees have a white tail tuft, which will disappear later in life.
  • Their diet includes fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, blossoms, insects, and meat on occasion.
  • The chimpanzee predators are the humans and the leopards.


The chimpanzees are among the noisiest animals. Their communication system is complex. It comprises body language (gestures), facial expressions, and making noises!

Here are some examples of means of communication:

  • Facial expressions: A grin with the mouth closed or slightly opened could mean fear or submissive behavior.
  • Distance calls: These are calls made between groups that are far away from each other.
  • Intra-party calls: Refers to calls between chimps within the same group.
All about the chimpanzees — chimpanzee vocalizing., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Pant-hoot: Each chimpanzee has its distinct Pant-hoot call. Therefore, the caller can be easily recognized. The Pant-hoot is to the chimpanzees what your caller ID is to your smartphone!

What Is the Best Country for Chimpanzee Trekking?

Many African countries have put in place a tourism strategy that is “nature-friendly”. The primary goals of the program are to protect the chimpanzees and their habitats.

Chimpanzees are found in 21 African countries. Among those countries, you have Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Uganda is by far the best country for chimpanzee trekking. There are about 5,000 chimpanzees spread out across the forests and National Parks.

The Kibale National Park is quite popular among tourists for chimps trekking. Still, your trekking experience should not be limited to only one Park!

Here are other destinations to consider for chimpanzee tracking:

  • The Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
  • The Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary.
  • The Budongo forest in the Murchison National Park.
All about the chimpanzees — chimpanzee relaxing lying in the grass.

Finally, your African Adventure wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a chimpanzee sanctuary.

The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is on the Ngamba Island in Lake Victoria. The shelter was founded in 1998 and has 33 orphaned chimpanzees. The primates living on the Island come from scientific research facilities and the exotic pet trade.


The chimpanzees are an endangered species. The loss of their habitat and poaching are the main culprits.

The pioneering work of Dr. Jane Goodall on chimpanzees has helped to put in place numerous programs across the African continent to help protect this endangered species.

Uganda is the destination of choice for chimpanzee trekking. One of the top destinations is without a doubt, the Kibale National Park. However, don’t limit yourself to only one option! Many Parks and Reserves throughout Uganda offer an excellent chimpanzee trekking experience.

Since our closest relatives have revealed all its secrets, you are now ready for your safari vacation in Uganda. Click here to read my full review about trekking the primates in Uganda!

If you have any questions about the chimpanzees or would like to share some anecdotes, please leave a comment below. I am eager to hear what you have to say!

Photo of author

Sonia Zannoni

My name is Sonia, a traveler enthusiast and the CEO of Wildlife Safari Adventures. My goal with Wildlife Safari Adventures is to provide insightful information to help you better plan your African travels. Are you ready to uncover the many facets of the Dark Continent?

6 thoughts on “All about the Chimpanzees, our Closest Relatives!”

  1. Hey Sonia.
    Great post with loads of information.
    I have been a little too up close and personal for comfort with Baboons before, so your article on chimps really drew my attention.
    Stunning animals, but not to be messed around with, they are truly powerful and can be very dangerous.
    Among several other points, I can’t believe that I never knew that they are endangered though,
    Thanks for the info.

    Cheers, Marc

    • I was also surprised to find out that they’re an endangered species! And they’re very strong animals! During my school years, I went to the Zoo as part of a school activity, and one of my friends thought it would be funny to taunt a chimpanzee with his lunch box! Let just say that the chimp enjoyed a great lunch that day! 🙂

  2. Very nice article on chimpanzees. I knew a lot about them because I admired the work of Jane Goodall and had watched several documentaries on her work. I’m very glad that you posted so much information

    • Jane Goodall is a pioneer in the field of primates. More people like her are needed to help save the chimpanzees! Hopefully, raising public awareness will curb the exotic pet trade.

  3. Hi Sonia,
    I came across Jane Goodall in a documentary, which led me to your own site. A very educational and illuminating journey, I must say. My friends are heading off to Rwanda, of all places to go and see gorillas in the wild, so I’ve found myself looking at a lot of nature documentaries recently!

    • I’m also a big fan of the work done on chimpanzees over the last fifty years by Jane Goodall. Her institute has definitely helped and continues to support the chimpanzees, an endangered species.


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