10 things you probably didn’t know about chimpanzees

Written By: Daksha Rangan, JGI Canada Volunteer
Category: Great Apes

Although chimpanzees are very similar to humans, there is still much that we don’t know about them. Many people confuse chimps with monkeys. In fact, chimpanzees are great apes as are gorillas, bonobos and orangutans. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about our closest living cousins in the animal kingdom.

10. You can tell the difference between a chimpanzee and a monkey by looking at their backsides


Monkeys have tails but chimpanzees and other great apes do not.

9. Chimpanzees are endangered

Chimpanzees are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. At the beginning of the 20th century there were more than 1 million chimpanzees in the wild. Today, it’s estimated that there are less than 300,000. Their numbers are decreasing because of habitat loss and fragmentation, commercial bush meat hunting and the illegal wildlife trade.

8. Chimpanzees enjoy many of the same foods humans do

Chimpanzees love honey, watermelons, and figs! Check out this top ten list of what chimpanzees eat.

7. Chimpanzees go to war

Dr. Goodall discovered that chimpanzees not only fight, but engage in a primitive form of brutal warfare. The first ever recorded long-term war broke out in 1974 and lasted for four years.

6. While chimpanzees aren’t big on swimming, they do enjoy an occasional dip

You’ll rarely see a chimp paddling about in the water as they don’t like to swim. Their low body fat ratio causes them to sink and their top heavy body composition makes it difficult for them to keep their heads above water.  However, some chimpanzees do enjoy a good splash around in shallow water.

5. Humans aren’t descendants of present-day apes, but there’s a chance we share a common ancestor

Humans are not direct descendants of chimpanzees, gorillas, or any other great ape. Evolutionary theory suggests we share a common ancestor – an ape-like-human-like creature that lived millions of years ago.

4. Chimpanzees grieve

Chimps have been observed grieving over friends and family members. They visit the body, both individually and in groups, gently touching, sniffing, and grooming the deceased.

3. They make terrible pets

Chimpanzees may look cute, especially when they are babies, but they can be very aggressive. Groups of males have the aptitude and motivation to plan and execute attacks on other chimps, often resulting in serious injuries and even fatalities. Fatal attacks on humans have also been reported.

2. Chimps are handy with tools

One of Dr. Goodall’s earliest discoveries was that chimpanzees make and use tools. Jane observed a chimp named David Greybeard using a twig he had stripped of its leaves as a fishing rod to reach termites deep within their mounds. When he pulled it out of the mound, termites clung to the twig and David picked them off with his lips for a protein packed snack.

1. So like us

Chimpanzees are our closest living non-human relatives. We share over 98% of our DNA. As many experts say we are 98% chimpanzee and chimpanzees are 98% human. This shared genetic make-up reveals itself in many physiological and behavioural traits that give us an incredible look into human evolutionary history.

Be a Chimp Champion!

Help care for the orphaned chimpanzees at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo.

Become a Chimp Guardian
Photo credits on this page: Fernando Turmo/JGI U.S.