Even though they’re our closest living relatives, it’s easy to forget that chimpanzees share a lot of similar qualities that we’ve often thought to be uniquely human. Here are some ways that chimps and humans may be more alike than we realize!

1. Empathy: Chimpanzees are capable of feeling a wide range of emotions, including joy, happiness and empathy. They look out for one another and often provide help when needed. For example, both male and female adults have been observed adopting orphaned chimps in the wild and at the Tchimpounga sanctuary.  Chimpanzees have even been known to come to the aid of humans who have been threatened.

2. Respect for Elders: Chimpanzees respect their elders. Older chimpanzees pass their knowledge down to younger generations, ensuring the knowledge and survival of the community. Researchers observed that the pant hoots of adult chimps elicit more immediate responses than those of younger chimps.

3. A Love for Fun & Play: Chimpanzees definitely know how to have fun. Playing helps young chimpanzees develop social skills. Chimps wrestle, chase and tickle one another, frequently climbing through trees and swinging from one branch to the next — they even enjoy a drink of wine (palm wine that is)! Interestingly, researchers have watched a group of young females play with makeshift dolls and care for them like mother chimpanzees.

4. Compassion: Chimpanzees are extremely sociable. When a chimpanzee is feeling stressed or anxious, others will often groom or hug them for assurance. One of the deepest bonds a chimpanzee will form is with its mother. During the first few years of life, a chimpanzee relies almost entirely on its mother for protection, nourishment and love.

5. Resourcefulness: Chimpanzees are highly intelligent, resilient and motivated. When faced with a challenge, chimpanzees use their highly evolved problem solving skills to come up with solutions. Chimps can make tools and collaborate with each other. Chimpanzees have been able to adapt to the degradation of their habitats, carrying out night-time raids on farmers’ crops, crossing roads only during safe periods, and even deactivating hunters’  wire snares.   While these are qualities we share, chimps can be a great reminder to value our ability to empathize, feel compassion, and protect ourselves using intuition and logic. How amazing to see these traits exhibited in our chimp-relatives!

Photo Credit: Fernando Turmo/JGI

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