The Tchimpounga sanctuary hosts several research groups studying the evolutionary links between humans and chimpanzees. Even though we share approximately 98% of our DNA with chimps, there are several important differences ranging from the physical – for example, humans walk on two legs while chimpanzees usually use all four limbs to move around – to the cognitive.

 

Observing chimpanzees without disturbing them in their natural habitat is extremely important to maintaining accurate research results. The orphans at the Tchimpounga sanctuary live in groups much as they would in the wild. This allows for organic social development and learning, and provides researchers with insights into a young wild chimpanzee’s growth.

JGI uses non-invasive research methods to study the links between human and chimpanzee development. They make behavioural observations of young chimpanzees, bonobos, and human children and pose challenges designed to test individual ability to problem solve. By comparing the results of these tests, researchers can help shed light on the evolution of human social cognition. Researchers also examine the importance of individual personalities and emotional responses in problem solving abilities.

Fun Chimpanzee Facts

The first five years of a chimp’s life are spent playing, socializing and developing a strong infant-mother bond

A chimpanzee has the same bones, muscles and nervous system as a human

A chimpanzee brain is structurally identical to a human brain and chimpanzees are capable of reasoned thought and abstraction

A chimpanzee’s sense of sight, smell, hearing and touch is similar to that of a human

Chimpanzees make and use tools

Chimpanzees use body language and pant-hoots to communicate

Listen

Chimpanzees demonstrate a range of emotions – from joy, sadness and fear to empathy

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Photo credits top to bottom: JGI U.S./Fernando Turmo, Nick Riley, JGI U.S./Fernando Turmo, JGI U.S./Fernando Turmo, JGI U.S./Fernando Turmo, Rick Quinn, JGI U.S./Fernando Turmo