Just a century ago, more than 1 million chimpanzees roamed the African forests. Today, scientists figure there are perhaps as few as 200,000 chimpanzees left.Without concerted action, the possibility of zero chimpanzees in the wild – indeed, a world in which remaining forests and savannas are virtually empty – is all too real. As Jane Goodall says, “We must not let it happen.”
When Jane first stepped into the forest with her binoculars and notebook, her mission was clear: shed light on the little-known lives of wild chimpanzees. But in response to the deepening environmental crisis throughout Equatorial Africa, Jane’s work expanded. Today, protecting chimpanzees is at the heart of the Jane Goodall Institute’s work, even as we continue the research that started it all.
Six things you probably didn’t know about chimps
• Chimpanzees are mankind’s closest relatives, and it is said that about 98% of human and chimpanzee DNA sequences are the same.
• Chimpanzees manufacture their own tools. This includes “spears” which they use to hunt for prey that hides in small holes in trees.
• Male chimps stand up to 1,7m tall, and weigh about 70kg. The females are smaller.
• Chimpanzees that live in the wild rarely make it past the age of 40. In captivity chimps can reach 60 years. Cheeta, chimp star of Tarzan films of the 1930s, is apparently still alive today. At the age of 76, he has outlived his human co-stars.
• Chimpanzees are omnivores. In the wild they normally survive on fruit, but when fruit is scarce, chimps from various families will gather in large numbers, and hunt monkeys, using sophisticated strategies and efficient operation. The right to eat first presides with the alpha males, and chimpanzee social structures are highly political and complex.
• It is said that about 1 300 chimpanzees reside in 10 laboratories in the United States. Most of these labs apparently conduct “invasive research”. Chimps are still housed in the USA and Gabon for medical research, the only two countries still doing this.
Want to know more about chimps? Visit Chimpanzee Central: