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Chimpanzees - compassionate great apes

"Chimpanzees laugh and cry, feel joy and sorrow as we do," says famous monkey researcher Jane Goodall. Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, because their genes, i.e. their genetic make-up, are more than 98 percent identical to ours. No wonder chimpanzees and humans behave very similarly.

Of humans and monkeys

As our closest living relatives, chimpanzees are great apes. Their behavior is similar to that of humans in many areas:

  • The monkeys express their feelings with their facial expressions
  • They communicate with hands, feet and sounds
  • They are socially committed (for example, they form groups for joint ventures. Very important: one looks after the other's fur, which maintains and strengthens the friendship)
  • They make tools and use them skillfully (for example, they use stones or pieces of wood as hammers, sticks as digging implements, and chewed leaves as sponges.)
  • They learn from each other and seem to be able to solve problems through trial and error
  • They have a “I-feeling”, that is, they recognize themselves in the mirror

A community of monkeys

Chimpanzees live in communities of around 40 to 100 animals. However, they don't always do everything together, but rather form smaller groups for certain tasks and activities that are constantly changing: for example for looking for food, grooming, hiking or defending the area. The territory is mainly defended by adult males who raid and even kill chimpanzees from other communities.
Everything that young chimpanzees need to know for life, they look from the older animals. Experience and intelligence are exemplified, imitated and refined - and not inherited.

The toolmakers

A chimpanzee cub is suckled, carried and cared for by its mother for three to four years. And of course she also teaches him all the tricks on how to get food. For example, on termites hiding in their mound. So the mother shows her offspring how to make a suitable tool: she debarks a branch, pushes it into the mound and pulls it out again with the termites. The insects felt provoked and got stuck on the stick. Before they can escape, the mother chimpanzee has licked the branch. It doesn't take long for the boy to imitate her.

Basic rights for great apes?

Jane Goodall and other researchers are calling for the great apes to have the same rights as humans. Because all four species of our closest relatives are in dire need: gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos (dwarf chimpanzees) in Africa and orangutans in Southeast Asia are threatened with extinction. "If we don't stop the destruction of the forests and the hunting immediately, there will soon be no more great apes," says Jane Goodall. And adds: "I put my last hope in the children."

Children and adults can help preserve the rainforests as a habitat for our closest relatives. Organize an information stand with friends about the rainforest as a habitat for the endangered great apes. Take part in our painting campaigns, tell everyone you know what you know about our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.

Chimpanzees in the Cinema: The 2013 Disney Movie

The movie "Chimpanzees" was released in May. It's about cuddly little Oskar - read an interview with primate researcher Jane Goodall here

Date: April 29, 2013

Last updated: May 30, 2019