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    Five chimpanzee facts that will blow your mind

    10 minutes read
    10 minutes read
    Amazing chimpanzee facts Easy travel tanzania

    Chimpanzees in Tanzania are constantly threatened. That’s why chimpanzee-protected areas are created to prevent the chimps from becoming extinct.

    On July 2, 2018, Easy Travel owner Sayyedah Hirji Gulamhussein watched in awe as world-famous primatologist-anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall stepped on stage in Arusha, Tanzania, to deliver a riveting speech about her life’s work and love: chimpanzees.

    Sayyedah left feeling deeply inspired. It’s generally agreed that Jane Goodall is the world’s leading chimpanzee expert. She has been an instrumental figure in wildlife conservation worldwide, most notably in East Africa. Goodall has dedicated her entire life to studying, understanding, and caring for the welfare of our closest nonhuman relatives, and the bulk of her chimpanzee studies occurred in, yes, Tanzania.


    July 14, 2018, is the First-Ever World Chimpanzee Day. To honour Jane Goodall and these incredible animals, we dedicate a post to the chimpanzee, our closest cousin on the Tree of Life. To this day, Tanzania remains one of the best places on Earth to spend time with these chimps. So here it is—all the need-to-know info about chimpanzees, just for you.

    Overview of Chimpanzee

    Male chimps, known for their physical strength and dominance within social groups, play a crucial role in the dynamics of wild chimpanzee communities. Chimps live in complex social structures in their natural habitats, forming close-knit groups led by an alpha male.

    These social groups exhibit intricate behaviours such as grooming, hunting, and communication, showcasing the intelligence and adaptability of chimpanzees in the wild. Chimpanzees can live for several decades, with some individuals reaching ages of over 50 years in the wild.

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    How Jane Goodall fell in love with chimps (and Tanzania)

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    Before we dive into chimp life, here’s your two-minute history of Jane Goodall: Goodall was born in London, England, in 1934. In her early twenties, she visited a family friend’s farm in Kenya’s highlands, which began a lifelong love affair with East Africa.

    Goodall would later connect with famous archaeologist Louis Leakey, who hired her as secretary and sent her to the Olduvai Gorge (site to the earliest known evidence of our human ancestors; a recommended stop on Easy Travel tours!) and, later, to Gombe National Park, in 1960. After receiving her PhD in ethology in England, Goodall returned to Tanzania and spent years studying chimpanzee behaviour, thus setting into motion one of the world’s most extended scientific research projects.

    She later went on to establish the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977. Today, Goodall travels over 300 days a year as the world’s foremost advocate for wildlife conservation. Watch this breathtaking video of Jane Goodall assisting in a chimpanzee reintroduction program:

    Introducing the chimpanzee

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    Species Name: Pan troglodytes. The genus Pan includes both the chimpanzee and bonobo. Both are endangered.

    Average Lifespan: 45 years in the wild. The oldest known chimpanzee was 79 years old. (source)

    Size: 5 – 5.5 feet (1.5 meters) 70-130lbs (32-60kg)

    Range: Native to sub-Saharan Africa, some found in Northern Africa.

    Estimated Population: 170,000 – 300,000 in the wild.

    5 things to know about chimpanzees

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    1. They are our closest nonhuman cousin

    Google something like: “What animal is our closest relative?” You know what comes up? Chimpanzees. Well, the Great Apes come up—chimps, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas. 98% of our genes are shared with chimpanzees. Humans are to chimpanzees as horses are to zebras—we’re that similar! My mind is officially blown.

    2. Chimps aren't monkeys

    Despite common misconception, the Great Apes are not monkeys but instead of the family Hominidae, of which humans are part. Want to know a wildlife hack to see the difference between monkeys and apes? Check out their butts. Monkeys have tails. Great Apes don’t.

    3. Chimpanzees understand death

    Recent findings suggest that chimpanzees (like elephants) will mourn the death of kin. This is added to self-awareness, tool use, and warring factions as notable behaviours shared with humans: Here.

    4. Their beds are way cleaner than ours

    Not only do chimpanzees make their beds each night, but they also choose new locations and fresh materials. That’s right. Chimps will sleep in trees, and their nests are always far cleaner than the average human bed. (Source).

    5. Tanzania: Ground zero for chimpanzee sightings

    If there’s one place to visit chimpanzees in their natural habitat, it’s Tanzania. In Gombe National Park (Western Tanzania), the most famous chimpanzee reserve.

    Chimpanzee Tanzania Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

    Diverse Habitat Tanzania boasts diverse habitats that support chimpanzee populations, including dense rainforests, woodlands, and savannahs. These provide a rich and varied environment for these intelligent primates to thrive and adapt.

    Gombe Stream National Park Made famous by pioneering primatologist Jane Goodall, Gombe Stream Park in Tanzania is one of the longest-running chimpanzee research sites globally. It offers unparalleled opportunities to study wild chimpanzee behaviour and understand social structures and interactions.

    Mahale Mountains National Park Fourth, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Mahale Mountains is another renowned sanctuary for chimpanzees in Tanzania. Visitors can embark on unforgettable trekking experiences to observe these adorable wildlife in their natural habitat and witness their complex behaviours firsthand.

    Chimpanzee Cultural Behaviors Tanzanian chimpanzees exhibit diverse cultural behaviours, including tools for hunting and foraging, sophisticated communication methods such as vocalizations and gestures, and social customs unique to each chimpanzee community, reflecting their intelligence and adaptability.

    Threats to Chimpanzees

    Habitat Loss: Deforestation, primarily driven by agricultural expansion and logging activities, leads to the loss and fragmentation of chimpanzee habitats in Tanzania. As forests are cleared to make way for crops or timber extraction, chimpanzees lose vital resources and face increased isolation, impacting their ability to forage and reproduce. The destruction of their habitats also heightens the risk of human-chimpanzee conflicts, as chimpanzees may venture into human encampments in search of food or shelter.

    Poaching: Illegal hunting for bushmeat and the illegal pet trade poses a massive threat to chimpanzee populations across Tanzania. Poachers target chimpanzees for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in some regions, and infants are usually captured for the exotic pet trade. This unsustainable exploitation of chimpanzees reduces their numbers and disrupts social structures within chimpanzee communities, leading to long-term consequences for their survival.

    Disease Transmission: Chimpanzees are susceptible to diseases transmitted by humans, including respiratory infections and Ebola virus disease. As human activities encroach further into chimpanzee habitats, the risk of disease transmission escalates, mainly when humans and chimpanzees come into close contact. Outbreaks of diseases can have devastating effects on chimpanzee populations, causing widespread illness and mortality and posing a significant threat to their long-term survival.

    Human-Wildlife Conflict: Encounters between humans and chimpanzees, such as crop raiding and retaliatory killings, contribute to conflicts that endanger chimpanzees in Tanzania. When chimpanzees raid crops for food, they often incur the wrath of farmers, who may resort to lethal measures to protect their livelihoods. This cycle of conflict escalates tensions between humans and chimpanzees, further jeopardizing the coexistence of both species in shared landscapes.

    Climate Change: Climate-related shifts in rainfall patterns and temperature can disrupt chimpanzee habitats and food sources, threatening survival. Changes in vegetation composition and availability of fruits and other food resources impact chimpanzee foraging behaviour and nutritional intake. Additionally, extreme weather events like droughts or floods can exacerbate habitat degradation and increase the vulnerability of chimpanzee populations to other threats.

    Bottom line

    Tanzania teems with abundant life that must continue to be respected and protected, like the chimpanzee. Jane Goodall’s work is far from over. Easy Travel is a committed outfitter to responsible tourism, and we strive to give back more than we receive. Take this approach, and everyone wins.

    Getting you there?

    Interested in exploring chimpanzee habitats while in Tanzania? Our team can organize a tailor-made trip to Gombe National Park and customize your trip to complement any other add-ons. Easy Travel can satisfy you at any level of adventure, from the more travelled northern safari circuit to the most adventurous, off-the-beaten-path locations, like Western and Southern Tanzania.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. What is the habitat of chimpanzees in Tanzania?

    Chimpanzees in Tanzania inhabit diverse habitats, spanning dense rainforests, woodlands, and savannahs. They are particularly prevalent in national parks such as Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains, where the rich environment provides ample resources for their sustenance.

    Thriving across various forest types, including lowland rainforests and montane forests at higher elevations, chimpanzees exhibit remarkable adaptability to their surroundings.

    2. How many chimpanzees are there in Tanzania?

    Tanzania is estimated to host a population of 5,000 to 6,000 chimpanzees, yet obtaining exact figures is challenging due to their elusive nature and the expansive territories they inhabit. Chimpanzee populations span various protected areas across Tanzania, with Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains emerging as pivotal hubs for research and conservation efforts.

    These renowned sites attract scientists and conservationists passionate about studying and safeguarding the distinctive behaviors and habitats of chimpanzees in Tanzania. They aim to ensure their long-term survival and well-being. Their dedication highlights the importance of preserving Tanzania’s chimpanzee populations’ rich biodiversity and ecological balance.

    3. What is the social structure of chimpanzees in Tanzania?

    In Tanzania, chimpanzees exhibit intricate social dynamics within their communities. These communities are typically led by an alpha male who oversees group activities. The core of these groups consists of females and their offspring, fostering tight-knit bonds essential for group cohesion.

    Within these social structures, chimpanzees establish intricate hierarchies, form alliances, and engage in cooperative behaviours like grooming and food sharing to strengthen social bonds and maintain group harmony. These behaviours serve as mechanisms for social cohesion and contribute to the overall well-being of chimpanzee communities in Tanzania.

    4. What do chimpanzees eat in Tanzania?

    Chimpanzees in Tanzania are omnivorous and eat fruits, leaves, seeds, insects, and occasionally small mammals. Their diet varies depending on the food availability in their habitat and seasonal changes.

    5. How do chimpanzees communicate in Tanzania?

    Chimpanzees communicate through a combination of gestures, vocalizations, and facial expressions. They use diverse calls to convey messages, including alarm, greeting, and food calls. Chimpanzees also use gestures such as hand clapping, foot stomping, and body postures to communicate with other group members.

    6. Are chimpanzees in Tanzania endangered?

    Chimpanzees in Tanzania face the grave designation of being endangered, primarily due to the triple threats of habitat loss, poaching, and disease transmission from humans. Rampant deforestation, propelled mainly by agricultural expansion and logging activities, has severely depleted chimpanzee habitats across the region.

    Additionally, the illicit practices of poaching for bushmeat and capturing chimpanzees for the illegal pet trade further deepen the challenges confronting wild chimpanzee populations. These multifaceted threats underscore the urgent need for comprehensive conservation measures to safeguard the survival of Tanzania’s endangered chimpanzees.

    7. How are chimpanzees protected in Tanzania?

    In Tanzania, chimpanzees are safeguarded by various conservation efforts, including creating national parks and wildlife reserves dedicated to their protection. Rigorous enforcement of anti-poaching laws mitigates threats to chimpanzee populations from illegal hunting.

    Community-based conservation initiatives actively involve residents in conservation efforts, fostering a sense of stewardship over chimpanzee habitats. Through ongoing research and monitoring programs, valuable data is collected on chimpanzee populations and behaviours, guiding conservation strategies to ensure these iconic primates’ long-term survival.

    8. Can tourists visit chimpanzees in Tanzania?

    Tourists can visit chimpanzees in Tanzania through guided trekking experiences in national parks like Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains. These excursions allow chimpanzees to be seen in their natural environment while being led by knowledgeable guides who prioritize minimizing disturbance to the animals and their surroundings.

    By joining these guided treks, visitors can immerse themselves in the chimpanzees’ habitat and better understand their behaviours and ecosystem dynamics. These experiences offer a unique and educational opportunity to connect with one of Tanzania’s most iconic wildlife species.

    9. What is the best time to see chimpanzees in Tanzania?

    The best time to observe chimpanzees in Tanzania is typically during the dry season, which extends from June to October. This period offers favourable conditions for wildlife viewing as the vegetation is less dense, facilitating easier spotting of chimpanzees in their natural habitat.

    Chimpanzees are often more active during the dry season as they look for food and water sources, increasing the likelihood of encountering them during treks or guided tours. Consequently, visitors have a greater opportunity to observe and appreciate these fascinating primates in their natural environment.

    10. Are there any rules or guidelines for visiting chimpanzees in Tanzania?

    Stringent rules and guidelines are enforced during the chimpanzee trekking to protect visitors and the chimpanzees. These regulations include maintaining a safe distance, refraining from feeding or touching them and following guides’ instructions.

    Additionally, visitors must obtain permits and attend briefings before starting their trek. This ensures they understand safety protocols and conservation measures.

    11. What are the main threats to chimpanzees in Tanzania?

    In Tanzania, chimpanzees confront severe threats, primarily from human activities encroaching upon their habitats. Deforestation, driven by agriculture, logging, and infrastructure development, reduces available habitat and fragments their populations.

    Illegal pet trade and poaching for bushmeat directly impact chimpanzee numbers and disrupt social structures. Disease transmission from humans, such as respiratory infections and Ebola, poses further risks, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive conservation efforts.

    12. How can I support chimpanzee conservation efforts in Tanzania?

    Supporting chimpanzee conservation efforts in Tanzania can take various forms, including contributing funds to reputable conservation organizations that safeguard chimpanzee habitats and populations. Engaging in ecotourism activities, such as guided chimpanzee treks, provides economic opportunities for local communities and directly contributes to conservation efforts.

    Raising awareness about the significance of chimpanzee conservation through education and advocacy initiatives helps garner support and mobilize action toward preserving these iconic primates and their precious habitats for future generations.

    13. Do chimpanzees in Tanzania face any natural predators?

    Although adult chimpanzees face minimal threats from natural predators like leopards and lions, human-related activities pose the most significant risks to their survival in Tanzania. Habitat destruction, driven by land conversion and deforestation for agriculture and infrastructure, reduces the availability of suitable habitats for chimpanzees.

    Furthermore, hunting for bushmeat and the illegal pet trade directly impact chimpanzee populations, exacerbating their vulnerability. Additionally, disease transmission from humans, such as respiratory infections and Ebola virus disease, poses significant health risks to chimpanzees, further threatening their already precarious existence in the wild.

    14. How do researchers study chimpanzees in Tanzania?

    In Tanzania, researchers employ diverse methodologies to study chimpanzees and gain insights into their behaviours and ecological interactions. Through direct observation, scientists meticulously document chimpanzee behaviours in their natural habitats, providing valuable data for understanding social dynamics and foraging patterns.

    Camera trapping also allows researchers to monitor chimpanzee activity remotely, capturing elusive behaviours and interactions that may not be observable through direct observation alone. Genetic analysis aids in understanding population dynamics and genetic diversity among chimpanzee communities.

    15. Are there any ongoing conservation projects focused on chimpanzees in Tanzania?

    Numerous conservation projects in Tanzania are actively protecting chimpanzees and their habitats. These initiatives encompass various strategies, such as habitat restoration efforts to reclaim degraded areas and create viable living spaces for chimpanzees.

    Additionally, anti-poaching patrols are deployed to deter illegal hunting activities. At the same time, community-based conservation programs engage residents in conservation efforts, fostering a sense of ownership and stewardship over natural resources. Together, these projects strive to mitigate the primary threats facing chimpanzees in Tanzania and promote harmonious coexistence between humans and wildlife.

    Musaddiq Gulamhussein - Owner - Easy Travel Tanzania

    About the author: Musaddiq

    Meet Musaddiq Gulamhussein, owner of Easy Travel Tanzania, a tour company creating life-changing safari experiences for over 35 years. Musaddiq has explored Tanzania, developing a deep understanding of the local cultures and traditions. Follow his journey and gain insights into the African Safari experience through Easy Travel's social media and blog.

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