Male chimpanzee looking forwards


Common chimpanzees travel around the forests and savannas of central Africa on all fours. This knuckle-walking, uses their characteristic long arms and short legs. Sharing 98 percent of human genes, they are our closest living relative and probably the most intelligent non-human animal. They show learned behaviours, long memories and some extraordinary use of tools. Chimpanzees are very similar to humans both in appearance and in their complex social behaviours and societies.

Scientific name: Pan troglodytes

Rank: Species

Common names:

  • Chimpanzee,
  • Common chimpanzee

Watch video clips from past programmes (34 clips)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.

View all 34 video clips


Map showing the distribution of the Chimpanzee taxa

Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

The Chimpanzee can be found in a number of locations including: Africa. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


The following habitats are found across the Chimpanzee distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Conservation Status


  1. EX - Extinct
  2. EW
  3. CR - Threatened
  4. EN - Threatened
  5. VU - Threatened
  6. NT
  7. LC - Least concern

Population trend: Decreasing

Year assessed: 2008

Classified by: IUCN 3.1

The common chimpanzee up close

the two chimpanzee species, common chimpanzees are the more aggressive and are the only animals other than humans known to wage war on members of their own species.


A chimpanzee troop's territory is largely defined by the position of fruiting trees, as ripe fruits make up over half of a chimp's diet. The rest of their diet is made up of other plant matter and insects. They also hunt larger animals such as colobus monkeys, although the amount of hunting varies greatly from one troop to another. Chimpanzees have been observed to use medicinal plants and minerals to treat various illnesses.


Common chimpanzees are found in the dense forests of central Africa. Although there were probably millions of chimpanzees alive 60 years ago, the rapid destruction of their forest habitat has reduced the population to around 200,000.

Social behaviour

Common chimpanzees are very social animals, with males forming the closest bonds. Males stay in their mothers' troop all their lives and build up strong relationships with other males from the group.

This results in the formation of dominance hierarchies in which dominant males attempt to stop others from having access to females. Females, though, are less social than males. They usually only form strong bonds with their infants and leave the maternal troop to join a neighbouring group when they reach adolescence. This is completely different from their close relatives, bonobos.

Communication is vital in maintaining harmonious chimpanzee society and violence is avoided wherever possible. They are able to convey their feelings to one another using a combination of sounds, body language and facial expressions. Effective communication also enables chimpanzees to co-ordinate group events such as hunting and wars on neighbouring chimp troops.

Interesting feature

Before the discovery of tool-making chimps in the 1970s, it was thought that only humans had the capacity to make and use tools. Since then, several other animals have been found to have variations on this skill.

Video collections

Take a trip through the natural world with our themed collections of video clips from the natural history archive.