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The Chimpanzees

Eastern chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes Schweinfurthii)

The chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, sharing more than 98 per cent of our genetic blueprint. Humans and chimps are also thought to share a common ancestor who lived some four to eight million years ago. The chimpanzees are distinguished in two categories, the bonobo (Pan Paniscus) of the low land forests of Congo and the more common chimpanzee Pan Troglodytes.

Although chimpanzees normally walk on all fours (knuckle-walking), they can stand and walk upright. By swinging from branch to branch they can also move quite efficiently in the trees, where they do most of their eating. Chimpanzees usually sleep in the trees as well, they are generally fruit and plant eaters, but they also consume insects, eggs, and meat.

Chimpanzees are one of the few animal species that employ tools. They shape and use sticks to retrieve insects from their nests or dig grubs out of logs. They also use stones to smash open tasty nuts and employ leaves as sponges to soak up drinking water. Females can give birth at any time of year, typically to a single infant that clings to its mother's fur and later rides on her back until the age of two. Females reach reproductive age at 13, while males are not considered adults until they are 16 years old

Like other families of primates, the chimpanzees are more and more endangered. While in the 1960s they were over one million distributed among 21 countries, today we estimate there remain only 250.000 chimpanzees. Only in Uganda from a general survey of 2002 the estimated number of chimpanzees is 5000 individuals, distributed among different forest: 600 in Budongo, 1420 in Kibale, 450 between Kalinzu and Maramagambo, 210 in Bwindi. In Rwanda most of the chimpanzees are found in Nyungwe Forest with over 1000 individuals. Chimpanzees are also in Kahuzi Biega National Park, but not habituated, while small numbers are also seen regularly in Burundi in Kibira Forest and Bururi forest near Bururi.