Physical Development and Characteristics:
The chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) is a member of the order Primates, a group embracing more than 200 living species. They weigh about five pounds at birth (their gestation period is about seven-and-a-half months). Like a human new born, a baby chimp is almost completely helpless for the first 12 months of life. However, at a few days old, it is able to cling to its mother. By roughly ten years of age, a chimpanzee weighs almost 90 pounds and is sexually mature. They continue to physically grow until the age of thirteen though. In adulthood, chimps stand erect at an average of 4 feet tall. Their weight, more than their height, depends greatly upon their sex. Males often become as heavy as 121 pounds, while females weigh only around 100 pounds. A chimp's lifespan usually lasts for 40 years, though they can live longer. The chief anatomical characteristics, which set chimpanzees apart from lesser primates are the absence of a tail, a more or less upright posture and the high degree of development of the brain. Moreover, like humans, they have opposable thumbs on their hands, which allow them to pick up objects between thumb and forefingers.
What constructive activity do both chimps and humans actively pursue?
Diet and Habitat:
Chimpanzees are found in the forests of Central and West Africa. They thrive in steamy, lowland rainforests, in mountainous forests and (in the western part of their range) the savannah. Though they often build nests in trees, chimpanzees spend equal amounts of time on the ground as in the forest canopy. No matter where they are situated at the moment though, trees or ground, chimps generally move around on all fours. They scrounge for meals that include fruit, leaves, and bark -- or even the occasional meat from small game that they have killed. Since males are not tied to infant care, and if they are not needed for defense, then they may range far afield in search of food. Overall, these dietary habits make chimpanzees omnivorous, a trait they also share with most humans.
Over the years, chimps have managed to coexist peacefully with almost all of the other animals in their territory. They fall prey, however, and remain very fearful of only one specific predator: the Leopard. A strong, fast and stealthy hunter, the leopard never fails to strike fear in chimps. Upon seeing their one mortal enemy, a group of chimpanzees will immediately scatter and seek refuge in the trees -- since defensively they are no match for the quick and agile cat.
Leopards are not the greatest threat to chimpanzees though; humans are. The principal reason for the decline in the number of chimps is the progressive destruction of their environment by mankind. More than 110,000 square kilometers of tropical rainforest are currently destroyed each year for timber and to provide farmland. The species is considered highly vulnerable in all of West Africa and parts of East Africa, where most populations are now reduced to small remnants surviving mainly in restricted forests and in some parks and reserves. And though the species is possibly abundant in some areas of Central Africa, not enough is known about populations that may occur in the interior forests of Cameroon, Gabon, the Congo Republic and Zaire. Furthermore, because they assume some similar characteristics as humans, they are in heavy demand as pets, zoo exhibits and as test subjects for scientific research. Conservation efforts are being made however. Multiple organizations are trying to curb the trade/sale of these fascinating primates, while safe-areas such as Outaba-Kilimi National Park in Sierra Leone, West Africa, have been set up to try to preserve the remaining chimpanzee population, as humanity realizes the importance of protecting these unique primates.
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Note: Some information has been excerpted from World Wildlife Fund.