• Scientific name: Pan troglodytes
  • IUCN status: Endangered
  • Habitat: West and Central Africa – tropical rainforests and woodland savanna
  • Diet: Mainly herbivore – leaves, flowers, seeds and some animal prey like termites

Chimpanzees have light-coloured faces that get darker with age. They’re around 1m tall and males weigh 50kg, whereas females weigh 35kg. Some old chimpanzees have grey backs. Chimps can live for 30 to 40 years in the wild and up to 60 years in zoos. Chimpanzees share 98.4 per cent of their genetic material with humans and they are our closest relative. They are highly intelligent, and can modify and use objects in their environment as tools, for example, grass stems to extract termites from a mound and stones to crack nuts.

A taste of their own medicine

Zoopharmacognosy is the longest word you’ll find in this guide! It’s the name given to animals knowing which plants in their natural environment they need to eat to make them feel better – in effect, self-service medicines.  Chimpanzees, for example, select and eat the bitter pith of the Vernonia plant. Their grimaces show they are not enjoying the experience but the pith contains certain compounds that have been shown to be effective against parasites including drug-resistant
malaria. A North American species of Vernonia is grown at the Zoo.

Keeper’s Secret

Chimps use facial expressions to show emotions ... but don’t smile showing all your teeth to a chimpanzee – it will think you’re frightened!

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