We’ve all heard the facts about evolution, whether you believe in it or not, and how very similar we as human beings are to the chimpanzee. They are our closest relative on Earth sharing 98% of our DNA with these animals! If these “siblings” or even “brothers” are so alike us, why are they endangered?
These great apes, definitely not monkeys, originally from Africa used to exist in the millions all over the continent. However, due to much destruction of habitats and hunting, their numbers have dwindled down to 172,700 to 299,700 revealing that the population has decreased 90% within just the past 20 years! Pan troglodytes, as their scientific name, live in forests of central Africa which are found to be moist and dry.
It’s crazy to think how similar these animals are to us! They walk normally, on all fours, but can stand and walk upright on their hind legs like humans for as far as a mile! As well as swinging from branch to branch within the trees where they live, now if only we could do that. Chimps are very social creatures, living in communities of at least several dozen as large as 120 chimps. They all gather together for social events and allow one male to be the alpha, with support from the females. These animals are smart enough to organize gatherings within their communities!
When children see chimps in zoos or on TV they are usually laughing at the funny faces and noises they make (I am included). It wasn’t until I got older did I realize this is their form of communication. They have created a whole complex system of vocalizations, gestures, body postures, and facial expressions to describe their moods or send information through the communities. You’d think panting would be a bad thing coming out of these animals, but this is actually the way they said hello to one another. Another little quirk we smile and laugh at about chimps is the fact that they are always grooming each other! They absolutely love it! Its purpose is not only for cleaning but also building friendships between the monkeys.
Probable the most fascinating thing about chimpanzees is the fact that they have learned to use tools in their daily lives. Jane Goodall, a very famous scientist who devoted her life to the chimps, discovered one stripping the stem off of leaves and using the stem to fish for termites! These amazing creatures have used many more tools such as rocks for hammers, anvils for breaking nuts open, leaves for napkins and sponges, and sticks for probing or breaking objects open. How can such intelligent animals be on the verge of extinction?
There are many threats to the lives of chimpanzees including habitat destruction, hunting, and disease. As the human population increases, we are logging and expanding agriculture, destroying their habitats and homes. A sad truth is that hunting and poaching chimps has always been popular and are even used as a source of meat, thriving on the market for bushmeat. As we encroach closer to chimpanzees, we are not only destroying the home around them, but giving them diseases that may be mild for humans, but lethal to chimps. The Ebola disease has even spread, killing tens of thousands of these great apes.
With these apes being so fascinating and strangely so similar to our own race, how are we allowing this slow extinction to happen? Amazing animals like the chimpanzee are helpless in the face of our destruction and should be helped in order for their survival.