Chimpanzees are surprisingly humanlike in the way they use tools to find food, show affection to others in their group and pick up objects with their opposable thumbs and fingers. Their hairless, expressive faces show a wide range of emotion, and they are highly intelligent and trainable animals, as demonstrated by the chimps used and sent by NASA into space. Chimps are born and die, as with all creatures, and their existence on earth plays an important role in the delicate balance of nature.
Once a female chimpanzee becomes pregnant, gestation lasts about 230 days, after which time the infant chimp is born and breast-fed by the mother. Lactation occurs for quite a long time, two to four years, sometimes even longer.
The Young Chimpanzee
For the first two years or so of a young chimpanzee's life, it clings to its mother's back and is dependent upon her for nearly everything. By about four years old, a young chimpanzee has learned to walk and begins to be weaned by its mother.
Learning Survival Skills
Young and adolescent chimpanzees form lasting attachments to their mothers. As they head to adulthood, they are constantly learning about their environment. Chimpanzees are social and busy themselves by grooming other members of their group, looking for food and swinging through trees. They move along on the ground, using their familiar "knuckle-walk" and prepare nests at night for sleeping.
Ready for Mating
Around 13 years of age, female chimpanzees are ready to reproduce. They typically give birth to one infant at a time. Males aren't usually considered adults until they turn 16. When a female comes into estrus, she is surrounded by a frenzy of eager males and often mates indiscriminately. Occasionally, a partnership between one female and one male occurs in a more quiet and private fashion.
Several family groups make up a community of chimpanzees; a community can contain up to a hundred members. Technically, there is no designated leader of a chimpanzee community, but sometimes an older, experienced male is looked to as a leader of sorts.
The life span of a chimpanzee is anywhere between 25 to 45 years. As with humans, as a chimpanzee ages, it slows down and becomes prone to a host of problems associated with aging, such as loss of vision, teeth problems, arthritis and the like. Elderly chimpanzees, however, maintain their social ranking and are not normally given special attention by other members of the community.