Chimpanzees are large primates with long black hairs that cover their bodies sparely, exception for their palms, their faces, and the soles of their two feet. The parts of their bodies that are hairless are colored light to dark brown, depending on the individual's age. They have large ears and over their eyes is a heavy brow-ridge. Chimpanzees have good sight and can see in color. Their fingers are long and they have an opposable big toe. With arms longer than their legs, chimpanzees are able to get about on all fours, known as knuckle-walking. They have 32 teeth, very similar to human teeth.
Chimpanzees inhabit tropical forests in central Africa and are found from Uganda in the east to Gambia in the west, except for the area bordered by the Lualaba and Congo rivers in central Zaire (Congo). These primates inhabit a range of different areas, from tropical, humid rainforests to dryer and more arid savanna and open woodland areas.
Chimpanzees are very sociable animals, active during daylight hours, and spending their time feeding, grooming and playing with the members of their group. The size of a group can range from 15 to 120, depending on the habitat and how much food is available. They are very territorial with no tolerance for outsiders, and can even kill an individual from another group. At night chimpanzees make nests in trees by bending branches to construct a safe platform where they can sleep, building a new nest each day. Although a lot of time is spent sleeping and eating up in the trees, usually they travel on the ground along a network of path, balancing on their knuckles.
The chimpanzee is omnivorous and eats a huge variety of food. The main part of their diet consists of fruits, flowers and seeds picked from trees. They also eat insects such as termites and ants, extracted from their nests by means of a stick. They also use chewed leaves to soak up water like a sponge, drinking the water from the leaf.
There is no clear breeding season for chimpanzees, and mating can take place at any time of the year, with babies born in any season. Gestation lasts for about 8 months and then a single infant is born. The mother and her baby remain in continual contact during their first year. At two years old, young chimpanzees are able to sit independently and move about. They are weaned by 4 to 6 years. They learn survival skills by observing their mother to find out what to eat, how to build nests and make tools. Playing with other young chimpanzees allows them to practice grooming as well as wrestling skills. Females at 13 years of age are thought to be ready to reproduce, while males reach sexual maturity at about 16 years old.
The chimpanzee is on the IUCN list as being endangered in its natural habitat. Its biggest threats come from habitat destruction, disease and poaching. The illegal exotic pet trade provides incentives to poachers to hunt chimpanzees. Adults are killed for bushmeat or so that the poacher can take young chimpanzees to sell as pets.
According to IUCN Red List, as of 2003, the total Common chimpanzee population size was estimated to be 172,700–299,700 apes. Four subspecies of the Common chimpanzee have been recognized and current estimates for each subspecies are following: Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee - fewer than 6,000–9,000, Eastern chimpanzee - 181,000–256,000, Central chimpanzee – 140,000, Western chimpanzee - 18,000–65,000. Overall, currently Common chimpanzees are classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are decreasing.
Chimpanzees, as predators, may have a role in controlling the populations of their prey. They have a large impact on the red colobus monkey, bush pigs and baboons by predating them. Chimpanzees may help with the dispersal of seeds of certain plants, through transportation, or by eating the fruit.