Western and central Africa


Tropical rain forest, lowland and mountain forests

The knuckle-walker

Chimpanzees are very familiar to us humans, perhaps because so much of their behavior reminds us of ourselves. They are considered great apes, just like gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos. Their distinctive mode of travel—walking on the sole of each foot and the knuckles of their hands—have earned them the title of knuckle-walkers.

Take a good look

There is no hair on a chimpanzee’s face, hands, or feet, but the rest of its body is covered with either long black or brown hair. Unlike other primates such as monkeys and baboons, chimps don’t have a tail. But they do have large ears that stick out a bit, which helps them hear other chimps in a dense forest. Like humans, chimps have opposable thumbs to help them grasp branches or grab a bite to eat, as well as fingernails and toenails.

Chimpanzees don’t like to be in water and usually can’t swim.
Some observers have noted chimpanzees feeding on medicinal plants when they are ill or injured.
Research has shown that chimpanzees and humans share 98 percent of their genes.
Chimpanzees can recognize themselves in a mirror.
Chimpanzees make a grunting sound when they are happy. A toothy "grin" actually indicates fear or anxiety.

San Diego Zoo Global does not have chimpanzees in its collection at this time.

Because they are so smart, chimps have been involved in many scientific studies, and unfortunately some people keep them as pets. Taking them from the wild has caused a decline in their populations. People also hunt chimps for food (bushmeat) or to protect their crops from being eaten by hungry chimps. These conditions, plus loss of habitat, have resulted in the chimpanzee being an endangered animal.

You can help us bring species like chimpanzees back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.