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Intelligent and lively, the sociable chimpanzee shows an ability to learn as well as act instinctively. Its behavior could provide a clue to that of our early ancestors. The chimpanzee is the animal that resembles man most closely. It shares familiar human characteristics, such as problem-solving abilities, a high degree of parental care, and a variety of facial expressions.

Chimpanzees live in troops numbering between 25 and 80. Each troop has a dominant male. The troop’s home range varies in size from seven to eight square miles in forest to 40 to 75 in open country. Active by day, the chimpanzee sleeps at night in a nest that it makes in a tree, well above the ground, safe from its predators. Chimps stay mainly in trees during the wet season and on the ground when it is dry.

The chimp has two intensive feeding periods every day, early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Fruits of all kinds make up the majority of the chimpanzee’s diet. It will also eat insects and honey. It gets most of the water it needs from fruit.

Breeding takes place year round. When one of the females in the group comes into season, she will mate with several different males. The males show no signs of competition between themselves. Female chimpanzees have menstrual cycles much like humans, and come into estrus every 36 days unless they are pregnant. They give birth about every three years, after a gestation period of seven to eight months. The young chimp is carried everywhere for its first five months, and is dependent on its mother for two years. By the time the youngster is 4 years old, it spends most of its time with other chimpanzees close to its own age. The young chimp reaches sexual maturity at 8 to 10 years old.

The chimpanzee’s survival is more threatened by man than by anything else. Chimpanzees were driven away when large human populations took over their habitats. Today, hunting and trapping of chimpanzees for zoos and experimental use is a highly profitable business in several parts of Africa. Because of their biological and behavioral similarities to humans, chimpanzees have been used extensively for testing drugs. There is growing opposition to this practice, but it is still widespread.