Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives and we share 98.4% of the same genes.
It is now thought that the human and chimpanzee lineages split and we became separate species no more than 5.4 million years ago. Since that time chimpanzees have acquired more genetic changes and have evolved more than humans. They have not developed the capability for speech as we understand it but this does not prevent them from communicating. In a number of respects they are superior to us, particularly in terms of strength, awareness and locomotion. In the absence of technology they are better adapted to their environment.
Incredibly chimps are more closely related to us than they are to any of the other apes and monkeys.
Although chimps do not have complex speech this does not mean that they have nothing to say. They convey their thoughts and feelings to others by way of facial expressions, gestures and noises of which at least 24 specific ones are known. They do share our ability to laugh and show their appreciation of a joke.
When we speak of having ideas, feelings, perceptions, prejudices, ambitions, frustration, anger, sympathy, tolerance, character, and talent or of being manipulative, influential, or even power hungry, we could be talking about a chimpanzee.
They not only fashion and use tools of various kinds but they innovate and solve problems that they have never seen before.
Chimps do not like to enter water and find it difficult to swim because of their heavy bone and muscle structure. A full grown chimpanzee is on average six times stronger than a man and can pull a deeply embedded six inch nail from a piece of wood using it's fingers alone.
Unlike Orang Utangs they are not strictly vegetarian and in the wild they occasionally organise hunting parties to catch other small animals and monkeys to supplement their diet.
Chimps are known to seek out and eat specific plants for their medicinal effects, and they pass on their " herbalist remedies " to the next generation.
Chimps are quick to learn about their environment, the daily routines, how things work, who does what, and how everyone and everything fits in to their understanding of their world. In other words they really know what is going on around them to a remarkable degree.
Unlike other animals which may mimic sounds, or actions, chimpanzees can take the next step and use this ability to satirise, convey sarcasm, pass comment, annoy and tease. They clearly enjoy the reactions which they can provoke in others. Just as in humans this "sense of humour", or as some would say "naughtiness", is more evident in some individuals than in others.
Young chimps are not weaned until they are approaching three years of age. In the wild they receive constant parental care for at least five years, during which time they are taught the essential lessons of survival. Many chimps born in captivity are rejected by their mother at an early age and miss out in these formative years to the extent that they could not fend for themselves if released.
Chimps , like humans, approach maturity and are able to reproduce from the age of eleven or twelve onwards and pregnancies last just under nine months
Chimpanzees are an endangered species who's numbers have declined from millions to the present 200,000 in fifty years. The most worrying thing is that the rate of decline in the wild is accelerating and many of the 200,000 chimpanzee population are now living in scattered territories which are too small to be viable in the longer term.