Chimpanzees, also known as chimps are some of the man’s nearest existing relatives along with great apes like bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. Chimpanzees share more than 98.7 percent of their DNA with man. This is displayed in their level of intelligence, including use of tools for example crushing nuts with stones, great communication skills and a body structure that greatly resembles that of human beings.
Chimpanzees are undeniably social mammals that live in groups called communities. These communities range from 10 to more than 50 members. Chimpanzee communities are led by a dominant male and also on a basis of fusion and fission. This is where communities split up into smaller groups (fission) salvage separately and at times join back together in the bigger group (fusion). Chimpanzees in the wild can live up to 50 years of age and can be slightly increased when in captivity to around 70 years.
Chimpanzees thrive widely across Africa from West Africa to Tanzania towards eastern corner of the continent. They inhabit a range of habitats and elevations from rainforests, to savanna and swamp forests with elevations of up to 2,750 meters above sea level. Chimpanzees can be found in the forests of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania among other countries. Though they are evenly spread across the continent, chimpanzees are listed as endangered and this is mainly due to poaching and encroaching on their former habitats.
The diet of chimpanzees
Chimpanzees are omnivores that largely depend on plant matter like fruits, flowers, leaves and nuts. This adds up to more than half of their diet, drawing their energy from this diet. However, since they are omnivores, their diet varies and includes meat depending on where they are foraging and the availability of food in that area.
Their meat diet ranges from insects, smaller mammals like bushbucks, small antelopes, monkeys as well as reptiles and amphibians.
The fact that chimpanzees eat meat has raised the curiosity to understand if chimpanzees can eat humans. Chimpanzees are naturally afraid of humans in the wild and tend to keep a safe distance from them. However, there are documented incidents of chimpanzees attacking, greatly injuring and killing people, particularly in remote parts of Africa. In most cases, chimpanzees direct their violent and predatory behavior on infants or children because they are more afraid of the bigger adults particularly men as stated by National Geographic.
Records show incidents where chimpanzees have kidnapped, killed and eaten human babies. However, these cases were determined as out-of-the-way and reckless attacks planned by individual chimpanzees. In addition, there is a record where a sole chimpanzee killed up to seven children before it was exterminated by the local community.
However, attacks on humans often occur in places they encroached on chimpanzee habitats decreasing their access to food. Chimpanzees eventually then take to stealing farm food such as fruits, vegetables, and other crops bringing them into contact with human beings and in the process gain confidence around them. This then creates unfortunate opportunities where they can prey on helpless and unattended infants in the bush or nearby communities.
This answers the question of whether chimpanzees can eat humans. The answer is yes even though it’s very rare and they would rather run away than confront people.
Chimpanzees almost cover their diet needs from feeding on plant matter and invertebrates than on meat. Chimpanzees however occasionally resort to meat as a source of micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins not found in plants or if found, they are in fewer quantities. There is no concrete evidence that chimpanzees need meat for survival or as an alternative to their herbivore diet.
Kibale forest national park in Uganda and Nyungwe national park in Rwanda are some of the best two destinations to trek eastern chimpanzees. Trekking chimpanzees will give you a better opportunity to learn more about interesting facts about these beings - man’s closest relative of all primates like their diet, social structure, life span and so much more.
Plan a chimpanzee trekking safari to one of these destinations and find out more about chimpanzees as well as getting a personal chimpanzee adventure of your own.