Chimpanzees are relatively large primates that are nearly covered in black hair. They have long arms, short legs and opposable thumbs and toes. They are known for their intelligence and their remarkable resemblance to humans. Like humans, chimpanzees are able to form a number of facial expressions, they are also able to make rudimentary tools. What is quite interesting is that they are omnivorous, like humans, which makes them and their close cousins the bonobos, the only other members of the great ape family that eat meat. Even more interesting is the way they hunt for it.
Chimpanzees live in tropical rainforest, savanna and grasslands in Africa, where they spend about six hours each day, hunting or foraging for food. They seek mostly fruits and vegetables because meat only makes up about 3% of their overall food intake. Until the 1960’s when primatoligist Jane Goodall was studying chimpanzees, it was believed that these animals were strictly vegetarian. However, Goodall observed them actively hunting, killing and eating various prey and it became known that they were omnivorous.
Chimpanzees hunt alone or in groups of up to thirty-five individuals. The groups are typically made up of males, but females have been known to join the hunt and hunt on their own. They hunt prey both on the ground and in the trees, though they mostly hunt in the trees as red colobus monkeys are their favorite source of meat. The meat from the hunt is then shared among the chimps in the group’s community. Some experts believe that this sharing is part of the reason that chimps hunt when they could easily survive without the meat.
There are several theories that seem to explain why chimpanzees hunt. Some experts believe that it is a social behavior and that the sharing of the meat has a social significance. Others believe that they eat meat for nutrition purposes, though they seem to do okay without it. Whatever the reason is for the behavior, it is certainly proof that these creatures are very intelligent. Some chimps in the savanna have even been observed sharpening sticks with their teeth and using them to hunt bushbabies. Some scientists believe that this may even give us insight into the evolution of the human species.
Choi, Charles, Special to Live Science, 2/22/07, retrieved 9/18/09, livescience.com/animals/070222-chimp-hunters.html
Gunn, Cha Mia & Lifflick, Melissa & Mathis, Jocelyn, Chimpanzees, retrieved 9/18/09, earlham.edu/~mathijo/chimp.htm
Stanford, Dr. Craig B., The Predatory Behavior and Ecology of Wild Chimpanzees, retrieved 9/18/09, rcf.usc.edu/~stanford/chimphunt.html