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4 Types of Chimpanzees: Subspecies, Facts and Photos

Chimpanzees, primates that share a close lineage with humans, are among the most threatened species on our planet. Recognizing and understanding the different types of chimpanzees is crucial to ensuring their survival. Read on to learn more.

Chimpanzee Classification

Chimpanzees fall under the Genus Pan, within the Primate Order and the Homini tribe, sharing these classifications with humans. 

Research from George Washington University in 2017 posited that our evolutionary paths diverged roughly 8 million years ago1. The upcoming discussion will offer more insights into the subspecies of these primates.

Related Read: Chimpanzee Facts.

4 Types of Chimpanzee Subspecies

1. Central Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes)

central chimpanzee
Photo by วิชิต กองคำ on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Central Chimpanzee, a resident of moist lowland forests and swamps, has a broad geographical range from the Ubangi River in the east to the Sanaga River in northwest Cameroon. 

This type of chimpanzee shifts its diet with population and seasons. Ripe fruit, young leaves, bark, and stems are prime choices; consumption of mammals, including other primates, is occasional. Community sizes can reach 64-71 individuals. 

Unfortunately, the Central Chimpanzee is an endangered species3, with threats of poaching and disease casting long shadows. 

They exhibit a slow life history with a generation time estimated at 25 years and, hence, are unable to sustain high mortality levels. The persistent poaching problem across Central Africa likely implies unnoticed but significant population declines.

2. Eastern Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)

eastern chimpanzee
Photo by Bernard DUPONT on Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Eastern Chimpanzee is a significant subspecies extensively researched by Dr. Jane Goodall at Gombe Stream National Park. The natural habitat of these chimpanzees spans from the southeast Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to west Uganda and Tanzania.

They are primarily found in lowland tropical forests and forest galleries extending to savanna woodlands. Oscillating between various diets based on the season, half includes ripe fruit, but leaves, bark, and stems also present crucial sustenance. Eastern chimpanzees, being social creatures, form large communities, numbering between 20 to 150 individuals. 

Sadly, Eastern Chimpanzees are endangered2, suffering a significant population reduction over the past two to three decades, particularly in the DRC. The driving factors include rampant poaching, habitat destruction, degradation, disease outbreaks, mining, and the aggravating effects of climate change.

3. Western Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus)

Western Chimpanzee
Photo by Lavillé koivogui on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Western Chimpanzee hails from West Africa - you can spot them from Senegal to Ghana. They thrive in varied habitats, be it dry and moist lowland tropical forests or forest galleries creeping into savannah woodlands.

Their diet is as diverse as their habitat. They are omnivorous, favoring fruits and sometimes leaves or bark. Mammals and insects also enter their platter, while dietary preferences vary among communities and seasons. 

Populations of these subspecies form communities of about 12 to 84 individuals. Alarmingly, Western Chimpanzees are critically endangered5, with a steep drop of 6.53% yearly from 1990 to 2014. Primary threats include habitat destruction due to human activities, bushmeat poaching, and infectious diseases. 

4. Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti)

The Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee inhabits areas from Cameroon to Nigeria. Its common dwellings are the primary and secondary lowland forests, along with savanna woodland. 

Their diet largely consists of fruits, supplemented by leaves, bark, and animal matter. These creatures use plant parts to extract insects and stone hammers to crack nuts. They're also known to hunt monkeys and other mammals for food.

Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee has the smallest population and geographic range4, thus earning endangered status. Factors such as farming, logging, fire, and commercial plantations, all accounted for by human activity, reduce the quality of their habitat. Illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade poses another threat. 

Despite the escalating issues, increased conservation efforts in the last two decades offer these primates a ray of hope.

1

Diogo, R., Molnár, J., & Wood, B. (2017). Bonobo anatomy reveals stasis and mosaicism in chimpanzee evolution, and supports bonobos as the most appropriate extant model for the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans. Scientific Reports, 7(1).

2

Plumptre, A., Hart, J.A., Hicks, T.C., Nixon, S., Piel, A.K. & Pintea, L. (2016). Pan troglodytes ssp. schweinfurthii (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T15937A102329417. 

3

Maisels, F., Strindberg, S., Greer, D., Jeffery, K., Morgan, D.L. & Sanz, C. (2016). Pan troglodytes ssp. troglodytes (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T15936A102332276. 

4

Oates, J.F., Doumbe, O., Dunn, A., Gonder, M.K., Ikemeh, R., Imong, I., Morgan, B.J., Ogunjemite, B. & Sommer, V. (2016). Pan troglodytes ssp. ellioti. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T40014A17990330. 

5

Humle, T., Boesch, C., Campbell, G., Junker, J., Koops, K., Kuehl, H. & Sop, T. (2016). Pan troglodytes ssp. verus (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T15935A102327574. 

By Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Isabela is a determined millennial passionate about continuously seeking out ways to make an impact. With a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering with honors, Isabela’s research expertise and interest in artistic works, coupled with a creative mindset, offers readers a fresh take on different environmental, social, and personal development topics.

Photo by Deny Hill on Unsplash.
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