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Life in the wild presents many challenges for chimpanzees. They have complex social systems, and daily use their considerable mental skills for their survival. They are presented with a multitude of choices in their natural habitat, and exercise highly developed social skills. For instance, males aspire to attain a high position of dominance within the hierarchy of chimpanzee society, and consequently low-ranking individuals must learn the art of deception, doing things in secret to satisfy their own needs.

Researchers have discovered that chimpanzees experience a full range of emotions, from joy to grief, fear, anger, and curiosity. Chimps also have a relatively good ability to learn and understand concepts and the elements of language.

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Photograph by Kennan Ward. Stock Market. Reproduced by permission.

Chimpanzees have a sophisticated social organization. They band together in groups, which vary in size and the age of its members. Between 15 and 120 individuals will form a community, with generally twice as many adult females as adult males in the group. The range and territory of a particular group depends on the number of sexually mature males.

Chimps generally do not travel as an entire social unit. Instead, they move around in smaller groups of three to six individuals. While travelling about, individuals may separate and join other chimpanzees. Temporary bonds with other chimps are created by an abundant food source, or by a female in estrus. The strongest social bond is between a mother and her young. Offspring that are under eight years of age are always found with their mother.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Chimaeras to ClusterChimpanzees - Chimpanzee Species And Habitat, Physical Characteristics, Behavior, Parenting, Eating Habits, Communication, Jane Goodall's Observations