Chimpanzees are our closest
nonhuman relatives in the animal kingdom, so it is no surprise that
a chimpanzee’s lifespan is similar to humans. In everyone’s lifespan
there are various stages in our lives that define us and by using
these stages we can see how similar we are to the chimpanzee.
Obviously, every event that happens in a chimpanzee’s life does not
occur in our own life, and there are lots of things that happen in
our life that don’t happen in a chimpanzee’s life. However, this
highlights how some important aspects of chimpanzees’ lives relate
to our lives.
Starting at the beginning of any
animal’s lifespan. Female chimpanzees’ pregnancies can last about
230 days, whereas in humans we have a longer pregnancy that lasts us
about 280 days! When a chimpanzee is born they are helpless, with
little to no grasping abilities, so parental care mostly from the
mother is crucial at this point in time. Humans are the same in this
instance since babies are also born helpless and we depend on our
mother for care. However, a baby chimpanzee is born with a cute pink
face and white hair tuft on their backside that disappears with age.
The baby chimp also does not have a full coat of fur; rather their
fur grows in and thickens into maturity. Think about how similar
this actually is to humans, although we may not be born with a white
tuft of fur or a pink face, we are born with baby features.
Sometimes human baby’s hair and eye color changes as they age and we
gain more hair as we age.
chimpanzee is then carried by the mother on her front side for 3 to
6 months and as the baby grows they begin to ride around on their
mother’s back. Even we humans are carried around when we are babies
until we are stable enough to walk on our own. You have probably
seen a mother holding her baby while waiting in line or maybe you
have seen her hold her baby in a holder that rests on her back or in
the front of her. Around the age of 2 years the baby chimp will
start to venture from their mother and explore independently, yet
they still will not move beyond an area of around 16 feet from her.
At around age 3 they will expand their exploratory area and move
farther and farther away from their mother.
When we were babies, we did not
stay with our mother as closely as chimpanzee babies do. From the
moment we are born there are times that we are 16 feet or farther
away from our mother.
Chimpanzees are weaned when they
are between 3.5 and 4.5 years old. Weaning is when the mother no
longer provides her milk to the young animal, and they begin to eat
the same food that the older animals do. The age of weaning in
humans depends on where we live, our culture, and our mother’s
choice. At ages 4 to 5 chimpanzees begin sleeping on their own,
making their own nests. We normally sleep in our own crib or bed
close to mom from the time we are born.
During the juvenile period, from
about six to nine years old, chimpanzees remain close to their
mother but play independently and have greater social interactions
with other community members. Think about how your life changed
during these years and how much you grew up! We have social ties
and interactions with other individuals throughout our infancy. We
communicate and play with others. Typically at around 4 years old,
we will go to school but are still kept under the supervision of
Young typically travel all the time
with their mother until they reach puberty. Puberty is a stage in
life when physical changes happen allowing the individual to
reproduce. Females usually go through puberty slightly earlier than
males. We don’t usually always travel with our mother until this
time like chimpanzees do. Around this age though, we are still
dependent on our parents living in their house, relying on them for
necessities, etc. Just as in chimpanzees, females usually go
through puberty earlier than males on average. At around age 7,
males become interested in establishing themselves in a dominance
hierarchy. Then at age 10 the males will split from their mother.
However, in humans a dominance hierarchy within a community group is
not seen in humans, as it is seen in chimpanzees. We do not gain
status in the way that chimpanzees do, although looking in our past
one might argue differently. Also in humans, the age in which a male
leaves his mother or home is quite varied but generally occurs when he is in his twenties.
chimpanzee males can have their first child around 15
years old, but females since they mature sooner can have
their first child between 13 and 14 years old. They can
even have a child every 3 to 5 years! In humans,
depending on the culture a person was raised in, can
have a child this young but typically they do not until
later in life. Also in humans the time between a human
having one baby and the next baby varies tremendously
depending on the parent’s preferences. As a chimpanzee
ages, both females and males, begin getting grey hair at
the top of the head and can even begin to bald. This is
true for humans as well, but balding is much more common
This now brings us to the end of
the lifespan. In chimpanzees both males and females have been seen
to reproduce until death. In humans due to our given average life
expectancy, neither males nor females usually have children until
death, although males technically can father a child when they are
very old. Chimpanzee’s average wild life expectancy is 45 years old.
Our average life expectancy can depend on a lot of different
factors. Generally, it is between 60 and 70 years old.
Message from CAC'ers
When we traveled to Tanzania, we got to see
chimpanzees of all ages! This was very exciting for us
because we got to see chimpanzees, ranging from newborns to
adults that were old and grey. The newborns stuck close to
mom, nursing and playing. All of us thought this was the most adorable
thing ever and remembered playing with our parents when we
We also saw a female chimpanzee, almost at
the age where she would become independent from her mother,
call out for mom when they got separated. We waited
anxiously to see if mom would give into her daughter’s
whining. We also knelt down and relaxed near an old grey
male as he lay in the grass of the forest being groomed by
It was cool to hang out as a group of
friends, watching while a chimpanzee socialized with one of
his old companions!