Chimpanzee Habitat

Just like us, chimpanzees require a diet of various types of foods. Their diet includes fruits, such as Saba Florida, nuts, leaves, and even meat!



Think about all of the different foods that you eat and where you get these foods. Well a chimp cannot go to a grocery store, which means their habitat, has to hold all of these foods, which means they should have a high biodiversity. A forest with high biodiversity is often a very healthy forest capable of supporting many forms of wildlife, including chimpanzees and the food they need. If the forest doesnít have enough food, chimpanzees will move to where there is food.



Chimpanzees can benefit the forest as well. This type of relationship, where both parties benefit, is called a mutualistic relationship.


One example of this relationship involves the African Nutmeg plant. Chimps will eat the whole African Nutmeg to help them when they have an upset stomach. After they eat the nut, the nut will travel through their digestive system to strip off the fuzzy outer layer After the chimpanzee poops out the hard nut (ewww!) the nut can now grow into a seedling because the chimpanzeeís digestive system took off the outside of the seed.


Chimpanzees are only found on one continent in the world. They live in the dense jungle forest of Africa. Older forests tend to make the best habitats for them because more plant species have had time to grow and fill in the layers of the forest. This is important because chimpanzees rely on forests with many layers.


The layers of the forest begin with the ground layer, otherwise known as the forest floor, moving up is the understory, the canopy, and the emergent layer which pops up above the canopy layer at the very top. Chimpanzees use many of these layers, but can be found mostly on the ground layer or in the understory. Chimpanzees sometime use the canopy layer of the forest to look out for other chimps, predators, or to chase red colobus monkeys that they can eat. Chimps use all of the layers of the forest in many ways, for example, the young chimps will use the intertwining branches and vines like a large jungle gym while their mothers groom others and watch them. Think about when you play with other kids on a team or on the playground. You will be playing with the other kids while all of your mothers are talking to each other watching to make sure you donít get into trouble, just like the chimpanzees!


The lower layers of the forest are used by the chimps to travel far distances. Here they can also find some low growing food. Chimps will spend about the same amount of time in each layer of the forest except at night where they will sleep in trees. 


Tropical forests donít have four seasons like most of us are used to; instead they have only two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season. During the rainy season there is a lot of water for plants to use so they can grow new leaves, branches, and fruits for chimpanzees use and consume for food. During the dry season the plants donít have as much water so they donít grow as much but they stay green. When itís the rainy season the chimps will travel out of the mountains and travel to the low lands to eat rainy season fruits and some of the insects and other animals that gather to eat from this forest buffet. When itís the dry season there is less food for the chimp to eat so the whole troop will have to travel to other areas in order to find food. This means that chimps need large forests to live in to make sure they have enough food to eat all year.


Chimps also visit other areas like swamps, savannas and woodlands to find other sources of food to eat. Iím sure you can tell chimps like to move around and eat a lot of food!




Message from CAC'ers


We hiked through the forests of Gombe and Mahale and witnessed firsthand the chimpanzees making nests. We also got to sample Saba Florida (left), one of the fruits that chimpanzees eat.


Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.