The chimpanzee is our closest living relative, sharing about 99 % of our DNA. It’s even thought that we have a common ancestor who lived sometime between 7-13 million years ago! Through research of we have been able to see some of the magical similarities between us and chimpanzees. We all have our own unique personalities, are incredibly social, can learn basic sign-language, and, most importantly use and make tools.
But despite this amazing connection, humans are the biggest threats to our cousins. Chimpanzees are now endangered because of our actions. Because of major increases in human populations, miles and mile s of their habitat is being destroyed, clearing space for city expansion, agriculture, roads, logging, and mining. This is making it harder and harder for the chimps to survive, forcing them to live in smaller and smaller spaces and putting a major strain on food options. This issue over food, in particular, has led to human-chimpanzee conflict. In their desperation to find enough to eat, the chimps are forced to come to human settlements to steal food, mainly easy to grab things such as fruit, but when things are really tough, they have been known to take children. Families retaliate by killing the chimps to stop any other attacks.
Chimps are also targeted by bushmeat hunters as they provide plenty of meat compared to other smaller animals. The hunters are also known to take the young in as their pets o r sell them on the illegal pet trade, a lifestyle that is never suitable for a wild animal .
With DNA so similar to our own it is not surprising that chimpanzees are susceptible to many of the same diseases that we are. Since the 1980s, Ebola has been a major threat killing hundreds of thousands of chimpanzees. More recently it has been found that they are also susceptible to Covid-19, a threat that has, thankfully, not yet had a devastating effect for our cousins.
There is so much we can learn from chimpanzees which in return, will help to unveil many of the secrets of ourselves. But for this, we must protect them before it’s too late. We must make room in our world for our cousins to flourish. Because only when we learn to live together will we all truly thrive.