Have you ever wondered why chimpanzees don't swim? If you've ever seen them in a zoo, many times they are on an island surrounded by a moat and you wonder why they don't just swim away to escape. They aren't good swimmers because they can't float well. They have very little body fat and muscular, stocky bodies, so swimming is difficult for them. They do, however, like to play in the water.
The chimpanzee has few natural enemies. The biggest threat they face is not from large, predatory animals, but from humans. Habitat loss, which leads to interference with their reproduction, and hunting for their meat, although illegal, continues to take chimpanzees out of the wild so much so that they are listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They cannot defend themselves from the the menaces from man, but they can defend themselves quite well against natural enemies.
Why They Fight
Chimpanzees fight for territory, food and, to a lesser extent, to protect their mates or offspring. The decision to attack a troop of chimpanzees over territory that may offer an abundance of food depends more on the number of the chimps in the troop, rather than the size of the individual chimpanzees. Though high up on the food chain, chimpanzees are prey to big cats, such as lions, cheetahs and leopards, as well as crocodiles and pythons. Chimps will climb tall trees to escape a predator, but if that doesn't work, they can use their extraordinary strength and teeth.
How They Fight
Though chimpanzees share 95 to 98 percent of their DNA with humans, according to chimpanzee advocate and expert Dr. Jane Goodall, their musculo-skeletal physiology is different. Their muscles are made of strong, linear fibers much closer to the bone than it is in humans. It's denser and stronger than in humans. Chimps do not have exquisite muscle control like men, so their attacks may be more brutal than even they intend for them to be, sometimes killing a foe when that was never their intent. This may explain why some chimpanzees kept as pets have killed or injured their owners.
Chimpanzees use their strong bite and fangs to subdue an opponent. Using their strong muscles, they grapple, slam and wrestle their victims to the ground. They hit, kick, stomp, pull on fur and drag their victims. Chimpanzees are able to defend themselves, or begin a fight, by using their great intelligence. When working as a troop, they plan impressive maneuvers and deception to outfox their enemies.
- The Jane Goodall Institute of Canada: FAQS
- Science Ray: Chimps
- Discovery News: Why Do Chimps Attack?
- ABC News: Chimpanzees vs. Humans: Sizing Up Their Strength
- Save The Chimps: Chimp Facts
- International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: Red List; Pan Troglodytes
- New Science: Chimpanzees Kill to Win New Territory
- Science Direct: Animal Behavior
- All About Wildlife: Chimpanzee Enemies
- Creature Catalog: Chimpanzee
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.