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The Bonobo (formerly known as the “lesser chimpanzee”) is one of the two great ape species forming the genus Pan and is endemic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Male adult bonobos reach a height of 73-88 cm and weigh about 40 kg, while females are slightly smaller and tend to weigh around 30kg. Bonobos live in large groups of up to 100 individuals. These groups can divide up into smaller sub-groups which separate and come together again (fission-fusion organisation). Unlike chimpanzees, in bonobo society the females are dominant over the males and establish a social hierarchy, and the status of a male appears to be derived from his mothers hierarchical position. Sexual interactions play an important social role in bonobo society, and appear to be important in forming social bonds, resolving conflict and in greeting. Bonobos are diurnal and they build tree nests to sleep in each night. On the ground bonobos are knuckle-walkers but they can also walk bipedally, and they are very adept at moving around in the trees. Bonobos are frugivorous, but they appear to consume more herbaceous plants than chimpanzees do. They also consume small vertebrates and invertebrates, and hunting of monkeys and duikers has also been reported. The lifespan of bonobos in the wild is unknown but in captivity they can live for 40 years. Females have an inter-birth interval of 5-6 years, giving birth to 5-6 infants during their lifetime. There are estimated to be less than 50,000 bonobos remaining in the wild, but accurate population estimates are difficult to obtain. Together with the common chimpanzee, bonobos are the closest living relatives to humans, sharing 98.7 % of their DNA.
Gorillas inhabit a variety of environments across equatorial Africa from montane forest to lowland swamp. They can be divided into two species: the Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and the Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei), and both include two subspecies. Physically gorillas are the largest amongst the great apes, with adult males reaching a height of 160-180 cm and a weight of 140-230 kg. Gorillas are very social animals that typically live in groups of between 2 and 40 individuals, although western gorillas tend to live in smaller groups than their eastern counterparts. Normally a group consists of one mature adult male (the silverback) who leads the group, and several females and their offspring. Similar to chimpanzees and bonobos, female gorillas leave their natal group at sexual maturity to join another group or a solitary male. In the case of death of the resident silverback the group either disbands or another male becomes dominant. Gorillas are diurnal and they build new nests for day and night use every day. Whilst western gorillas nest both in trees and on the ground, the majority of eastern gorilla nests are constructed on the ground and tree nests are rare in this species. Eastern gorillas are largely herbivorous and their diet consists mainly of leaves and herbs, but western gorillas also consume a large amount of fruit and have a diet more similar to that of chimpanzees. Gorillas live for around 35 years and females have an inter-birth interval of approximately 4 years, giving birth to 3-4 infants in their lifetime. There are estimated to be over 100,000 gorillas left in the wild, but accurate population estimates are difficult to obtain. Gorilla DNA is about 97.7 % identical to human DNA.
Together with the bonobo the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) makes up the genus Pan. Chimpanzees are divided into four subspecies which occur in different regions from West to Eastern Africa. Chimpanzees do not only inhabit tropical rainforests, but also dry savannah and mountainous regions up to 3000 metres. Adult males can reach 1.7m in height when standing and weigh up to 70 kg, but females are somewhat smaller. Chimpanzees live in big multi-male multi-female groups of up to 150 individuals. Like bonobos these groups have a fission-fusion-organisation: they temporarily split up into smaller subgroups, e.g. for foraging, and then come together again. There is a strong dominance hierarchy within the group and males are dominant over females. In the trees chimpanzees use legs and arms to climb or to swing from branch to branch, and on the ground they move by knuckle-walking. Chimpanzees are diurnal and build new tree nests every night. Chimpanzees are well known for their use of tools in obtaining food: they use stones to crack open nuts; and modify sticks to extract termites from underground or to get honey from bee hives. As these skills are not innate and have to be learned from older group members, they are considered as a cultural and biological heritage of this species. Chimpanzees hunt cooperatively and are highly territorial, and fatal war-like interactions with other communities has been reported. Chimpanzees are ripe fruit specialists, but they also consume nuts and leaves, in addition to insects and small mammals including monkeys and duikers. Chimpanzees live for up to 40 years and females have an inter-birth interval of about 5 years, so on average a female chimpanzee gives birth to about 3 infants during her lifetime. There are estimated to be between 170,000 and 300,000 chimpanzees remaining in the wild, but accurate population estimates are difficult to obtain. Together with the bonobos, chimpanzees are the closest living relatives to humans, sharing 98.7 % of their DNA.
Orangutans are the only genus of great apes occurring in Asia, and they are divided into two species that are each endemic to the islands Borneo (Pongo pygmaeus) and Sumatra (Pongo abelii) in Southeast Asia. The three distinct populations of orangutans on Borneo have recently been split into three subspecies. Adult male orangutans can reach a height of 1.5m and a weight 110 kg, while females are smaller and typically do not exceed 1.25m and 45kg. The two species differ slightly in physiology, nutrition and social behaviour. Orangutans are largely solitary, and strong social bonds exist only between adult females and their offspring. Adults of both sexes either live as resident individuals in a defined home range or as transient individuals, and in defined ranges the dominant adult male is the primary breeder and protects the females in his territory from forced copulations. Like all apes orangutans are diurnal, but they are the most arboreal of the great apes, spending the majority of their time in the trees. In the trees they move by brachiation, and on the ground by quadrupedal fist-walking. Each night they build a nest in a tree for sleeping. Their diet mainly consists of fruits, but also of leaves, shoots and bark. Consumption of insects, bird’s eggs or small vertebrates is rare. Orangutans live for around 35 years but females have the longest inter-birth interval (8 years) of all the apes and a low fertility rate of 2-4 infants, making them particularly vulnerable to population decline. There are estimated to be around 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, but accurate population estimates are difficult to obtain. Their DNA is about 97 % identical to human DNA.
Gibbons are part of the biological superfamily Hominoidea and form the sister group to humans and great apes. Differing from humans and great apes in the number of diploid chromosomes, cranial form and body size, they are also known as the lesser apes. Gibbons form the family of Hylobatidae which can be divided into four genera: Hoolock, Hylobates, Symphalangus and Nomascus and their numerous subgenera; and they inhabit a wide range of habitats across Southeast Asia. Depending on the species adult size ranges between 45-90 cm and weight between 5-12 kg, and there is little sexual dimorphism in body size between males and females. Fur coloration varies from black to light yellow, sometimes with distinctive, mask-like colorations on the face. Contrary to the other ape species, gibbons display pair bonding and live in family groups consisting of one monogamous adult pair and their offspring. Gibbons are diurnal but unlike the great apes they do not build nests, and at night they rest on branches in the trees. They are ripe fruit specialists, but also consume leaves, insects and even birds. Gibbons are well known for their singing behaviour (which is used for both territorial defence and mate attraction) and their mode of arboreal locomotion, known as “brachiation”. When on the ground gibbons walk bipedally, and except for humans they are the only Hominoidea to do this. Gibbons live for 25-30 years and have an inter-birth interval of about 2 years. They share 95 % of the human genome, meaning they show the earliest divergence from the Hominidea superfamily.