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The Great Apes


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Chimpanzees and bonobos each stand about 4 feet tall.  The two species are believed to be man’s closest relatives, sharing more than 98% of their DNA in common.  Bonobos walk upright more often than other great apes, have a more slender body than chimps, and often have pink lips and a shock of hair surrounding their dark faces. Chimpanzees live in 21 countries of Africa, whereas bonobos live solely in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bornean and Sumatran orangutans are found in Asia, and are bigger than chimps or bonobos.  They, too, are high intelligent animals, but considerably slower-moving and more likely to be solitary.  Both species are endangered by habitat loss and conversion of forests to palm oil plantations.  In fact, some scientists project that Bornean orangutans could become extinct over the next decade unless drastic efforts are made to protect their habitats.


The Eastern gorillas include two subspecies: mountain gorillas, and eastern lowland gorillas.  The mountain gorillas number fewer than 1,000 and are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda.  They are the gorillas studied by the late Dian Fossey.  Populations of the eastern lowland gorillas are also endangered, and have suffered severe losses in the past ten to twenty years.  Eastern gorillas have an exaggerated “hyper-prognathism” of the skull, making their head appear very elongated.  Western gorillas include two subspecies: the CrossRiver gorillas than likely number fewer than 300, and the western lowland gorillas.  Grown gorilla males (silverbacks) can stand more than 5 feet tall and weigh 450 pounds in the wild.