Learn About Primates

This lesson is inspired by Social and Emotional learning (SEL) principles. In this lesson, students will learn what chimpanzees need to thrive and will recognize that each chimpanzee is an individual with unique feelings and needs.

What is a primate?

  • A primate is a type of mammal.
  • There are more 600 types of primates!
  • Primates are social, which means they like to live in groups with other primates.
  • Primates can use tools like sticks and stones.
  • Most primates are omnivorous, which means they eat plants and other animals.
  • Primates have hair like humans instead of fur like a dog or cat.

What is a Great Ape?

  • A Great Ape is a type of primate.
  • All Great Apes have thumbs that can bend to meet other fingers. Opposable thumbs help Great Apes climb trees, gather food, and use tools.
  • There are five types of Great Apes:
    • Chimpanzees
    • Gorillas
    • Orangutans
    • Bonobos
    • Humans

What is the difference between a Great Ape and a monkey?

  • Apes have bigger bodies than monkeys.
  • Monkeys have tails and apes do not.
  • Apes have short noses while monkeys have snout-like noses.
  • Apes have bigger brains than monkeys.
  • Apes are built for swinging through trees while most monkeys are built for running across branches.
  • Apes use tools and monkeys do not.

What is a chimpanzee?

  • A chimpanzee is a type of Great Ape.
  • Chimpanzees are humans’ closest living relative! They share more than 98% of their genes with you and me.
  • Chimp Haven treats each chimpanzee as an individual! Chimpanzees have likes, dislikes and big personalities just like you and me.
  • Chimpanzees in the wild live in Africa.
  • Chimpanzees have longer arms than legs so they walk on all four limbs. That’s called knuckle-walking.
  • Chimpanzees use tools like sticks to fish for ants and stones to crack open nuts.
  • Chimpanzees communicate like me and you. Hugging, patting on the back, and tickling to name a few!
  • Chimps make noises and use their bodies to show what they are feeling. What are some of the ways you show what you’re feeling?
  • One sound they make a lot is called a “pant-hoot.” Pant-hoots are used to communicate many different things, but it normally means the chimp is excited about something. Each chimpanzee’s pant-hoot is unique.
  • Chimpanzees laugh when they play.
  • Chimpanzees communicate like me and you. Hugging, patting on the back, and tickling to name a few! What are some of the ways that you communicate?
  • Chimpanzees usually sleep at night and are awake during the day, but like us they wake up at night sometimes, and even take naps during the day.

What is Chimp Haven?

  • Chimp Haven is a big sanctuary where chimpanzees live together in family groups, also known as troops.
  • Chimp Haven is located in Louisiana.
  • More than 300 chimpanzees live at Chimp Haven today!

Video: Learn how to do a chimpanzee pant-hoot, and share your own pant-hoot with us @ChimpHaven #panthootcrew

Do you want to work with primates when you grow up? Chimp Haven’s Behavior Coordinator, Leilani answers 11 questions about working with chimps!

Activity Sheet #1: Make your own chimpanzee tools at home

Activity Sheet #2: Connect the dots to see the difference between an ape and a monkey

Activity Sheet #3: How much do you know about primates? Challenge a friend with this game of Minute to Win It

Activity Sheet #4: Like humans, every chimpanzee has a unique personality and preferences. Learn about a few of the unique chimp individuals at Chimp Haven.

Dea uses a tool (a stick) to fish sugar-free applesauce out of an artificial termite mound at Chimp Haven