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Great Apes


Along with the chimpanzee, the bonobo is man’s closest living relative. Although bonobos are roughly the same height as chimpanzees, they are much more slender with a flatter face and higher forehead. Bonobos exhibit reddish lips and are born with black hair and black faces, and like baby chimps are born with a white tail tuft. The hair on bonobos foreheads is characteristically parted in the middle and unlike chimps they do not go bald with age.


The chimpanzee along with the bonobo are humans’ closest living relative and share around 98% of our genes. Chimpanzees exhibit very little morphological differences between subspecies although there are differences between males and females. Chimpanzees have longer arms than legs and opposable thumbs and big toes. Chimpanzees are all black but are born with pale faces and a white tail tuft, both of which darken with age.


Gorillas are the largest primate species alive today. Adult males can weigh up to 200 kg while adult females weigh approximately half that. Compared to other great apes, gorillas have a much broader chest, heavier necks and fine dark brown coats. A major difference between eastern and western gorillas is that western gorillas are lighter, it is thought this helps to climb trees to eat fruit which plays a much bigger role in western gorilla’s diets.


South East Asia is home to two species of orangutan; the Sumatran and Bornean orangutan. Both species spend almost all of their time in trees and have distinctive body shapes with longer arms than legs and coarse shaggy red hair. Geographically isolated on two separate islands, these great apes show obvious physical differences between the species, with the Sumatran orangutans being more gracile, with elongated faces and a paler and longer-haired coat.