Chimpanzees are the closest living relatives to us humans they have similar DNA (96%) and are among the most intelligent of the non-human animals, but what exactly is intelligence?
A straightforward definition of intelligence is the capacity to overcome problems based on reasoning understanding, foresight and learning.
Highly social animals like chimpanzees, monkeys and dolphins have a higher cortex-brain ratio, the cortex is the outer layer of the brain and is fundamental in processes such as though, language and even consciousness.
Chimpanzees have a very complex system of communication which included body language, vocalisations, facial expressions (which can be awfully human like) and hand gestures, they are even known to laugh!
They have such strong cognitive powers that they even have the ability to learn sign language in a controlled environment.
See a video of a chimpanzee demonstrating its cognitive ability below:
Chimpanzees learn from their perception of the environment using their senses, just like us, humans, through observation, trial and error they develop learned behaviours inclusion activities like breeding and tool use
It’s not just about using the tools but more how they are used, they won’t just take a branch, and it stick inside a termites nest to feed, they will pick the right sized branch and even trim leaves off it to make it more efficient.
Studies have shown that chimpanzees can exhibit altruism (disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others), this is interesting as this trait is not typically found outside the human race. They have been seen to share things like food with other types of chimps outside of their circle and even other species of animals
One key indicator for an animals intelligence is its ability to learn based on experience, this means that it can change its previous actions based on a past experience to then act differently. It sounds pretty simple, but not all animals do this
The mirror test is a famous experiment to test animal intelligence if they recognise their reflection, then they are believed to have some degree of self-awareness, chimpanzees seem to pass this test every time
An interesting yet sad fact is that much of what we know about chimpanzees comes from individuals in captivity, where they have proven capable of solving many problems, even some that are not natural to their species.