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Ape Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Jones

Michelle has taught at the elementary level and has earned a master's degree.

Apes get lots of attention at zoos because people are interested in how similar they look and act like humans. In fact, apes are our closest relative. Read on to learn more about this intelligent, social animal.

All About Apes

What mammal has live births, uses tools, and lives in families? Your first thought might be humans, and while this is true of them, it is also true of apes, another type of primate. That's right, you are a primate too! Let's look at some more interesting facts about apes.

Apes are divided into two groups. Great apes are the larger group and include gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees, and orangutans. Although humans share a large amount of DNA with all apes, the chimpanzee's DNA is the most like ours. Gorillas, specifically the mountain gorilla, are the largest at about 5 feet tall and 200 to 400 pounds.

Lesser apes include gibbons and siamangs. This group is much smaller, weighing nine to 28 pounds and only reaching two to three feet high.

Characteristics

Apes are different from monkeys because they don't have tails. But they do have long arms and short, broad noses. Another feature that shows how intelligent apes are is their use of tools for finding and capturing food and water, building shelter, and defending themselves. They can also learn sign language to communicate with each other and humans.

A chimpanzee using a stick as a tool to get food out of a bucket.
picture of ape using tool

Habitat and Diet

Great apes have a variety of habitats, including jungles, mountains, and savannas, mostly in Africa and Asia. Lesser apes prefer tropical rainforests in Asia. Here, they can make their homes and hide from predators high in the trees. Siamangs especially prefer being up high.

Another way humans and apes are similar is our diet. We are both omnivores, which means we eat meat and plants. Although apes' diets mostly consist of fruit, leaves, and flowers, they will also get protein from insects. Chimpanzees will even eat birds and small mammals.

This is a typical habitat for a gorilla. Lots of foliage for coverage and food.
picture of gorilla in a jungle

Habits

Like humans, apes are carried inside the womb for eight to nine months and then will have a live birth. The mother and other family members will then care for the young ape for many years, some as long as 18 years! Since raising a young ape is such hard work, it's a good thing they only have babies once every five to seven years.

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