Last month I came across a story about how some chimpanzees in Belfast zoo managed to escape by using a tree branch as a ladder ((https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/chimpanzees-escape-belfast-zoo-tree-branches-ladder-northern-ireland-a8771951.html).
It reminded me of just how intelligent these beautiful primates are, and how, as discovered by Jane Goodall in Gombe, Tanzania, in the 1960s, they're so smart they use tools to benefit their survival.
Chimpanzees are the most intelligent animals on earth after humans and are so closely related to us that we only differ in DNA by 1.5 % (https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/animals/general-animals/10-chimpanzee-facts/). Numbers have dwindled significantly since the 19th century due to habitat loss, poaching and disease so we must help them whilst still can, hence why this weeks' workshop focussed on chimpanzees (https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/endangered_species/great_apes/chimpanzees/). The children and I also looked into the another lesser-known, but similarly endangered animal; the African wild dog (https://www.janegoodall.org.uk/chimpanzees/chimpanzee-central/15-chimpanzees/chimpanzee-central/21-chimp-facts).
We began by sketching a big chimpanzee which was subsequently named, Ryan, as you do, and the children and I chatted about how similar these primates are to humans particularly with relevance to their characteristics; large big toes, hands that can grasp and expressive faces (https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/animals/general-animals/10-chimpanzee-facts/). We also share similar behaviours in that, like us chimps laugh, show affection and walk upright (https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/animals/general-animals/10-chimpanzee-facts/).
I asked the toddlers why we were learning about them today, and
several children exclaimed, 'because they're endangered!' and one little girl went onto say 'they're endangered like polar bears!' She was one of the children who were quiet last week when we were learning about the Arctic, so it just goes to show that they are listening. 'People are cutting down their trees where they live,' a little boy shouted out. 'That is true,' I replied, and we went on to discuss how we could help; merely speaking up for wildlife can be one keyway.
African wild dogs can run up to forty-four miles per hour, as fast as their Mummy's and Daddy's cars; the children loved this fact the most. (https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/african-wild-dog). None of them seemed to have heard of African wild dogs, so understanding a bit more about them and why they're endangered was positive.
My favourite part of the morning, however, was when I heard a couple of boys chatting about how chimps are related to us. One boy explained to the other that, 'it's because they're made of the same stuff as us, same make-up.' A four-year-old was explaining to another four-year-old the beginnings of DNA. Whether he fully understood what he was saying or not, it was an utterly intriguing morning.
For further information on the great chimpanzee escape, you might like to visit; https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.com/news/amp/uk-northern-ireland-47186124.