The great apes challenge our Homo Sapien identity more than any other species. Mankind has defined itself by certain traits that we believe are special to us. However, research has shown that bonobos, gorillas and chimpanzees also share some of our most treasured qualities.
Physiologically, apes and humans have the same internal organ arrangement and the same skeletal structure – but with different proportions and densities. We both illustrate varying degrees of sexual dimorphism, and we even have the same Y-5 molar structure.
It was originally believed that only humans were able to master the skill of using tools, but the great apes have proven to have a reasonably high level of cognitive ability. They have also demonstrated having a sense of self. When they look into a mirror, they see their own reflection and not that of another ape. The Great Ape Project has even sought to give apes basic human rights based on their emotional capacities.
We share 98.7% of our DNA with the chimpanzee and bonobo, making them our closest living relatives and part of our evolutionary family tree.
This issue aims to provide you with the chance to meet your nine 'ancestral cousins' in Africa. Click on the 'Next' button above each photo to find out where to see them, what their challenges are, and what they have achieved.