Chimpanzees are naturally incredibly strong. This physical strength, combined with their tendency towards sudden aggression that J.B. touched on in his blog post yesterday, cautions humans who work around chimpanzees to be very, very careful. This is why when you do a quick internet search on “chimpanzee muscle strength,” the resulting articles are often tied to a report on a human who was attacked by a chimpanzee.
The text of this article from 2012 after an attack is particularly helpful in providing information about why chimpanzees are so strong, explaining that the muscle fibers closest to the bones are much longer and more dense in chimpanzees than humans, presumably making those muscles much more powerful.
When the chimpanzees arrived at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in 2008, their muscles were atrophied or had never fully developed from lack of use, but all of the chimpanzees were still stronger (in many ways) than any of us humans could ever hope to be.
I often wonder what it felt like to use those muscles exploring their new sanctuary home. To feel them engage while running and climbing and displaying, and then to feel their strength building over time.
It must have felt both strange and exhilarating.
Here’s a tribute to respecting chimpanzee strength with some muscle shots of each of the chimpanzees at the sanctuary:
We got a clear view of Burrito’s chest muscles after he was shaved for his medical exam this past summer:
Even petite Foxie has incredible upper body strength:
Hanging like this doesn’t take much effort at all by Jamie:
Jody’s certainly not the most athletic chimpanzee, but, when motivated, she uses those muscles to get her where she wants to go:
Same with Negra – she doesn’t tend to exert any more energy than necessary, but she’s pretty buff even under her more “squishy” parts:
And then there’s Missy, who uses her muscles, particularly her strong legs, as often as she can: