Do Chimpanzees Mourn For Their Dead?

Note: The next addition of the Four Stone hearth will at This is Serious Monkey Business on February 2nd. Pleas get your submissions in!

That seems to be the way the press is portraying the video below. The video was released in conjunction with an article published in the American Journal of Primatology (the article can also be found here)

The article details the reaction of a female chimp to the death of her offspring. Female chimps have been known to carry their dead infants for a day or so before starting to abandon them. I say starting because their is, apparently a transition period between carrying the infant and final abandonment. The Cronin et al paper – and the video above – documents this transition period. One of the interesting points brought out in the paper is that this infant directed behavior occurs, obviously, without cues or reciprocity of behavior by the infant. The paper concludes with the following:

The behaviors expressed by this female chimpanzee when she first endures physical separation from her dead infant provide valuable insight into how chimpanzees respond to the premature severing of the mother–infant bond, the maternal contribution to this bond, and the possible ways in which chimpanzees gather information about the state of responsiveness of individuals around them (hence learning about ‘‘death’’).

Additional videos can be found here.

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3 Responses

  1. That’s just heartbreaking. :(

  2. Wow, that video brought tears to my eyes. I knew that chimpanzees and Western Lowland gorillas mourn the dead, because it is one of the things that contributes to the spread of ebola, but witnessing it is a completely different matter. When chimps or gorillas find a dead individual of their species, they go inspect it and mourn it, which facilitates the spread of the virus.

  3. Yes, it does tug on ones heart strings…

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