Chimpanzees Mourn Their Dead - Just Like Humans.
A Very Sad Day For All.
A Lot In Common.
We all know that man’s closest living relatives: chimpanzees are very intelligent animals. You only have to study their eyes and vast range of facial expressions to know there is a lot going on in their heads. They are so alike to humans that they share 98.5 per cent of their DNA with us. You may or may not believe the theory of Charles Darwin, which makes the claim that we (as Homo sapiens) actually evolved from them into our present state.
Recent studies have now revealed that they actually sense an impending death of a fellow chimp and also grieve the passing of a loved one, in much the same way as we do.
Stirling University researcher James Anderson observed the final days of Pansy, an elderly female chimp at Blair Drummond Safari Park in Scotland. He told how the group of chimps regularly groomed and caressed her and tested for signs of life by gently raising her head and shaking her shoulders. When she was very close to death, she somehow got herself into her daughter’s nest. Her daughter and a group of three other chimps then constantly groomed her and did all they could to try and comfort her.
It was just like humans would do with a close friend or relative. Then, after she died, the 3 chimps left the patch where she lay. Her eldest daughter however, remained with her. She lay down with her face almost touching her mother’s and stayed that way until the following morning. The other group members then made sure the body was clean and they also made a point of avoiding the area where she had died.
The chimps were badly affected by the death of Pansy: For a solid month they had trouble sleeping and were constantly pestering the zoo keepers for attention. It was clear that they were distraught and grieving for the loss of a loved one – just as a human would.
Jimato and Veve
In a separate study of chimpanzees carried out in the forest of Guinea, West Africa, two infant chimps: 1 year old Jimato, and 2 and a half year old Veve died after going down with a flu-like illness. Sara Biro, a researcher from Oxford University, England, observed how the mothers of the two dead youngsters continued treating them as though they were still alive, grooming them and carrying them wherever they went.
Over time, they gradually began to accept the awful truth and slowly spent more and more time away from the infants, letting the other young chimps handle the dead bodies for increasingly longer periods. It took a few weeks until they were able to cope with the sad loss of their offspring.
Very Strong Bond.
This behaviour revealed either one of two things: that mother chimpanzees are so attached to them that they initially refuse to accept the devastating loss of an infant, or that they may have been hoping they would recover.
Whatever the reason for their behaviour, it shows the intensity and strength of the bond that exists between mother chimps and their babies.
Both studies reveal just how remarkably similar chimpanzees are to humans in dealing with the death of a loved one. They most definitely possess emotions and powers of understanding that have long been considered exclusive to humans.