News from Germany this week, where Gana, a gorilla in the Muenster Zoo, has been raising her baby boy, Claudio. This past weekend, Claudio suddenly died, possibly from a heart defect.
Heartbroken, Gana kept carrying her dead baby on her back as she had when he was alive, looking back again and again in the hope of finding him recovered. She held her child up, desperately searching for signs of movement in his limp body, and sat cradling him.
Zoo visitors were visibly moved and many cried upon seeing Gana’s grief. But no one who has been paying attention to animals should be surprised by the depth of emotion that Gana showed in her mourning. Animals feel pain, fear, anger, love, and grief. Mother cows bellow for their calves, who are taken away so that humans can drink the milk that they make solely to nourish their babies. Dogs, beavers, and monkeys take pity on orphaned animals and adopt them as their own. Animals—from pigs to porpoises—show concern for humans, too, by going to great lengths to rescue us from peril.
Yet people often look away from this glaring evidence of sentience. By convincing themselves that animals don’t feel deeply—that they’re “not like us”—humans have justified inflicting all kinds of horrors on animals. But if people torturing primates in laboratories or slaughtering gorillas in the Congo could look into Gana’s shattered heart, they might wake up to the true cost of their actions.
Written by Jeff Mackey