There’s a lot of buzz about two new studies that reveal that chimpanzees mourn the deaths of loved ones pretty much as humans do. Scientists in Scotland found chimpanzees tending to an ailing elder during her final days—and after she died, her daughter spent the night next to her body. In the days that followed, the mood was somber among the deceased chimpanzee’s friends and family. In the second study, scientists in Guinea observed two mothers who couldn’t bear to part with their dead babies.
The buzz from the chimpanzee studies is getting a boost from a viral video in which a squirrel defends his deceased friend’s body against a group of crows. Both news items have people describing how they’ve witnessed animals in mourning, and they have made people realize that humans aren’t the only animals who grieve following the loss of a loved one. Of course, this behavior isn’t limited to squirrels and chimpanzees. Elephants have been known to hold vigils over their stillborn children. And cows on dairy farms and their calves cry out for days when they are separated.
One of my most indelible childhood memories is of watching our sweet mutt, Ching, as he uncharacteristically snarled and snapped at anyone who tried to come near the lifeless body of his constant companion, Jessa. He stayed with her for hours. What about you? Have you ever seen an animal grieve the loss of a friend or family member?
Written by Karin Bennett