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Chimps filmed grieving for dead friend

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From the BBC:

It is clear the chimpanzees were aware something was wrong, and they gathered next to Thomas, lying on his back.

What surprised the researchers most was the way the chimps sat quietly around their deceased friend for long periods.

“Chimps never do that in other contexts,” says Dr van Leeuwen. “There is always something going on.”

Usually, they will groom, play or eat with each other, vocalise, and, on occasion, be aggressive. But 22 of the chimps came up to look at Thomas, with nine gently touching him, with one, a female named Noel, then touching her own lips.

The chimps didn’t inspect the body and then leave, which also surprised the primatologists, especially as the discovery of Thomas’s body coincided with feeding time, when the apes could hear food being put out on the other side of the enclosure by orphanage staff. More.

We might expect that chimps grieve lost friends; so do dogs and elephants.

What makes the concept of death different for humans is the abstractions: finality, permanence, certainty, life beyond death, and so forth..

Last summer, the claim was that chimps are entering the Stone Age. Of course the claim is without foundation; for one thing, a stone age can be known only in retrospect and there is no reason to think chimps had begun to behave differently shortly before they were noticed.

What’s most significant about such claims is the gap between their merits and the needs they serve. One wishes people could care about animals without demanding that they be like us.

See also:

Are apes entering the Stone Age?

Animal minds: In search of the minimal self

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10 Replies to “Chimps filmed grieving for dead friend

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    I wonder if chimps grieve when a pet dies.

  2. 2
    rhampton7 says:

    Koko the Gorilla Cries Over the Loss of a Kitten
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQCOHUXmEZg
    http://articles.latimes.com/19.....pet-kitten

    Koko The Gorilla Gets Two Kittens For Her 44th Birthday
    http://www.koko.org/special/en.....s/msg.html

  3. 3
    clown fish says:

    What makes the concept of death different for humans is the abstractions: finality, permanence, certainty, life beyond death, and so forth..”

    Trying to figure out how animals think is a fools game. We can certainly examine behaviours, but I am highly skeptical of attempts to draw parallels with human thinking. The chimps’ may be grieving, but to say that it is similar to how humans grieve, ignores the fact that there is no single way in which humans grieve.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    Koko the Gorilla Cries Over the Loss of a Kitten

    The kitten was a pet?

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    Trying to figure out how animals think is a fools game.

    We ought not try to figure out how animals think.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    News,

    There is a report here of a dog that went to and lay on the fresh grave of its master and had to be forced to leave.

    I already shared a friend’s tale of a captured sloth in Guyana, that seemed relatively okay in captivity until the morning when someone came out sharpening knives for it (it was killed and eaten). It cried.

    Yes, cried.

    On sight of knives being sharpened for it.

    A sloth.

    So, there is more here than we may credit.

    KF

    PS: The LAT report is very believable. There is more here than we give credit.

  7. 7
    Davem says:

    In addition to kairofocus’s story, there is the recent one that made the news about the elephant that had been chained and treated miserably. The inside of the clasp on it’s leg even had teeth on it. When people came to rescue it, it was crying. There are photos of it.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    DM, that is awful. Inexcusable cruelty. KF

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm: apes, humans, sloths and elephants crying, dogs wailing and showing every sign of grief. I recall a classical story of a dolphin and a boy who were friends and where the dolphin grieved the death of the child. Something is trying to get through to us, through to our hard hearts. KF

  10. 10
    News says:

    Surely there is nothing surprising about animals grieving, as such. Indeed, animal attachment is a fixture of Canadian railway legends: The dog waiting at the station till the end of his life for the fallen soldier to come home.

    But no one can explain to the dog why Johnny ISN’T coming home. That’s the difference.

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