How chimps mourn their dead

I was just going through some old magazines and came across a fascinating article in New Scientistweb version here. It describes how chimpanzees were observed carrying around the bodies of dead infants for weeks or even months.

In many ways, their mothers treated the corpses as though they were still alive: they groomed them, swatted flies away and made high-pitched screams of distress when they accidentally dropped the bodies. But there were telltale signs – occasional flinching, for instance – showing that they knew the infants were dead.

I always seem to be coming across articles like this. It seems that the more research we do, the more we discover how sophisticated animals are. Yet the way we treat them is often based on the old beliefs: they’re not like us, they don’t feel pain, they don’t understand loss, etc etc. Surely at some point behaviours have to change – or at least we’ll need to come up with new justifications for doing what we want to do.

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There are 3 comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about animals and humans a lot lately, and how selfish some humans seem to be when it comes to domesticated animals. I live in a city where having pets seems to be a status and lifestyle symbol. And in rural areas people are starting to encroach on wildlife territory and then they start to complain and want city councils to start culling various animal populations. I think humans have forgotten that animals DON’T need us. We NEED them. – G

  2. For a long time, so long that I thought I invented it (although I doubt now that is true), that we won’t treat each other better until we learn to treat animals better. It’s as simple as that.

  3. It is our duty to raise awareness. Thank you Andrew for contributing. When I first read the J.M. Coetzee it struck me how outspoken he is about animals and the way we should treat them. I haven’t found many authors who bother like he does. His The Lives of Animals is briliant in this regard, but even in Disgrace animals have an important part. I recently reviewed Gerard Donovan’s Julius Winsome, another author who seems to care.

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