Chimps Grieve Like Us

Scientists discover that chimpanzees understand death
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2010 2:39 PM CDT
Chimps Grieve Like Us
A chimpanzee lounges about in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Seattle Post Intelligencer, Meryl Schenker)

Chimpanzees appear to understand death, and grieve in ways strikingly similar to their less hairy evolutionary cousins, new research suggests. In 2008, scientists got a rare glimpse of this mourning process when a 50-year-old chimp named Pansy died in a Scottish safari park, LiveScience explains. In the days before, the other chimps grew quiet, frequently grooming and caressing the dying ape. Right before her death, one chimp appeared to check for signs of life.

“It struck home that chimpanzees might indeed have greater awareness of the difference between life and the absence of life than we previously thought,” one researcher explained. After Pansy died, all the chimps left her, except her daughter, who spent the night in vigil. Later, she attacked the corpse, which researchers surmise was an expression of the same denial and anger humans often feel when grieving. (More chimpanzees stories.)

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