Through several data stating that chimpanzees and humans are 97%, 98%, or 99% similar DNA wise mean one thing: chimpanzees are very closely related to humans. It can be easily observed that our body structure, intellect, and especially behavior and those of chimpanzees display some commonalities. With these in mind, do chimpanzees feel any emotional attachment to others? In a recent article, two experiments were initiated to observe how chimps respond to the death of those close to them.
Chimpanzees actually respond to dying chimps as well as dead chimps. This shows how highly developed their awareness of death in contrast to what has been suggested before. Researchers believe that this aspect is involved in their sense of self awareness much like their being able to self-recognize and displays of empathy for others.
A major difference between how humans react to the death of a close one and how the chimp reacts is truly different. Chimps tend to be more calm compared to humans be frenzied and becoming traumatized.
In the first study, the researchers were able to observe how much attention is paid to a dying adult female chimp. Before the chimp died, those around her groomed her as well as caressed her. By caressing her, the other chimps are testing for any signs of life or death. Right after she dies, the other chimps left her while her daughter stuck beside her mother throughout the night. For many days, the chimpanzees avoided going near the dead chimp’s sleeping spot.
In a different study, five members of semi-isolated chimp community were witnessed dead. Of the five, two were infants. The response from the mother chimps to her child’s death was to carry it on her back for weeks and months following their death. They also treat the dead as though they were alive such as carrying them everywhere, grooming them, and taking them into the nests during the day and night. As days pass, the mothers are able to let go little by little, allowing others to handle the dead.
This exemplifies how highly aware chimpanzees are concerning death. Also, this displays how strong the bonds are between mother and infant chimps. It’s truly amazing how readers are able to understand somewhat how the mother chimp feels or how an infant chimp feels about the death of the other. What truly surprised me was the fact that in spite of the dead infant chimp, the mother would allow other infants to play with the dead corpse as though it was normal. That’s going to an extreme.
Posted by Vinh Tran