Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.

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11 Responses to “Do chimpanzees understand death?”

  1. Artor says:

    I wonder if chimps can recognize their departed friends from photos. In a year, if shown pictures of Pansy, will her friends know what they are? I know apes can recognize live friends after many years, but how? Is it by sight, or smell, or something else?

  2. robcruickshank says:

    They sure don’t get all weepy about the monkeys they tear to shreds, though. So, just like us, basically.

  3. raleighstclair says:

    Do humans understand animals?

  4. kmoser says:

    Humans seem to constantly underestimate the depth of other animals’ knowledge and intelligence. Scientists do this in an attempt to not anthropomorphize. Non-scientists do it in an attempt to feel superior.

  5. FrankenPC . says:

    Wow…humans need to get over their superiority complex.  On of my stepson’s pet rats died of a tumor recently.  She passed away in the night.  The male rat cuddled up to her and guarded her body.  We got the body out of the cage and the male refused to move from the spot where she died.  He eventually wasted away and died.  If that isn’t grief, I don’t know what is.  This is a RAT!  A normally hyper-active one at that.   Yeah, I imagine a monkey or ape could have powerful symptoms of grief.  Humans don’t own the rights to complex emotions. 

  6. Compulsory Onion link http://www.theonion.com/video/scientists-successfully-teach-gorilla-it-will-die,17165/

  7. Ant says:

    Do they ever leave the dead bodies in nature?

  8. AnthonyC says:

    If I lie on the ground and hold my breath, by dog – which I’ve had for all of a month – will run over, push me, and try to rouse me (I’ve only done this once because I wanted to see how he’d react). Understanding or not, animal know when something is wrong.

    Chimps are smart. And they form deep interpersonal bonds. I can’t imagine they don’t understand death.

  9. H.E. Pennypacker says:

    This was from a small article in The NY times years ago….can’t find the original link.

    More than 30 angry baboons killed a man out of revenge in the Tororo District of southeastern Uganda, according to a report from the New Vision newspaper. A local council official said that the human victim, Okecho, killed a male baboon for damaging his maize and banana plantations. More than 30 other baboons converged at Okecho’s compound and “mourned like human beings” before carrying their fallen comrade into the forest. Neighbors said that the animals later returned and stormed the farmer’s house, knocking down the door. A New Vision reporter reaching the scene saw Okecho lying in a pool of blood with a large hole in his chest where the heart had been pulled out.

  10. GeorgeMokray says:

    This is a short video of Bernie Krause, the musician and audio investigator of wildlife and the environment, talk about the emotional content of animal sounds, including a devastating recording of a male beaver seemingly mourning the loss of his family:  http://youtu.be/b5uzpLXrQx0

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