Washington, April 27 (ANI): Chimpanzees react to the death of a group member just like humans do when a close relative dies, say researchers.
"The findings we've described, along with other observations of how chimpanzees respond to dead and dying companions, indicate that their awareness of death is probably more highly developed than is often suggested. It may be related to their sense of self-awareness, shown through phenomena such as self-recognition and empathy towards others," said James Anderson of the University of Stirling in reference to his observations of the safari park chimps.
In the study, researchers described the final hours and moment of death of an older female chimp living in a small group at a UK safari park as captured on video.
In the days leading up to the chimp's death, the group was very quiet and paid close attention to her, the researchers report. Immediately before she died, she received much grooming and caressing from the others, who appeared to test her for signs of life as she died.
They left her soon after, but her adult daughter returned and remained by her mother all night. When keepers removed the mother's body the next day, the chimpanzees remained calm and subdued.
For several days they avoided sleeping on the platform where the female had died, even though it was normally a favoured sleeping spot, and remained subdued for some time after the death.
"In general, we found several similarities between the chimpanzees' behavior toward the dying female, and their behavior after her death, and some reactions of humans when faced with the demise of an elderly group member or relative, even though chimpanzees do not have religious beliefs or rituals surrounding death," Anderson said.
Whatever the reasons for the chimps' actions, he added, they suggest that chimpanzees have a highly developed awareness of death.
The study has been published in the April 27th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. (ANI)