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Gorillas have ‘funerals’ just like humans: Scientists say it is proof the species care for their dead

Humans are not unique in their capacity to grieve. Among primates, there is compelling evidence from behavioral and physiological responses to death that they do grieve.

TIM COLLINS: ‘Humans were once considered unique in caring for the dead and having a concept of death. But a team of researchers observed groups of gorillas after three deaths and found they would gather around the bodies and groom them. In one moving piece of footage, a young mountain gorilla was seen touching and and gently grooming the body of his mother in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Researchers in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo observed and filmed the behaviour of mountain gorillas around the corpses of Titus, a 35-year-old dominant adult male and Tuck, a 38-year-old dominant adult female living in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

The team also studied the behaviour of a group of Grauer’s gorillas who found a dead adult male not believed to be related to them in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. They predicted more gorillas would engage with the dead when they were from their own group, like in Rwanda, compared to the DRC gorillas who found a body of a gorilla not in their social group. But to the researcher’s surprise, the responses towards all the corpses were remarkably similar. In all three cases, animals sat close to the body and stared at it, as well as sniffing, poking, grooming and licking it. In the two mountain gorilla cases, those that shared close social relationships with the deceased were the ones who spent the most time in contact with the corpse…

Dian Fossey Fund scientist Dr Amy Porter said: ‘Our observations were surprising because not only did almost all individuals in the Grauer’s gorilla group engage with the corpse of the silverback, their behavioural responses were strikingly similar to those of the mountain gorillas around the corpses of established group members… Among primates, especially great apes, there is compelling evidence from behavioural and physiological responses to death that they do grieve. Observations may suggest that humans are not unique in their capacity to grieve’.’ SOURCE…


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