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STUDY: Baboon moms carry deceased infants for up to 10 days

The Grief-Management Hypothesis best explains the behavior. According to this, carrying a dead infant is a way of coping with the emotional impacts of a tragic loss.

BROOKS HAYS: Wild baboon mothers carry dead infants for up to ten days, according to a new study. The research promises to illuminate the ways animals deal with death. Over the course of 13 years, scientists observing wild Namibian chacma baboons documented group responses to 12 infant deaths. Chacma baboons live in mixed-sex groups ranging in size from 20 to 100 primates. The groups are organized by strong linear male and female hierarchies.

Scientists observed mothers carrying dead infants for as little as an hour and as many as 10 days. Mothers carried their dead infants for an average of three to four days… Scientists watched baboon mothers carry deceased infants by a limb and dragged them along the ground, behaviors never seen with live infants… Researchers also observed the fathers of dead infants protecting the corpse and sometimes grooming the dead infant when the mother wasn’t nearby…

According to Carter and her colleagues, the “grief-management hypothesis” best explains the behavior. According to the hypothesis, carrying a dead infant is a way of coping with the emotional impacts of a tragic loss. The “social-bonds hypothesis” suggests baboon mothers hold onto their dead infants due to their intense social bonds with their young offspring…

“Other primates have been observed carrying their dead infants for much longer periods of time,” Carter said. “Chimps and Japanese macaques for example have been observed carrying infants for over a month. However, Chacma baboons travel much longer distances on an average day and the desert environment is harsh, making it costly for a mother to carry her infant for long periods.”  SOURCE…

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