It is interesting! What do animals feel? Do they survive grief?
Last August, people from all over the world watched intently for several weeks as a killer whale living in the Sea of Selish kept her stillborn baby, pushing him in front of herself through the icy waters for 17 days, until finally she was exhausted.
This story is one of the best examples of marine mammals. experiencing grief.
However, the scientific community still doubts the ability of animals feel real pain and demonstrate a complex reaction to the death of relatives. After the news of the burning killer whale was widely publicized, zoologist Jules Howard commented on it this way: “If you think that she really felt sorrow for her cub, then there is no science in this, this assumption is based only on the desire to believe in it” .
But it should be noted that more and more scientific observations confirm the fact that animals understand what death is, grieve for the dead, and even sometimes spend for them special rituals.
You cannot see what you are not looking at
Woe-skeptics are still right in one thing: scientists really know almost nothing when it comes to the behavior of animals after the death of relatives, including grief. Those who really touched on this topic and studied the feelings of various animals about death can be counted on the fingers.
However, many would argue: they know almost nothing, because they simply have not yet learned.
Scientists have not yet paid enough attention to the study of what could be called "comparative thanatology" (the doctrine of death and the actions associated with it). Most likely, this can be explained by the fact that people do not even think that animals in principle may worry about the death of loved ones.
For many scientists and philosophers, the realization of death is still an ability inherent exclusively in man.
How do animals grieve?
However, many stories have been presented to researchers about how animals of various species survive death. This can be an excellent foundation for studying their behavior.
Elephantsfor example, known for their attention to the bones of deceased relatives, as well as grief over family.
So, in 2016, a doctoral student studying elephants in Africa captured such a moment on video.
In it, three different families of elephants took turns approaching the remains of a female matriarch (the oldest and most experienced elephant), sniffing and touching them.
Similar behavior is observed in chimpanzees. One interesting case was recorded in a group of captive chimpanzees after the death of an elderly female named Pansy. Animals checked her body for signs of life and cleared her hair of straw. After the body of Pansy was removed, the chimpanzees did not come to the place of her death for several more days.
And here is another example, when it was noticed how chimpanzees use improvised means to cleanse a dead body. It happened in Zambia in 2017 when a chimpanzee mom used a piece of grass got out of her teeth his deceased son leftover food. All this may indicate that chimpanzees develop affection for each other, which does not disappear even after death, so they are enough sensitive to the death of relatives.
Birdsalso exhibit similar behavior. Magpiesfor example, they bury the bodies of the dead under grass and sticks. One of the ethologists who observed this phenomenon called it the “Forty Funeral”.
Very revealing was an amazing case recorded by an eight-year-old boy in the video.
Wild boars, living in the United States, several times returned to the body of a deceased relative, nudged him, bit him and even slept next to him.
Crows they gather in whole clouds and form a real cacophony of screams when one of them dies.
And these are just a few of the many examples.
However, some scholars still argue that this kind of behavior cannot be called "grief" in the human sense, since this does not correspond to science.
Although it happens to observe such phenomena, it is difficult to say exactly which emotions provoke this behavior. So, in 2011, an experiment with mice and rats, confirming their ability to empathy, was also accepted by the scientific community with great distrust.
Of course, it’s difficult to attribute to animals such emotions as woe, without a bit of skepticism. However, maybe it’s not worthwhile to think that they don’t feel at all, or that losing a child is easier for a non-human mother?
Recent incident with killer whale again makes us remember that people still do not know very much about animals. And here the question arises at all: “can animals grieve?”, But rather “how exactly do animals grieve?”