Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Study Sheds Light On How Chimps Understand Death

Groundbreaking research from the Netherlands provides new insight into the behaviour of a chimpanzee mother after the loss of her infant. Presented in the American Journal of Primatology, the study reveals how a chimpanzee mother shows behaviours not typically seen directed toward an infant that is alive. The finding offers zoologists key information about how our closest primate relative learns about death.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (MPI) found that when an infant chimpanzee dies, its mother lays it on the ground to watch it from a distance or places her fingers against its neck.

Dr Katherine Cronin and her team carried out their study at the Zambia-based Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust, where wild-born chimpanzees reside after being rescued from illegal trade.

Scientists have long recognised that chimpanzee mothers maintain close contact with their offspring for a number of years. The infants are carried by their mothers for around two years, and are nursed until they are four to six years old. Experts say the solid ties between mother and child continue for many years after weaning. They consider this relationship as one of the most crucial in a chimpanzee's life.

Full story here.

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