Do Chimpanzees Understand Death?

There is something about primate cousins gets me every time I read something about them. I just cant help but feel some form of attachment to these animals. This article about a bonobo alpha females response to the death of a young memeber of the pack hints at the reason why I feel such an closeness to these animals.


Maggie Koerth-Baker, senior writer for Boing Boing, recently wrote an article in the New York Times reviewing the behaviors of chimpanzees around mortality. She retells the death of a chimpanzee named Pansy, who died in captivity, at the Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park in Scotland, about 5 years ago. The death was imminent. Many observed it, but it was James Anderson, a primate psychologist at the University of Stirling in Scotland who published the account in the journal Current Biology, “Pan thanatology.”

Koerth-Baker writes,

Pansy was probably in her 50s when she died, which is pretty good for a chimpanzee. She passed in a way most of us would envy — peacefully, with her adult daughter, Rosie, and her best friend, Blossom, by her side. Thirty years earlier, Pansy and Blossom arrived together… They raised their children together. Now, as Pansy struggled to…

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