There tend to be two different views on this subject.
Some people believe that yes, animals can grieve and mourn the death of a loved one, and even give their “last farewells”. This has been seen in magpies, llamas, and elephants, to name a few.
But other believe that it could just be confusion that animals experience, or a “morbid fascination with death”. They also argue that animals to not understand the death of a loved one, but rather notice the disappearance of them.
Either way, it is impossible to know for sure.
After monitoring a group of chimps at a zoo, some researchers observed behaviors to suggest that chimps indeed do understand the idea of death and mourning. Other emotions can easily be observed in animals so I don’t so why they would not be able to understand death as well.
Yes! In addition to the many species of primate that mourn deaths in their tribes (baboons, chimpanzees, and gorillas have all been observed engaging in moody, depressive, or mournful behaviors following the deaths of loved ones), elephants notoriously mourn for their young, kneeling and crying at the bodies of fallen elephants.
Interestingly enough, elephants are also recorded as extending their grief to other species; African researchers have noted accounts of elephants accidentally trampling humans, and then moving the bodies and crying for the dead humans much as they cry for their own dead children.
Wolves, foxes, and llamas have also been observed to ritualistically engage in mournful behaviors such as crying or watching over their dead for a period of days.
Birds are extremely emotionally intelligent animals, and become upset and mournful at death or other traumatic experiences. Pet parrots become disturbed, agitated, and can cry at the loss of a beloved owner or other close human friend. In the wild, magpies have a ritual wherein many of them will gather at the corpse of a fallen magpie and sing to it for hours, possibly in an attempt at resuscitation.
All of this is all to say that yes, animals can and do mourn the losses of family members and other members of their species!
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