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Chimpanzees’ Responses to the Dead Body of a 9-Year-Old Group Member

Van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Mulenga, I. C., Bodamer, M. D., & Cronin, K. A. (2016). Chimpanzees’ Responses to the Dead Body of a 9-Year-Old Group Member. American Journal of Primatology, 78(9), 914-922. doi:10.1002/ajp.22560.
The social behavior of chimpanzees has been extensively studied, yet not much is known about how they behave in response to the death of a group member. Here, we provide a detailed report of the reactions of a group of chimpanzees to finding the dead body of a 9-year-old male group member. The behavior of the group was characterized by quiet attendance and close inspections punctuated by rare displays. Moreover, the body was continuously attended and closely inspected by several adults and juveniles, including an adult male who formed a close social bond with the deceased individual after the deceased individual’s mother died 4 years earlier. When considered with observations of how chimpanzees respond to dead infants and adults in this group and in others, these observations suggest that chimpanzees’ responses to death may be mediated by social bonds with the deceased individual. The results are discussed in light of recent reports on chimpanzees’ reactions to dead community members and more general primate thanatology.
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