Giraffe cow reaction to the death of her newborn calf

Observations in their natural habitat of animals’ reactions to recently deceased conspecifics are rare. Documenting a diversity of mammalian responses is essential to augment our understanding of potential evolutionary foundations of both mental states and social bonds. Individuals that previously had strong social ties to dead conspecifics might be expected to display different reactions than those who did not, and the degree of investigation of carcasses, or carrying of carcasses, has led some to infer that chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes (Anderson, Gillies & Lock, 2010; Biro et al., 2010) and African elephants, Loxodonta africana (Douglas-Hamilton et al., 2006; McComb, Baker & Moss, 2006) have a mental concept of death. Here, I present evidence that giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis, intensively investigate a dead animal in a parallel fashion to African elephants and chimpanzees. Such observations yield insights into comparative animal biology and provide a more solid foundation for attempts to decipher the development of social bonds.

Last Updated
January 26, 2021
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