Thursday, 31 May 2007
Do Animals Grieve for their Dead?
It was Tuesday. Jim and I were walking down Prince of Wales Road. He came to Norwich to have lunch with me. We were walking past an old building when I saw three grey pigeons sheltered under a window ledge at the side of the building. The one right in the middle was dying. Jim and I stopped walking and looked at them. It seemed that the two pigeons were protecting the weak pigeon – from the cold or from predators, I wouldn’t know. But they were there. Then Jim and I proceeded to have lunch. On the way back to where I work, we saw the weak pigeon on its own. Dead. One of the two pigeons were a few feet away and it looked like it was mourning. Eyes closed and head bowed to its chest. It looked grieving. It looked sad. The other was nowhere in sight. This made me wonder - do animals grieve for their dead? I think they do. A few days ago, I watched a film called ‘March of the Penguins.’ Amazingly, penguins behave like human beings when caring for their young. Due to the cold weather in the Antarctic, most of their young do not survive. When one passes away, the mother grieves for it. It cries and stays with the body as if still hoping it’ll come back to life. Not too long ago, I read something in the paper about a gold fish trying to comfort another gold fish that was dying. The writer described how it stayed until the dying gold fish was finally dead. Do they have feelings as well? Do they know how to get sad? I always observe how animals behave and when I was watching ‘March of the Penguins,’ I realized one thing – that animals do not go against their nature. They just do what they are here for – mothers care for their young and fathers provide for them. As with the Penguins, fathers and mothers are monogamous – at least for a year – until it is time for them to part ways again. The father cares for the chick penguin when the mother goes away to find food. I like how they seem to show love to each other when they reunite after a few months hunting for food in the sea. I was in awe how they protect each other and how they know that together - they survive, but divided - they all die. It’s amazing that even animals know how to love…and know the importance of family and togetherness. …and yes, I do believe they grieve for their dead. PS: I did not take a photograph of the pigeons as I know you wouldn’t like it...because it was such a pitiful sight.