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.


Mitchteryosa said...

I've thought of that once... kung may kaluluwa din ba sila, things like that...

exskindiver said...

i always think that if god bothered to put them on this earth, then he must have a second phase plan for them as well--like he does for us.
otherwise, what would be the point?
but come to think of it---does that mean that there are RATS in heaven?
oh no.

i just interviewed my 8 yr old--she said she believes that animals do in fact grieve because she learnt that on the animal planet channel.

happy monday!

Yasmeen said...

We bought two clown fish recently; tester fish they were, since the saltwater aquarium was a new hobby of my husband's, and we didn't know if they would survive. They did ok but one began to grow larger than the other and became extremely aggressive to the point that she wouldn't even allow the smaller fish to eat; biting and chasing him everytime he went for the food. The little nemo ended up dying and, after he died, lying on his side at the bottom of the tank, she got real close to him and layed down by his side without moving. She stayed like that for hours, sitting and circling him. So when we took the dead fish out of the tank the next day, she remained in the same spot he had fallen and is still there- not moving, not swimming. I think she may even die of sadness (or guilt?), I'm not sure. But it's so strange... who knew fish brains were more complex than originally thought.