A giraffe mother with her calf in South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia. Photo: John Walker (Wikipedia)
Read aloud Lonely, the mother stands over her dead child. She nudges it, over and over again, bends her long neck down to him, licks the still damp coat. For two hours she does that. Does she understand that the little one is dead? Animal Behavior Researcher Fred Bercovitch of Kyoto University Japan believes that giraffes could have a concept of life and death. Female giraffes spend very little time away from the group. All the more surprising that said giraffe mother spent several hours alone with her dead foal. Bercovitch sees this as an indication of the understanding of the animal for the loss of her cub and a kind of mourning behavior. Another peculiarity in the behavior of the giraffe observed in a national park in Zambia was her attitude: she spread her legs wide to get closer to the dead baby giraffe. Otherwise, giraffes only adopt this wide-legged position for eating and drinking.

Elephants and chimpanzees are known to mourn for their dead. Some monkeys were seen carrying their dead children with them for a long time. Bercovitch has compiled three different observations of possible mourning behavior of giraffes. For example, a giraffe stayed with her dead child for four days. Nevertheless, the interpretation remains for the time being only a guess, stressed the biologist. Further observations are needed. However, the behavior of the giraffes definitely demonstrate a stronger bond with their offspring than was previously thought, says Bercovitch.

Fred Bercovitch (Kyoto University): African Journal of Ecology, DOI: 10.1111 / aje.12016 © science.de? Sabine Short

© science.de

Recommended Editor'S Choice