If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, then you know how difficult and absolutely heartbreaking it can be. Human beings have developed and maintained countless rituals and practices to help us cope with feelings of loss and grief. Funerals, memorial services, wakes… the list goes on and on. However, it might be a surprise for you to learn that we are not the only ones on this massive planet of ours to mourn our dead: animals do it, too! Here is our list of 6 Amazing Animal Death Rituals practiced in the animal kingdom!
Warning: You may want to grab a box of Kleenex
Amazing Animal Death Rituals
1. Sea Lions
Despite being relatively solitary creatures, sea lions bond very deeply with others of their kind: especially parent/child relationships. Mother sea lions in particular have been known to cry out in sadness when their babies are killed by predators. A sea lion will continue wailing in mourning after its child has died, letting out loud cries. The same behavior has also been seen in sea lions dealing with companions, mates or cubs taken by hunters. The signs of grief amongst sea lions are easy enough for humans to recognize, as they mirror how we might cry out in agony when suffering a loss.
The complex social structures of gorillas coupled with their intelligence means that is easier for outsiders to recognize the strong connections they form with their children and pack members. Gorillas have been recorded exhibiting sadness and concern for their dead, and even in rare cases burying the bodies! There have also been a number of incidents recorded of mother gorillas carrying around the bodies of their dead children following the child’s death, mourning for a number of days.
Elephants are extremely social, empathetic, and emotional creatures, which means that they easily bond with other elephants as well. These deep attachments can lead to extreme feelings and expressions of grief when a fellow elephant dies. Elephants are known to shed tears, bury their dead, and exhibit signs of depression (such as starving themselves) in reaction to losing an elephant in their community. Signs of mourning amongst elephants have been noted especially in the case of a mother losing her child.
Though there are a number of different sub-species of geese, there is something that they all have in common: geese pair for life, devoting themselves to one mate for their life’s entirety. After a goose dies, its mate will mourn deeply: starving themselves, and separating from the flock for a period of time. However, after the period of mourning comes to an end (and the length of time varies), the goose will eventually find a new mate in another bird that has also lost its partner.
Magpies are surprisingly empathetic to others of their kind. Studies on magpies and their community rituals have concluded that they feel grief and often hold funerals. These “funerals” consist of the other magpies approaching the corpse, gently pecking at it, and then covering the deceased magpie with some grass, leaves, or other natural materials. Though we can’t know what magpies are actually thinking or feeling when doing this, these actions do appear to be a form of final farewell.
Dolphins are famously friendly and adorable creatures, so it may come as no surprise that they are highly emotional when it comes to losing a member of their pod. A group of Portuguese marine biologists studied a few instances in which adult dolphins were recorded using their heads and backs to hold up a calf who had recently died. After examining the carcasses from these events, the biologists concluded that adult dolphins tend to hold on to their dead young for about 30 minutes before giving them up to the ocean. Talk about a heartbreakingly beautiful way to say goodbye!