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Chimps are Highly Intelligent and Feel Deep Emotions

Chimpanzees have and show emotions.

98.9% of chimp and human genes are identical, so it is no surprise to find that they also share many emotions in common. Like humans, chimps feel rage, joy, love, jealousy, sadness, fear, and a full spectrum of other emotions.

Chimps appear to grieve the death of other chimps. One of the most striking such reports was in 1972 when chimp adolescent Flint became depressed and listless following the death of his mother, Flo. He returned to where she had died and remained there. Flint died three-and-a-half weeks following his mother’s death, and although autopsy showed extensive stomach and intestinal disease, the timing of his death and his behavior suggested grief had played a large role in his death.

There have been many reports of mother chimps carrying their dead infants for a day, or even weeks in some instances, following their death. When chimp communities are posed with the dead body of one of their members, there is typically a range of reactions, some chimps becoming upset and displaying while others appear sad and to be grieving.

This moving photograph by photographer Monica Szczupider nicely illustrates chimp reaction to the death of one of their own. In it, Dorothy, a female chimp in her late 40’s, had died of heart failure. Veterinarian Sheri Speede displayed the body prior to burial. “The management at Sanaga-Yong opted to let Dorothy’s chimpanzee family witness her burial, so that perhaps they would understand, in their own capacity, that Dorothy would not return. Some chimps displayed aggression while others barked in frustration. But perhaps the most stunning reaction was a recurring, almost tangible silence. If one knows chimpanzees, then one knows that [they] are not [usually] silent creatures,” said Monica Szczupider, photorapher.