Chimps filmed comforting dying female

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Dignity in death may be as important to chimpanzees as it is to humans, a new study suggests.

Chimps at a wildlife park in Scotland were filmed grooming and comforting a dying female member of their group in her final hours. They also appeared to test for signs of life by checking if the elderly ape was breathing.

After the death there followed a period of "mourning", during which the chimps remained quiet and subdued and avoided the sleeping spot where the death occurred.

The extraordinary scenes were captured on video by staff at the Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park in Stirlingshire. It is the first time anyone has closely observed the behaviour of chimps faced with a natural death.

The chimp who died, named Pansy, was one of a group of four at the Scottish wildlife park and thought to be aged in her sixties. When she became terminally ill in December 2008, staff decided to film the end of her life and its impact on the other chimps.

The footage was taken to animal behaviour scientists at the University of Stirling, whose findings have been published in the journal Current Biology.

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