Frazer Blog

Animal Funeral Rituals

by | Feb 15, 2017 | For Families

A blue and black bird sitting on a branch

We’ve explored unique funeral traditions of different cultures around the world, but what about animal funeral rituals?

Scientists have observed that animals seem to mourn after the loss of a loved one like humans do. They’ve been seen performing funeral-like rituals, like burying the deceased and gathering around to pay their respects.

Here is a list of some animal funeral rituals:


When baboons experience a loss, they’ve been shown to look for support in their friends, like humans do. For example, according to Anne Engh, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Biology, a baboon named Sylvia looked for support in her friends and showed signs of depression when she lost her daughter Sierra to a lion.


When a mother chimpanzee loses her child, she carries around her deceased child and grooms them for several days or even longer. She may continue to do this until the deceased is no longer recognizable, or if the chimpanzee lives at a zoo, however long the zookeepers allow this ritual to occur. For example, at a zoo in Los Angeles, the zoo keepers let a chimpanzee named Gracie carry around her deceased child for several days.


According to George Wittemyer, a conservation biologist at Colorado State University who studies elephants, “elephants have a respect for their dead, but their interaction with their dead is not something we fully understand.” Elephants seem to show respect to the body of the deceased by scattering the bones, raising a foot over the deceased, or other meaningful gestures.

Elephant researcher Martin Meredith said an elephant family touched their trunks to their deceased herd leader, made rumbling sounds, and tried to lift her. Then, they covered the deceased in leaves, dirt, and tree branches, and stood silently around the deceased for the next two days.


Zoologist Professor Fred Bercovitch saw a mother giraffe stay with her deceased calf at the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. She widened her legs to bend down and lick the deceased, which is not common for giraffes to do unless they’re eating or drinking. She repeated this several times for two hours while no other giraffes were around.

Langur Monkeys

A video from BBC’s “Spy in the Wild” documentary series shows langur monkeys coping with the loss of a robotic monkey. When the robot monkey falls to the ground, the monkeys think that it died. They all gathered around the robot monkey while hugging and comforting each other. Some of the monkeys sat by the robot monkey and touched it as if they were paying their respects to it.

Magpie Birds

According to Welcome Wildlife, magpies are among the world’s smartest birds. Dr. Bekoff from the University of Colorado said magpies appear to hold funerals for their deceased. He studied how four magpies reacted to a deceased magpie, and found that two of the magpies approached the deceased and pecked it gently. Then, two magpies put some grass on top of the deceased, and all of them stood around the deceased like they were holding a vigil.


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