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Chimpanzee mothers at Bossou, Guinea carry the mummified remains of their dead infants

Biro, D., Humle, T., Koops, K., Sousa, C., Hayashi, M. & Matsuzawa, T.

Current Biology, Volume 20, Issue 8, R351-R352, 27 April 2010, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.02.031


The forests surrounding Bossou, Guinea, are home to a small, semi-isolated chimpanzee community studied for over three decades. In 1992, Matsuzawa reported the death of a 2.5-year-old chimpanzee (Jokro) at Bossou from a respiratory illness. The infant's mother (Jire) carried the corpse, mummified in the weeks following death, for at least 27 days. She exhibited extensive care of the body, grooming it regularly, sharing her day- and night-nests with it, and showing distress whenever they became separated. The carrying of infants' corpses has been reported from a number of primate species, both in captivity and the wild albeit usually lasting a few days only suggesting a phylogenetic continuity for a behavior that is poignant testament to the close mother-infant bond which extends across different primate taxa. In this report we recount two further infant deaths at Bossou, observed over a decade after the original episode but with striking similarities.

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