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Grieving Mother Monkey Carries Stillborn Baby For 10 Days

Jake Massey

| Last updated 

Grieving Mother Monkey Carries Stillborn Baby For 10 Days

Featured Image Credit: Caters


Tragic footage shows a monkey carrying and grooming her stillborn baby.


The monkey gave birth to the stillborn on 9 October but was filmed caring for it 10 days later, by which point it had begun rotting.

The footage was captured by Tracey Mobley while studying her field guide qualification at Campfire Academy, Olifants West, South Africa.

Reflecting on what she saw, Tracey said: "It was very sad and empathetic, she looked forlorn as if she was grieving and she kept trying to put it into a tree as if encouraging it to move and hold on, it was very distressing to watch.

"It was just very moving and we had many discussions relating it to when a human gives birth to a stillborn and just how little time they have with it to mourn.

"She was clearly trying to engage a reaction from the baby. To start with she clung to it at all times and then gradually started to carry it in her hand and left it from time to time, and then she would carry it in her mouth in order to make full use of all of her limbs like when she would climb trees etc."

The spectacle became all the more upsetting as the days passed and the stillborn began to decompose.

Tracey said: "To start with, the monkey was still quite floppy with its arms and legs dangling.

"After a day or so you could see it had become stiff and, towards the end it had become almost mummified and didn't resemble a monkey at all.

"The smell was quite powerful and if she left it near to where you were sitting you could quite clearly smell it."

It is not unusual for primates to carry and care for stillborn babies. Credit: Caters
It is not unusual for primates to carry and care for stillborn babies. Credit: Caters

While the video is undeniably tragic, it is not abnormal for primates to cling onto their dead infants way after they have passed.

According to a study by Claire Watson and Tetsuro Matsuzawa: "Mothers may carry the corpse of their infant for hours, days or months - sometimes after all resemblance to a living infant ceases, beyond bloating and mummification, clutching only skeletal remains or a disintegrated fragment.

"Extended duration carrying is not exceptional. Most commonly, however, transportation lasts between one and several days, and mothers typically direct care-taking behaviour to the dead infant as if it were still alive, such as grooming and apparently protective behaviours."

Topics: Animals, monkey

Jake Massey
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