by Gabriel Guzman

The University of West Georgia Department of Anthropology recently hosted a lecture with renowned anthropologist Dr. Barbara King to discuss how animals grieve. King has focused on animal emotion and welfare as it relates to wildlife throughout her career.

MonkeyKing writes weekly for NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog, and she has appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporation to discuss animal grief. During her lecture, presented to UWG students, faculty and staff, King asked the audience to think about how animals grieve, rather than thinking of whether they are capable of grieving.

“By looking at them carefully, we see when grief is present, when it’s absent, and how they are like us,” King said.

Her objective during her visit at UWG was to talk about grief, not to be afraid to use the terminology and to apply the terms to other animals so we can help them. She spoke about how humans are unique but also how similar we are to other animals.

“Should we be astonished that other primates who are close to each other feel grief and emotions?” King asked.

According to King, humans tend to think that emotions and grief belong solely to them, but through her research, she is convinced that other creatures also share these characteristics.

She shared a story with the audience about two gorillas, Bebe and Bobby, who lived at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. Bebe had cancer, and after becoming ill, she passed away. The zoo felt the humane thing to do would be to euthanize her because of the circumstances regarding her illness. But they also performed a practice that is becoming more common: they allowed her companion, Bobby, to spend time with her body afterwards.

When allowed to see her, Bobby rushed to Bebe and began pushing on her body to revive her. He even pressed a piece of celery into her hand; it was her favorite food. When he couldn’t wake her up, he turned around and let out a wail, banged on the cage bars and never attempted to revive her again.

King explains that one reason we may think animals don’t have emotions or experience grief is because natural selection compels animals to not show weakness. If they do, they get picked off by predators. So it isn’t behavior that is usually witnessed by observers.

Posted on November 16, 2016