Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be extremely tough whether you’re human or monkey, which is why staff at Camperdown Wildlife Centre in Dundee, Scotland, made the decision to shut the zoo for a week following the loss of one of their lion-tailed macaques. The wildlife center will remain closed until Thursday, giving the macaque troop time to mourn without being goggled at by passers-by.
The zoo shared the news in a Facebook post last Friday, telling potential visitors, “We are closing early today (Fri 29th) to work with some of our animals quietly. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused this afternoon to our visitors. Thank you.”
On Sunday, Camperdown extended the temporary closure to Thursday, explaining that “Lion-tailed macaques are a highly social species and as part of their natural grieving process have been guarding and preening this youngster which will help the whole group come to terms with their loss.”
The news has been met with an overwhelmingly positive response with many people praising the zoo for putting the animals’ welfare above profits.
Macaques are highly social, very smart monkeys that live in strict hierarchical groups known as troops. They fall into the Old World monkey category, a club that includes baboons and mangabeys, which means they took a different evolutionary path to apes such as gorillas, orangutans, and, of course, humans.
Despite this, they still share some 93 percent of their DNA with us and display a range of human-like behaviors. This includes using tools (like human hair as dental floss) and smiling in their sleep. Previous research also seems to suggest that they have the vocal ability to talk. Unfortunately, they don’t appear to have the brain capacity to do so.
When it comes to the loss of a family member or friend, there is evidence to suggest that they, like humans, grieve. Yet the full extent of monkeys’ relationship with death remains a bit of a mystery.
Researchers have watched as monkeys gather in silence around dead bodies or display signs of anxiety such as yawning, scratching, and screaming. One documentary appeared to capture a group of langur monkeys mourning the loss of a dead baby even though this “monkey” was, in actual fact, a robot in disguise.
This particular breed of macaque, the lion-tailed macaque, is named after its long tail, which has a lion-like tassel at its end. They live in the dry forests and tropical rainforests of India, but habitat destruction has put them on the endangered list.
The macaques at Camperdown arrived from Belfast Zoo last October. Following Friday’s news, there are currently 10 individuals in the troop.