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Amazing Displays of Animal Empathy


There are proven records of animals showing empathy. Several, in fact. Sometimes, animals take care of each other. Sometimes, they show outpourings of grief, and sometimes, they even take care of us. However they show it, though, there are several times when animals have shown empathy—and some of them are in ways that are so much like humans that they will shock you.

A Chimpanzee Comforted Her Caretaker after A Miscarriage


Central Washington University once took in a chimpanzee named Washoe. They taught Washoe sign language and tried to raise her as much as possible like a human being. The experiment was a rousing success. Washoe was able to communicate and even form full, grammatically correct sentences. One of Washoe’s caretakers, a woman named Kat, was pregnant and miscarried. She took a few weeks off of work. Washoe, took this as a personal offense and refused to look at Kat when she returned. To make Washoe happy, Kat signed that she was sorry and then explained, “My baby died.” According to the people present, Washoe just stared at her in silence for a long while. Then the chimpanzee signed the word “cry” and ran her finger down Kat’s cheek, mimicking a tear. Washoe stopped her, signing, “Please, person—hug?”

Elephants Gathered To Mourn A Conservationist’s Death


Conservationist Lawrence Anthony developed a reputation as “the elephant whisperer.” He had the ability to calm down African elephants. Anthony died of a heart attack. He had not been in the reserve or seen the elephants for 1.5 years when it happened. The elephants, somehow sensing that Anthony had passed, left the reserve and traveled for 12 hours to his home to pay their respects. Just as an elephant will mourn the dead of its own species, they came out for Anthony. In total, two full herds of elephants came in a procession to his home, with each one coming separately.

Dogs Instinctively Comfort Crying Humans


An animal behavior study was recently conducted to see how dogs would react to emotional displays. Each dog was put in a room with its owner and a stranger. Naturally, the dog would gravitate toward the owner at first. When a stranger pretended to cry, though, the dogs really reacted. When the dogs thought that the stranger was upset, they would leave their owners, nuzzle the crying stranger, and lick his face.

Chimpanzee Mother And Sister Took Care Of A Baby With Down’s Syndrome


Japanese researchers working in Tanzania spotted something that they’d never seen before. A chimpanzee was taking care of a baby chimp which they described as suffering from “symptoms resembling Down’s syndrome.” The baby held its mouth open like a fish, could barely support itself, and seemed to suffer from a mental handicap. The mother took care of her anyway. Even more interestingly, the chimp’s sister helped with the baby’s care when the mother needed to eat. When the older sister became pregnant herself and couldn’t help anymore, the handicapped baby died.

Rats Protect Each Other And Share Food


A group of scientists set up some lab rats in an experiment. If a rat pulled a lever, two things would happen: The rat would be rewarded with chocolate, but another rat would be drowned. The rewarded rat had to watch the water level rise on another rat in another cage and deal with a tough choice: Is it worth drowning a stranger if you get a Hershey’s bar out of the deal? The answer was no. Most of the rats wouldn’t pull the lever if they knew that it would cause another rat to suffer.

A Pride Of Lions Saved A Girl In Ethiopia


In 2005, a 12-year-old girl near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was dragged out into the wild and beaten bloody by seven men. When the girl started crying, a nearby pride of lions heard her and rushed to her rescue. The animals pounced on the men and chased them away, saving her before she could be raped and forced into a life of servitude. If they’d just attacked the men, it could easily have just been a random lion attack. But they stayed with the girl. The lions waited with the bruised child for about 12 hours—protecting her in case the men came back—until her family found her.

Koko Cried For Her Pet Cat

Koko Koko cry

Koko is a smart gorilla. Her IQ has been listed as somewhere between 70 and 95, which means that she’s probably smarter than a few human beings you know. She has a vocabulary of about 2,000 sign language words and has been able to communicate with researchers in an incredibly humanlike way. Koko’s favorite stories were about cats, they decided to get her a pet kitten. Koko named the tailless cat “All Ball” and adored it. One day, however, All Ball sneaked out of the compound and onto the highway, where she was hit by a car. When the researchers told Koko, she reportedly refused to respond in any way for a full 10 minutes. Then the gorilla started openly weeping or, more accurately, whimpering—which is the gorilla’s way of crying. Koko finally eulogized her pet, signing the words, “Sleep, cat.”

Prairie Voles Console One Another When They Are Stressed

Prairie Voles

Prairie voles are sweethearts that mate for life. Some scientists did a study in which they made a control group of voles watch while an experimental group of voles was shocked with electricity. When the two groups were allowed to reunite, the researchers found that the voles that hadn’t been shocked would console the hurt ones by licking them. The voles only seemed to console other voles that they knew, and they definitely licked more when they knew one had been hurt. All of which told the researchers that this wasn’t just grooming. This was taking care of them.

Magpies Brought Grass For A Dead Friend


Dr. Marc Bekoff of the University of Colorado, while riding his bicycle around Boulder, Colorado, he saw a dead magpie lying on the road who had clearly been hit by a car. Five other magpies were gathered around it, looking at it. One magpie flew off, took some grass, and laid it down by the dead body as if it were an offering. Then another flew away and did the same, taking some grass and putting it down by its side. The five magpies stood in silence for a few moments and then flew away one by one.

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