Headline June19, 2014



DIM hope is not the same as no hope, and humans exhibit a desperate denial of death all the time, every time...

GRIEF,  like animals, comes in multiple species, and as with so many things, it's the human variety that's the most complex.
For us, the loss of a loved one inflicts a pain like no other-

''Gut me,'' King quotes journalist Roger Rosenblatt writing in a book about the death of his adult daughter:
''Slice me down the earth's meridian from north to south, Lay my bones outside my skin.''

It's a terrifying description as much because if its visual awfulness as because of the fact that it captures the experience. The rituals we built around that torment  -the gathering in rooms,  the bowing of heads-

The paradoxical laughter in the wake, often with the deceased as the foil  -medicate the pain and ease the passage.

No one pretends that grief in animals is anywhere near as complex. For starters, they don't have the brainpower for the long reflection and obsessive remembering that makes grieving such a slow process for us.

More important, they can't afford to indulge it even if they did. ''Most animals are preoccupied with surviving,'' says Marzluff, who is also the co-author of  Gifts Of The Crow.

''Mother Nature is harsh, and if there's a value in dealing with a death, there's also a value in moving beyond it quickly, otherwise you're going to get weeded out.''    

Instead, what researchers point to in identifying animal grief is a suite of observable behaviours familiar to anyone experiencing a loss or depression  -listlessness, lack of appetite, weight loss.

''I'm looking for something prolonged, something visible,'' says King. ''I don't think it's productive to ask if animals really understand death, since there's no way we know that. I'm just interested in what we can see.''

There's no shortage of behaviours that fit that description. By most measures, the animals that seem to experience death in the most humanlike way are not the ones that are generally closest to us  -The great Apes   -but elephants.

The literature has been rife with the reports of the funeral rites that almost reverential treatment of remains that occur among the elephant herds. British zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton:

Was particularly struck by the  2003  death of an African elephant known as Eleanor at a national park in Kenya.

Eleanor was the matriarch of her herd and had given birth less than six months earlier. Suffering from an illness, she collapsed in the presence of another female. That elephant, know as Grace, trumpeted, nudged Eleanor and tried to push her up with her tusks.

As Eleanor died the next morning, another female, Maui, approached and stood over, rocking and examining her. For a full-week, Eleanor's baby and the females of the herd visited the remains. They kept coming after park workers had removed Eleanor's tusks to discourage poachers;

They came too after scavengers had begun to eat the remains. The baby nuzzled her mother's body and tried to nurse from the other young calves. But the milk never came, and her mother never moved   -and the baby soon died too.

''I see so clearly the emotional ripple of Eleanor's death,'' says King. ''I wouldn't want to say every every single elephant who approached Eleanor is grieving: some may be simply curious. But the extreme distress Douglas-Hamilton describes telegraphs to us across species lines.''

The great apes approach things differently. One reason may be that their superior brainpower allows them to grasp the permanence and inevitability of death in a way other animals don't.

Primatologist Franz de Waal, director of Emory University's Living Links Center, points to a scene he observed when a troop of bonobos encountered a poisonous snake known as Gaboon Viper. The bonobos approached the viper only closely enough to poke it with a stick-

Until a female seized it and flung it onto the ground, killing it. In a blink, the feared animal became a benign object, with young bonobos even examining its fangs and wearing it like a reptilian lei.

''None of them expected it to come back to life,'' de Waal says. ''Dead is Dead''

That awareness, which hits grieving humans in terrible waves of existential permanence over the course of months, makes things harder for apes too. At the Burgers' Zoo, in Arnhem, the Netherlands, an adolescent female chimpanzee Oortje-

Contracted an infection that was not responding to medication. One afternoon when the animals were in their indoor enclosure, Oortje seemed particularly sickly, and another female approached her and stared into her eyes, then broke out into screams-

And began pounding herself on the chest. Oortje tried to vocalize back but toppled over and died. A scream erupted from another chimp, and then all the animals in the large enclosure grew completely still:

It defies science to say with certainty that the chimp closest to Oortje knew that death was coming, but it defies intuitive observation to say otherwise:
''The death of Oortje and the snake suggests that death of others is on the minds of primates and affects them deeply,''  says de Waal.

''Evidence suggests that they know that once an individual has become immobile for a length of time, hope for revival is dim indeed.''

And then there's Hachiko, Japan's legendary  Akita  whose grieving appeared to extend across species lines. Hachiko accompanied his owner to a Tokyo train station each morning to see him off to work and then returned in the evening to greet him.

When the owner died, the dog maintained his vigil, going to the station day after day for a decade   -and always plodding home alone -  to mourn, to grieve, to be lonely, to just be a dog,   a world that only he,  -truly understood.

The Honour and Serving of the Post will continue at, -timely times, -in the future. Often, ever so often.

With respectful dedication to all the good Lord-God's creations - in the animal kingdom, and to all the pet and animal lovers, who have the heart to care.

See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' The Voice Of The Voiceless '''

Good night and God bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!