Planning to go for a Congo safari on your next Africa safari holiday? Even when you plan to go for a Congo gorilla safari in Kahuzi Biega National Park Congo or Virunga National Park, it is very rare to see sightings of gorillas reacting to bodies of both known and unknown gorillas.
This has given researchers new insight to find out how gorillas deal with death. During their Congo gorilla tour research, they landed on a gorilla family in Kahuzi Beiga National Park that got concerned about the dead fellow. The displays were elusive as they quietly gathered around the dead silverback, staring, touching, and poking. Some, especially the younger gorillas, placed their hands on the body, grooming it and beating it to see if it will react.
Chimanuka’s family didn’t know the dead gorilla, but because of their human-like affection, they seemed to slowly take more interest in him. Researchers with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which has been studying gorillas for more than 50 years, had been shadowing Chimanuka, the head of one the gorilla families in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kahuzi-Biega Park, in 2016, when the strange scene unfolded.
These researchers often followed the movements of this Congo gorilla trekking safari family. On this day, they didn’t know what it was, said one of the researchers until the leader of their research told them to proceed and see what had happened to the huge silverback that was lying on its stomach.
Researchers have rarely observed this type of behaviour even in close social groups, so they very surprised to gorillas around a gorilla that is not part of their family. All they had observed during Uganda Rwanda Congo gorilla safaris was that different gorilla families tend to avoid others who aren’t part of their social group, and if they do interact, it may get aggressive. However, this Chimanuka family normally tracked by travellers on gorilla safaris Congo displayed a calm interest in the body of the unknown silverback. This act was unexpected and raised new questions for these researchers about how gorillas perceive death.
In a paper published April 2 in the Peerj Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences, Porter and her team detail the behaviors of Chimanuka’s troop around the unknown silverback’s body, as well as the behaviors of a troop mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, which was also observed touching, poking, licking, and grooming the bodies of two dead gorillas from their own social group.
The fact that gorillas responded in a similar way to the body of an unknown gorilla as they did to the bodies of gorillas from their troop gives researchers insight into behaviour they didn’t previously have, but a lot is still unknown because it’s so rare for researchers to have the chance to see it. “The observations were really opportunistic,” Porter says. “We’re in the very beginning stages of understanding how animals perceive death,” Porter says.
While we don’t yet know if the behaviour described in the paper is mourning, and scientists hesitate to use the word when describing animal reactions to death, similar cases show that it is possible that animals feel emotion, including grief.
During some Gorilla tours Congo, there are some gorilla mothers that have been observed carrying the bodies of their infants after they’ve died.
Which other animals have been seen doing the same?
On one of the Uganda wildlife safaris, a group encountered elephants have been observed gathering around their dead, climbing onto the body and touching it with their feet and trunks. In 2011, researchers in Zambia released video of a chimpanzee community touching, smelling, and observing the body of a nine-year-old male who was part of their group. A mother in the group whose infant daughter also died around the same time was seen carrying her body as she stopped nearby the body of the nine-year-old.
After doing research, there is now solid, widespread evidence for emotional responses to death in surviving wild animals, ranging from the depressed, social, withdrawal as it is evident distress in body posture and vocalization among others.
The time gorillas spent with the bodies and the contact with them has also raised concerns related to the transmission of diseases like Ebola in Congo, a disease which researchers think it is responsible for the deaths of gorillas in Congo.
For Angelique Todd, a researcher at Fauna & Flora International who has studied gorilla behaviour for decades and is currently working with several co-authors on a paper about gorilla interaction with the sick and dead, it’s the insight into Ebola transmission that makes this research so important.
“Once transmitted to ape populations, particularly those at high densities, the virus runs through the population like wildfire,” Todd says. Gorillas are more affected than chimpanzees because gorilla ranges tend to overlap much more, so there’s more contact between different troops, see says. “These results are particularly pertinent given the current presence of Ebola virus in eastern DRC, which poses a threat not only to humans, but also mountain gorillas, Grauer’s gorillas, and eastern chimpanzees. If the Ebola virus reaches these threatened populations, the conservation community will have to act quickly to protect these high-value populations.”
Porter hopes the behaviour they’ve observed and the data they’ve collected will play a significant role in protecting the gorillas they’ve been studying for so long.
“We know all their social networks, we know their relatedness from the genetics, we know the context of death,” she says. “To have all of those, plus the observations that are so rare to see in the wild, is really something that is quite special
A gorilla trekking safari Congo or gorilla trekking safari Congo is one of the most rewarding Africa tours that will give you real magical experiences. Besides a gorilla safari in Congo, or gorilla tours Congo, you can engage in a Uganda gorilla trekking safari, a Rwanda gorilla tour.
You can combine your Congo gorilla trekking safari tour with a Rwanda safari. Rwanda gorilla trekking safari, Uganda safaris, short Uganda wildlife safaris, Uganda gorilla safaris, Uganda chimpanzee safaris, Uganda adrenaline adventures, Kampala city tours, Jinja city tours and many more.
Congo gorilla safari packages
2 Days Congo gorilla safari to Virunga National Park
3 Days Congo gorilla safari
3 Days Lowland gorilla trekking safari
4 Days Congo gorilla safari & Nyiragongo hike
5 Days Congo gorilla safari
6 Days Congo gorilla & hiking safari
7 Days Congo wildlife safari