(ANIMAL BEHAVIOR/WILDLIFE) Is it possible for animals to cry? Many are asking this question after photos surfaced of a baby elephant in China named Zhuang-zhang who was reportedly crying last week after his mother inexplicably attacked him—perhaps as a result of her life spent in captivity. Animal behaviorists believe that animals can and do cry, equating the phenomenon to the cries of human infants. Much like human babies, animals most likely cry from emotions such as stress and the need for contact. Read the article below for more on the science of animal emotions. — Global Animal
Discovery News, Jennifer Viegas
Certain animals may weep out of sorrow, similar to human baby cries, say animal behavior experts.
Many may have wondered if this was true after news reports last week described a newborn elephant calf at Shendiaoshan Wild Animal Nature Reserve in eastern China.
The calf reportedly cried inconsolably for five hours after being stomped on by his mother that then rejected the little elephant. The calf, named Zhuang-zhuang, has since been “adopted” by a keeper and is doing well, according to the news site Metro.
“Some mammals may cry due to loss of contact comfort,” animal behaviorist Marc Bekoff explained to Discovery News.
“It could be a hard-wired response to not feeling touch,” added Bekoff, former professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who, with primatologist Jane Goodall, co-founded the organization Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Citizens for Responsible Animal Behavior Studies.
For elephant calves and human infants, crying is probably more out of stress than sorrow, he said.”But stress is an emotion,” continued Bekoff, whose book “Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed,” will be coming out in November.
He pointed out that scientific studies have proven that chicken, mice and rats display empathy — feeling another’s pain — which is an even more complex phenomenon.
For crying, the animal would have to be of a social nature, possess eye anatomy similar to ours, and have brain structure for processing emotions.
Dogs are among the most social animals, but scientists and owners have yet to report on a depressed dog crying his eyes out.
“However, dogs and other animals certainly can suffer and may recognize suffering in others,” said Brian Hare, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University who co-founded the dog analysis tool “Dognition” that any owner can use.
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