Chimpanzee Moms Are Just Like Humans: From "Me" Time to Doting Over Their Kids

Layla Harris

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When it comes down to caring for their young, chimpanzees and humans have many more similarities than we may have thought. Many resources are used when raising offspring in the wilderness, from around-the-clock care of their infants to nursing, sheltering, and protecting- until they're capable of independence.

Mother and Baby Chimpanzee
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Rachna Reddy is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University who has spent years observing animals in the wild. She explained how there is something about chimpanzee bonds "That's…sort of indescribable, just like in human loving relationships." As it turns out, many of the primal instincts between our species overlap.

Chimpanzee Bond Mother Offspring
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There are many examples of how these human-like animals mimic behavior that we might see in our own homes. For instance, for chimpanzees, specifically those in a group, "About a third of adult males are essentially best friends with their mothers," according to Reddy.

Offspring Protection Mother Chimpanzee
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Reddy and author Aaron Sandel, spent 3 years observing nearly 30 chimps. Their findings showed that chimpanzee mothers are essential to their son's lives. Not only is it a mother's job to defend their offspring in conflicts with others, but to offer comfort via touch as well - Often exemplified by long grooming periods.

Mother Baby Chimpanzee Protection
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But, when they're not looking over their offspring, mother chimpanzees make sure to take time for themselves! Sean Lee, a postdoctoral scientist at George Washington University, explained that despite spending copious time with their babies, "Chimp moms still need to get that social interaction and social time—and they do."

Me-time aside, on the sad occasion that a mother chimp experiences the loss of a group member or even one of her own, research shows that the species will grieve and mourn just like a human. Thus, Moni, a chimp who prefers alone time at the Netherlands' Royal Burgers' Zoo, has been under a close eye as of late.

Mourning Mother Chimpanzee Offspring
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She was devastated when she lost one of her offspring. Fellow chimps reacted by staying close by the grieving mother, kissed her hand, and even offered her theirs to hold as support. The researchers said awareness of these emotions and many others is used to "Set animals and humans apart;" however, Moni could show us differently.