Orangutans cannibalise own babies

By | May 22, 2009

Ratna, a female orangutanTwo female orangutans have been seen cannibalising the bodies of their recently deceased babies.

Such behaviour has never before been recorded in any great ape species.

The two incidences occurred just one month apart in the same region of forest in Indonesia.

The conservationist who witnessed both incidences suspects they were examples of aberrant behaviour, triggered by stressful living conditions suffered by both mothers.

Humans aside, chimpanzees were the only great apes known to engage in cannabilism, the eating of members of the same species. The behaviour had also been inferred but not seen in gorillas, after the remains of infants were found in the faeces of two adults.

But until now, no ape has been recorded eating its own offspring.

“Cannibalism has been documented in chimpanzees and reported in gorillas. Never before has any ape species been seen treating its own offspring as a consumable resource,” says David Dellatore of Oxford Brookes University, in Oxford, UK.

via BBC – Earth News.

Some say baby eating by humans happens in China, but this is not verified. We do know, however, that there are human cannibals. Luckily this behavior is rare in both humans and orangutans.

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