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Animal suicides

 
 
Equus
 
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2003 03:32 pm
Do animals other than humans ever intentionally commit suicide? Just get depressed and run off a cliff or slash their own neck? I've heard that the lemmings story is untrue. For sake of argument, let's limit discussion to vertebrates, and ignore herd and nest-protecting behavior.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 5,479 • Replies: 27
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2003 03:33 pm
There's whales and such, who beach themselves...
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2003 03:48 pm
The term "suicide" means a conscious decision to end a life (more or less). It presumes that something is sentient and knows what it is doing....

I believe that it only appears to us that certain animal deaths are a form of suicide (e.g. whales or octopuses - the old believe about the 'suicide' of the lemmings is an 'urban legend' since some years http://www.snopes.com/disney/films/lemmings.htm ). Their deaths are actually due to other causes
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patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2003 04:14 pm
I've heard of dogs who go stir crazy in apartments and jump out of (or, rather, through) windows, but I very much doubt they've thought through the dying at the end bit.

You've definitely got your whales, though, and they're pretty smart buggers so far as I can tell. Who knows what's up with that?

Well...

from http://www.learner.org/jnorth/www/jn95/migrations/students/881603747.html
Quote:
Christopher Delehanty and the Ogden Elementary 4th grade ask: Q. Why do whales beach themselves? A. Liz Pomfret of the International Wildlife Coalition answers that it is rare for large whales to beach themselves -- they usually come to shore dead. Even if they are sick, they will die at sea (although there has been a case of a stranding of sperm whales in New Zealand). There have been many recorded strandings of some of the smaller toothed whales, such as dolphins and pilot whales, that have been caught in tides and perhaps disoriented. There is no simple answer. Perhaps pollution has messed up their echo location capabilities, perhaps storms are the culprits. Lots more research needed here too.


and from http://whale.wheelock.edu/archives/ask98/0505.html...
Quote:
Most of the whales that end up on shore do it one at a time, but every so often a whole herd of whales will come ashore at the same time. The only
whales that do this also happen to be whales that live in big herds. For example pilot whales mass strand, baleen whales do not. Of all of the
whales species only a few (a half a dozen or so) mass strand. Although the
exact reason they do this will probably vary from place to place, the real
reason is that these whales do EVERYTHING together. For pilot whales (that
mass strand a lot) they live together, they feed together, and when they
make a mistake near shore, they can all come ashore together.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2003 04:18 pm
Yes, lemming just interject here Laughing ....I think the concept of suicide is a truly human one. While there may be abberations in the animal kingdom, such as the whales and the lemmings, I think to call it suicide would be anthropormorphising it.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2003 06:42 pm
I recall a hypothis that whales and dolphins were disorientated or otherwise affected by naval sonars. I have to admit that I only heard this one from one (forgotten) source.
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Equus
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2003 10:42 am
I have heard that too, that submarine and naval sonars & such may disorient whales and cause them to beach.
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Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2003 10:49 am
Horses will damage themselves in fits of rage, fear or anger, but I think it is not on purpose -- just a moment of craziness. A horse may run into a burning barn (or not leave one willingly) but it is said they are fearful & craving the security of their stall. Fire Marshall rules here require that all horses in public barns have individual halters & lead ropes at each stall in case of fire.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2003 05:53 pm
I have certainly known animals to pine away when a loved human or animal companion has died - but this would seem to be depression rather than deliberate suicide.
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patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2003 05:54 pm
"he's not dead. he's pining."
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2003 06:02 pm
hee heee.....
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2003 06:03 pm
One of my cats nearly pined away when his sister was killed - the new kitten arrived in the nick of time.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2003 07:11 pm
pining for the fjords...
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2003 08:11 pm
Interesting question. I did some searching on google: "anthropology" "monkeys" "suicide" "elephant" "zoology" and can NOTHING to suggest that animals do commit suicide, although there was one story about elephants in Africa purposely straddling a railroad with an oncoming train. (There had been much poaching for ivory in the area.)

If suicide is unique to humans, can a few other phenomena unique to humans be linked to suicide? Such as (1) the ability to view time present, backward, and forward? e.i. we grieve over the past and worry about the future? (2) our many religious beliefs? e.i. promise of a better place in heaven as in the case of suicide bombers? or perhaps our failure to live up to unrealistic, idealistic religious moral standards and the resulting feelings of personal failure?

Some would argue that language is unique to humans, but I'm not really sure about that one . . .
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Equus
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Apr, 2003 12:55 pm
Has anyone ever proven that animals have no notion of life after death, or that they are ignorant of their own mortality?

I wonder if suicide among humans may be an artifact of humanity's overcoming the laws of 'survival of the fittest'. We have no natural predators, and we allow our weak and infirm to prosper.
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patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Apr, 2003 01:01 pm
I suspect suicide is a luxury of the relatively leisured classes; too much time to devote our brains to morbid pursuits. I'd be very interested to look for suicide statistics for subsistence-level societies (though not interested enough, apparently, to look for them myself).
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FreeLolita
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:31 pm
Whales... well orcas for that matter, have been known to commit suicide. Like Junior, poor guy. He was locked in a warehouse, at Marineland Canada, in a tiny tank, he never got to breath fresh air, or see sunlight. He also had to listen to barking seals and nosy fans. As well as being abused and starved. Well after taking this for 4 years, he decided to end it. He start to bang his head against the wall over and over... till he died.

Hugo, at the Miami SeaAquarium, died by massive head trauma, which was caused by banging his head against the wall.

Ruka (God Bless her), at the Nanki Shirahama Adventure World, Japan, Died during a show, of traumatic shock. She had been in captivity for 18 years, and my guess she wasn't going back, at just sank to the bottom of the tank and never came back up again.

Orcas in the wild, beach themselves when they are so sick the know they aren't going to be well again, so they end their misery.

As for other animals I'm pretty sure they could, I've heard of it, but have nothing to back it up
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:35 pm
Equus wrote:
I have heard that too, that submarine and naval sonars & such may disorient whales and cause them to beach.


During the period in representative art in the Netherlands referred to as that of the Dutch Mannerists, there was a proliferation of prints showing beached whales. It was a popular theme, and the day trips to see the "monster" were popular as well. No sonars in the 17th century.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:39 pm
dlowan wrote:
One of my cats nearly pined away when his sister was killed - the new kitten arrived in the nick of time.


In the book The Hidden Lives of Dogs the author describes a female who attaches herself to a male, who shows nothing but annoyance at an unwanted attention. However, the female became ill, and was finally euthenized to end her suffering. The author then recounts how the old male now pined away, spending the day under furniture, and dragging himself to the door each time some one arrived there. She describes him as enacting a ritual, saying that he "knew" his companion of old would not truly return. In that portion of the narrative, she is obviously projecting . . . nonetheless, the entire narrative is very compelling in regard to the possibility of emotional lives in domestic animals, at the least, possibly as powerful as our own.
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Equus
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 11:02 am
Setanta wrote:
Equus wrote:
I have heard that too, that submarine and naval sonars & such may disorient whales and cause them to beach.


During the period in representative art in the Netherlands referred to as that of the Dutch Mannerists, there was a proliferation of prints showing beached whales. It was a popular theme, and the day trips to see the "monster" were popular as well. No sonars in the 17th century.


Interesting. Thanks for the comment.

Of course, it could have been extraterrestrials in those 17th C. submarines....
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