Scientists baffled as vegetarian monkey cannibalises newborn


A distraught vegetarian monkey has baffled scientists in Italy after she was recorded cannibalising her dead newborn.

Evalyne the Tonkean macaque gave birth to her first baby but, as is common in the species, it died several days later.

Evalyne carried the baby with her for weeks, continuing to groom and care for it for much longer than usual. Photos: Arriana De Marco

It is common for Tonkean macaques to continue nursing dead babies for up to a week.

However, researchers noted in study published in the biology journal Primates, Evalyne continued grooming and caring for the infant for 18 days.

On day 19, researchers observed the monkey begin to consume parts of her now-mummified baby’s corpse.

“We don’t know why she would behave this way,” lead researcher Arianna De Marco told Newsweek.

“There may be physiological reasons, it could also be interpreted as an extreme attachment to the corpse’s remains, but we still don’t know.”

A baby macaque pictured in Tokyo. Photo: AP

By the time 25 days had passed since the death, the mother, who had also been recorded screaming and howling at her own reflection, had eaten almost all of the remains.

Scientists have speculated the Evalyne may have eaten the infant for reasons related to her low-ranking social status.

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