Do animals commit suicide

I was talking to a friend about her psychotic cats and something I said prompted her to exclaim “At least animals don’t kill themselves like people!” I instantly crosschecked my memory, knowing that I’ve heard reports of humanlike behavior in animals like recreational sex and homosexuality, and realized that I have indeed not heard any stories of intentional animal suicide.

I told her of a certain messageboard that I visit that has answers to the secret of life and promised to ask the question, so, do any animals intentionally commit suicide?

Staff report “Does any animal besides humans commit suicide?”

Short answer: No.

I think that answer is wrong. If an animal, in grief, refuses to eat or even accept nourishment from his family/friend’s then is that not suicide?

I wouldn’t say so, unless it could be established that the animal stopped eating with the express purpose of dying, rather than stopping because it was just very messed up.

I think that chimps can understand what death means and would realize that not eating food would result in death. Jane Goodall describes a chimp who remained attached to his mother for quite a while. When she became ill and died, he remained in his nest and refused to take food or drink. The other chimps were upset by this at first and tried to convince him to leave the nest or take nourishment but he refused and eventually they left him alone to die.

Ric O’Barry was Flipper’s trainer. He is convinced that Flipper committed suicide.

Wow, Flipper hated Ric O’Barry that much, huh?


Sometimes they try…

Probably NSFW.

That is a hilarious ad. Props to the marketing folks at Bridgestone. :slight_smile:

An old friend of mine had a wild girlfriend once, who wanted to have sex with his dog. The dog was happy to oblige her, but the very next day,the pooch ran out in front of a car, to his death. Dogs don’t leave suicide notes, so I guess we’ll never know.

Yes, I think I’d accept that it has been demonstrated that chimps can understand death, but that doesn’t mean they all do so innately.
At best, it’s rather shaky inference that the chimp in question here a)understood the meaning of death, b)understood that stopping eating would result in its own death and c)deliberately chose that course of action. Is there anything about this example that couldn’t be explained as, say, chronic loss of appetite due to depression?


Staff report “Does any animal besides humans commit suicide?”

Great scott! Kamikazi ants :eek:

A lot of humans who commit suicide aren’t “otherwise healthy” either. The Staff Report does say that sick or injured animals may act in ways to guarantee a faster end to their suffering. Many humans who commit suicide are mentally ill, and I wouldn’t say a mentally ill person is “otherwise healthy”.

So for it to be suicide it has to be with knowledge of death, not just self-harm? There’s a very sad story in The Noonday Demon,I think, about an octopus owned by a circus who did tricks for people, and when it was taken from the circus and put in an aquarium where nobody cared about its tricks it got “depressed”, declined, and finally did itself a bad enough wound with its beak that it died. I get a little weepy myself thinking about the octopus performing and performing and nobody cared about it. :frowning:

I think dancing on a bar in public or perhaps making out with various people at parties would be considered “wild.”

Wanting to, and actually having sex with a dog is a bit beyond the scope of the word I think. :eek:

I would say so; lost of animals display self-harming behaviour under stress - feather plucking in caged birds is another example, which can cause fatal complications, but suicide is defined as the intentional act of killing onesself. Without the intention, it’s misadventure, accident, etc, but not suicide.

Ok. No one has mentioned beached whales yet. And often they return to the beach after they have been rescued. I would credit them with enough intelligence to know that beaching themselves (a second time) was going to cause them harm. And I believe that they are a sufficiently social animals to be aware of death. I believe also that they are self-aware (in a way that probably beetles aren’t).
So, if they are self aware, aware that they are doing themselves significant harm, aware of death and beaching themselves deliberately then I would say that it qualifies as suicide.
Honeybees too. They normally die when stinging a mammal. This is in response to a perceived threat to the hive or a direct threat to themselves. But I would not know how to determine how aware they are of what they are doing and the personal consequences for their actions.

I’m guessing you skipped the linked article.