Monkeys in Morocco have been seen consoling a seriously injured youngster from a rival group, in a behaviour never seen before.
The incident occurred after a three-year-old Barbary macaque called Pipo was hit by a car, resulting in the monkey becoming separated from his group.
Two days later, a neighbouring Barbary macaque group found Pipo, and while the monkeys had no social relationship to Pipo, they took him in and consoled him.
Thankfully, Pipo made a full recovery and stayed with the group for four months, before returning to his own group.
Researchers from Oxford University witnessed the event in Ifrane National Park in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
Liz Campbell, who led the study, said: “We thought fostering may only be an option for very young monkeys, but Pipo’s case shows even older juveniles can be accepted by wild foster groups.
“This observation provides valuable information for rehabilitation and release strategies, which will help improve welfare of rescued macaques, strengthen wild populations, and free space in sanctuaries to allow continued confiscations to fight illegal trade.”
Previous studies have indicated that wild Barbary macaques are not friendly towards members of other groups.
However, the new findings suggest that will monkeys can exhibit basic forms of empathy, even towards unfamiliar individuals.
Ms Campbell added: “Barbary macaques are very social, so to return them to the wild they must be with a group, not as lone individuals.
“The conventional method for returning primates to the wild is rehabilitation and release of groups formed in captivity, but because of the attention and care that Barbary macaques, especially males, give to young, there is the possibility not only to release rehabilitated groups but also to release individual young into foster groups in the wild.’