A Chinese woman recently captured a bizarre series of photographs, in which a distressed swan appears to commit suicide, drowning itself next to the body of an older, deceased bird.
Yan Yan Hsiao noticed the young swan while hiking, at a lake in Sanmenxia, in Central China’s Henan province, according to the Daily Mail. She began photographing the swan as it caused a commotion in the water. The swan appeared to be traumatized by the death of another bird, thought to be its mother, which floated next to it.
Yan Yan recalled the following information.
“I looked over and saw the swan which was clearly a young animal alongside an older bird that was clearly dead… She had either died because of the cold or old age but either way the young bird was very distressed. After calling and flapping its wings, it then stuck its head in the water and I thought it had calmed down, but then I realized it was keeping its head in the water. Minutes later, it was dead.”
— China.org.cn (@chinaorgcn) January 7, 2015
The unusual incident transpired on December 30th, according to China.org.cn. The swan reportedly cried loudly when it was separated from the other bird, trying to swim across the semi-frozen lake to reach it. Another witness also observed the swan knocking its head against the ice before it committed suicide.
Though scientists have debated for years whether or not animals are capable of intentionally committing suicide, there are reports that seem to suggest the possibility. In 1845, a Newfoundland dog repeatedly threw itself into a London lake, saved each time by passers-by. The animal continued to attempt suicide until bystanders stopped saving it, according to a contemporary report in the Illustrated London News.
Ducks have also been known in many instances to commit suicide after the death of a mate. Pods of whales repeatedly commit suicide in mass strandings, the causes of which are poorly understood, as the Inquisitr previously reported.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) January 7, 2015
Though it is commonly believed that lemmings commit mass suicide during migration, that idea is a misconception first popularized in the mid-1950s. In reality, lemmings choose to cross bodies of water as they migrate, and some are inevitably pushed to the limit of their physical capabilities. Though they may drown, it is not considered a case of suicide.
While many species exhibit self-destructive traits, it is unclear whether other swans have been observed committing suicide before.
[Image: Yan Yan Hsiao via the Daily Mail]