Why do Lemmings commit suicide?Do they know they are going to die?

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linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Actually, the notion that lemmings will commit mass suicide by jumping off a cliff is a hoax perpetrated by none other than Walt Disney. When the population of a group of lemmings becomes too big, groups of lemmings will migrate away from the family center to set up new homes. For the movie Wild Wilderness, Disney filmmakers wanted to show this migration, but they couldn't wait for a lemming population explosion. According to ABC Science, they bought as many lemmings as they could find and took them to Alberta, Canada, where the film was shot. They set up a turntable, covered it with snow, placed the animals on it, and filmed them from several different angles. They created the suicide scene by herding the lemmings over a small cliff and into a river. The ABC Science article ends with this note:

So lemmings do not commit mass suicide. Indeed, animals live to thrive and survive. Consider a company like Disney, where one rodent, namely Mickey Mouse, was Royalty. It's rather odd to think that Disney could be so unkind to another rodent, the lemming...

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