Exposing the Big Game

Forget Hunters' Feeble Rationalizations and Trust Your Gut Feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior

Exposing the Big Game

Do animals hug each other?


By Emma Bryce – Live Science Contributor about 14 hours ago

Who else is fond of a warm embrace?

The 17-year-old male bonobo 'Manono' and 4-year-old male 'Pole' hug each other at Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010.

The 17-year-old male bonobo ‘Manono’ and 4-year-old male ‘Pole’ hug each other at Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010. (Image credit: Anup Shah via Getty Images)

COVID-19 interrupted one of life’s most familiar acts: the warm, enveloping comfort of a hug. The pandemic taught us many things, some more important than others — but one of those is just how much many of us rely on these embraces for a sense of reassurance, consolation and calm. 

We’ve become profoundly aware of the significance of this simple act in our human lives — but does hugging exist in the rest of the animal kingdom? Are there any other species that embrace in the way humans do?

To answer that, first we have to define exactly what we mean by “hug.” From a subjective human standpoint, of course, a hug happens when someone wraps their arms around someone else. Naturally, this restricts hugging to animals with arms — and those are mainly primates, like us. This quickly reveals that, while we might see hugs as a uniquely human trait, hugging is actually just as prominent in the lives of nonhuman primates.

Related: Do any animals know their grandparents?CLOSEhttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.462.0_en.html#goog_1642412559Volume 0% PLAY SOUND

Comfort and consolation 

Take, for example, bonobos (Pan paniscus), which are often described as the peace-loving hippies of the primate world. These primates have been a lifelong subject of study for Zanna Clay, a comparative and developmental psychologist and primatologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom. Clay studies social interactions among bonobos, and much of her observational work takes place at a sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for bonobos whose lives have been disrupted by hunting. At this sanctuary, it’s common to see troops of infants obsessively clinging to one another as they walk around in tandem. 

“You have quite a lot of young orphans who need quite a lot of reassurance, and they do what we call the ‘hug walk’: They hug together and walk along in a little train,” Clay told Live Science.

Clay says that this behavior is more common in the sanctuary than it would be in the wild — possibly because bonobos are also exposed to embraces from their human caregivers — but it still does occur in bonobos’ natural lives. In fact, this behavior probably has roots in the maternal behavior of female bonobos, which cradle their infants when they are small. Researchers have observed that this hugging behavior is most common in young bonobos and typically occurs after a bonobo has experienced conflict or stress. Often, in these cases, a distressed bonobo will stretch out its arms in a beseeching gesture, and another bonobo will dramatically rush toward the squealing infant and encircle it in a tight embrace. 

“A bonobo might request [a hug], so they will seek someone out and sort of ask for help, or somebody might offer them one,” Clay said. 

Two bonobo juveniles hug each other at Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary.
Two bonobo juveniles hug each other at Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary. (Image credit: Anup Shah via Getty Images)

It’s difficult to judge animal emotions, but the evidence points to the likelihood that hugging reassures these primates, just as it does humans, Clay said. Intriguingly, in some of her previous research, Clay and her colleagues discovered that orphaned bonobos were less likely to offer sympathetic hugs to distressed peers, compared with young bonobos that had been reared by their mothers. This might indicate the importance of parental care in laying the foundation for this social gesture in primates, Clay said. 

Bonobos may be particularly fond of a good cuddle, but the maternal roots of this embrace make this behavior common across many other primate species. In many of these species, mothers hold their infants closely for extended periods of their infancy. 

For instance, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) — bonobos’ close relatives — are also known to embrace. This is especially notable in tense situations such as “border patrols,” when chimps rove around to assert their presence and protect their territories, Clay said. 

“If they hear a predator, or another chimpanzee group, or something scary, that’s when you’ll see them touching each other and holding on to each other,” Clay said. The hug seems to function as reassurance in the face of danger, Clay added — another relatable feature for humans, who typically reach for one another when afraid. 

Related: Do animals ever get sunburned?

In the case of crested black macaques (Macaca nigra), which live in Indonesia, hugging comes with an added flourish: These monkeys request hugs by audibly smacking their lips — an invitation that’s not reserved for family but extended generously to other members of the troop. 

In addition, young orangutans have been observed rushing to hug each other when confronted with the threat of a snake, thus emphasizing the hug’s apparently reassuring role in times of stress or fear. And in another macaque species, the Tonkean macaque (Macaca tonkeana), researchers have discovered that consoling hugs are plentiful after a fight — and may even be accompanied by a kiss. 

Proactive peacekeeping 

Most research on hugging in primates focuses on its assumed role in reassuring and consoling others — which makes sense, because this mirrors what hugs mean to humans. But research on the lives of spider monkeys reveals a different reason primates engage in these seemingly affectionate displays. 

Filippo Aureli is an ethologist — someone who studies animal behavior — and is affiliated with both the Universidad Veracruzana in Mexico and Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom; he studies how spider monkeys use hugging not to recover from conflict but rather to prevent it. In research based on weeks of observing spider monkeys in the tropical forests of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, he discovered that these primates approach each other and embrace more in scenarios in which tensions threaten to boil over into conflict — for instance, when two unfamiliar monkey subgroups meet after a long time apart and fuse to form a larger troop. Advertisement

“The embrace is done by individuals that have a problematic relationship,” said Aureli, who is an editor on a book about conflict resolution in animals. “They may need to be together, and they may need to cooperate — but they are not best friends. And so, the embrace is a way to send a signal and really manage that conflicted relationship.” He explained that because an embrace involves a high degree of vulnerability — after all, one animal is fully exposing its body to another — this “helps to clarify, ‘Hey, I come with good intentions.'” 

Related: Do animals laugh?

It’s possible that hugging as a means of proactive damage control occurs in other primates, as well. But currently, spider monkeys are the best-studied example of this aspect of the behavior, Aureli said. He described their embraces as “preemptive peacemaking,” and his study even suggests that humans could learn a thing or two from these careful creatures about how to manage conflict. “It’s much better to prevent than to repair,” Aureli said. 

Spider monkeys, including one cradling a baby, sit on a log.
Spider monkeys, including one cradling a baby, sit on a log. (Image credit: Michael Nunez / 500px)

Speaking of humans, how do our own hugs compare to those of other primates? “At the end of the day, we are primates, and affiliative contact is a superimportant component of our social life,” Clay said. “So, to me, there’s obvious continuity in some of the functions of embracing and hugging with humans.”

As in nonhuman primates, being held and embraced by our parents in our infancy sets us up for the reassuring, consoling function that hugs play in our lives. According to Clay, the one notable difference between our hugs and those of our primate kin is that humans seem to have layered more social symbolism onto the embrace. “I think the difference is that with humans, it’s become a kind of conventionalized greeting or parting gesture,” Clay said. “Apes don’t tend to do that.” 

Beyond primates

Of course, we have to be careful not to assume that hugging looks the same in other species as it does in humans. Hugs in primates are easy to identify because they look like ours, but other species may have hugs that appear different. Advertisementhttps://fcdf7a1a82e9344887b1a88ed294e24b.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“If we identify the function of a hugging embrace, then really, the form could be completely different — maybe less fascinating for us as humans, because we don’t recognize it,” Aureli said. “But it could basically fulfill the same role.” 

Primate studies indicate that embraces function to bond, reassure, console and make peace, but hugs could have myriad analogues in other animals. For example, horses groom one another, and studies reveal that this activity decreases their heart rates — a hallmark of comfort and calm. Researchers have observed that if the prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) detects signs of distress in its mate, it will rush over and rapidly start grooming the mate’s fur; researchers have interpreted this behavior as a possible act of consolation. In birds, preening between pairs is thought to increase social bonds. RELATED MYSTERIES

Which animal has the stretchiest mouth?

Why can’t all animals be domesticated?

Can any animal survive without sleep?

Lions (Panthera leorub heads and nuzzle, which is believed to boost their social connections. Hundreds of other mammal species lean against, nestle and huddle with one another to provide comfort and warmth, or to form a united front against danger — which might play a similar role to the steadying hug we see in primates. Meanwhile, dolphins seem to display a kind of consoling peacemaking behavior: Studies show that these cetaceans are more likely to engage in reconciliatory activities after a conflict — for instance, giving each other a flipper rub, or gently towing each other through the water, like an apologetic piggyback.

So, after the separation and stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we might take heart in knowing that what humans know as a hug could have many equivalents in our fellow animals. All around the world, there are animals carrying out small acts of comfort and consolation, and making difficult situations a bit easier for one another. That thought is almost as comforting as a big, cozy hug itself. 

Originally published on Live Science.

Trapping is torture

By Annoula Wylderich -April 30, 2021 Facebook Twitter

Cover image from Born Free USA “Crushing Cruelty” report released in April.

Trapping is perhaps the most egregious abuse of our wildlife. The targeted animals (and often, untargeted creatures who get caught incidentally) can sit in a trap for up to 96 hours in the state of Nevada without the requirement for trappers to check on them. Don’t bet that every trapper will check after four days, if it isn’t convenient for them.

Reports from the Born Free USA wildlife advocacy organization have exposed the trapping industry and found that the few existing regulations that monitor trapping are often ignored by trappers who leave traps out after the close of the trapping season, continuing to capture animals. There are no authorities present when traps are set or an animal is killed.  

The animals who get caught in these barbaric, archaic devices (conibear, leghold, and snare traps) are helpless as they experience the elements, pain, hunger, thirst, fear and possible attacks by predators. Sometimes they leave behind cubs or pups who are too young to survive on their own.

Oftentimes, a mother will chew off her own limb in a desperate attempt to get back to her young. She will risk blood loss and infection in doing so; and she will be severely hindered for the remainder of her life by the loss of that limb if she does survive.

It’s not uncommon for an animal to become an incidental victim. A Born Free USA investigator speaking with a trapper reported the following:  “In one of [the foothold traps] we find a fox squirrel, caught by both front paws. [The trapper] released the fox squirrel from the trap. Both of its front legs are stripped down to the flesh by the trap. He doesn’t usually use fox squirrel, though others will use the fur, so he lets it go. At the same time he says it probably won’t survive and that seems the case as it limps off slowly.” One can imagine that animal’s agony.

The steel-jaw leghold trap is more commonly used by both commercial and recreational trappers. More than 85 foreign countries have banned the use of this trap, but only a few U.S. states have either banned or severely restricted its use. While a few states have reduced their trap check time to 24 hours, Nevada isn’t among them. The American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, World Veterinary Association and the National Animal Control Association have declared leghold traps to be inhumane.

Federal and state wildlife services also kill a staggering number of animals with various trapping devices, in addition to using poison and aerial shooting. These techniques are primarily random and non-selective, which result in the deaths of untargeted animals, as well. Those can include dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, turtles, bears, squirrels, and endangered species. 

In 2017, Nevadans who were polled indicated strong support for the reform of the state’s trapping regulations in order to reduce the suffering of wildlife, and to protect pets and public safety.

In 2019, the Nevada Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Mining introduced Assembly Bill 473, which would have banned the use of leghold traps and reduced trap check time to 24 hours. Sadly, there was little progress as it seems that the general public’s wishes are continually ignored in favor of sporting interests in spite of the fact that trappers comprise a minority of Nevada’s population (voters/constituents).

Our representatives should be urged to implement alternative humane methods of animal control; and where trapping is still permitted, to reduce the trap check time to 24 hours and ensure that regulations are enforced.

We should all be on the lookout for hidden traps when hiking with our dogs and report any incidents to local law enforcement and Nevada’s Department of Wildlife (be sure to document).

Those who reside in rural areas are encouraged to post signs and prosecute anyone who sets a trap on private property.

Animal Testing Is Useless for Determining COVID Vaccine Effectiveness in Humans

A baby monkey in a laboratory is examined by employees in the National Primate Research Center of Thailand at Chulalongkorn University in Saraburi, Thailand, on May 3, 2020. Scientists at the center tested potential vaccines for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on animals, including monkeys.
A baby monkey in a laboratory is examined by employees in the National Primate Research Center of Thailand at Chulalongkorn University in Saraburi, Thailand, on May 3, 2020. Scientists at the center tested potential vaccines for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on animals, including monkeys.

BYAysha AkhtarTruthoutPUBLISHEDMarch 20, 2021SHAREShare via FacebookShare via TwitterShare via Email

There have been concerted efforts on the part of primate researchers to convince the public and political leaders that more money and monkeys are needed for COVID-19 vaccine research. It’s not surprising that monkey researchers would attempt to exploit people’s fears about the pandemic to increase “supplies” and funding for their work.

What is surprising, however, is the complete lack of differing scientific views offered. The problem with the assertions made by pro-monkey research groups is their lack of supporting evidence.

Most findings in animals, including nonhuman primates (NHPs), do not predict human results — and, thus, far from being helpful, they are actually misleading.

More than 700 human trials of potential HIV/AIDS vaccines have been conducted, all of which gave encouraging results in animals including monkeys and chimpanzees — yet not one has worked in humans. In fact, some HIV vaccines actually increase the risk of HIV in humans. And as models of human diseases, NHPs have failed for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, neuroscience/brain research, stroke, cancer, hepatitis C, and many more.

More than 90 percent of drugs that appear to be safe and effective in animals fail in human trials. Vaccine development has an even higher failure rate. Only 6 percent of vaccines make it to the market. Can you imagine if you boarded a plane, and the pilot announced that you have a 6 percent chance of landing safely at your destination? You would demand an overhaul of the entire airline industry. Yet, when it comes to the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines and drugs we put into our bodies, monkey researchers want you to believe that clinging to the tools of old (i.e., monkeys) is a good idea. We don’t see anyone suggesting we should stick to the 8-track tape when we can stream music on our phones.

There is a valid reason why we need diverse representation in human clinical trials. No one human can accurately represent how a vaccine or drug will work in another human. How can we expect another species to effectively predict biological responses in humans?

Although COVID vaccines were tested in animals for regulatory reasons — tradition-based, rather than science-based — there is devil in the detail. Biologically, very different processes are occurring with the COVID-19 virus. Mice proved difficult to infect with the virus, even when genetically modified to make them more susceptible. If they did show symptoms, they were mild. Different species of monkeys also failed to replicate human symptoms, and where symptoms did appear, they too tended to be mild, reflecting different infectious processes.

Human trials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine proceeded despite prior monkey data that showed it did not prevent infection, and the Moderna vaccine was first encountered by humans without preceding animal trials. This would not have happened if the animal trials had been a crucial step in ensuring safety and efficacy.More than 90 percent of drugs that appear to be safe and effective in animals fail in human trials.

Expert opinion agrees: the chief medical officer at Moderna stated, “I don’t think proving this in an animal model is on the critical path to getting this to a clinical trial.” Operation Warp Speed’s chief scientific adviser said Human data is “100 times more significant” than NHP data, and Anthony Fauci stated that translating animal vaccine results to humans has been “one of the banes of our existence.” Pfizer and BioNTech recognized early on that mRNA vaccines work very differently in animals compared to humans.

Biomedical research is increasingly utilizing innovative techniques that are human-specific. These techniques include human mini-organs (organoids) and human organs-on-a-chip, where 3D cultures of human cells are housed on small chips, with circulatory systems and other means of mimicking real-life function and physiology of actual human organs and the human body.

These techniques are being used ever more widely in disease research and in drug discovery and development, and were used in pivotal stages of the COVID-19 vaccine development, alongside computational approaches to their design. Entire human immune systems can be cultured, as can lymph nodes (pivotal to immune function) specific to individual people to reflect interhuman variability, and reflective of both diseased and healthy states — all without the confounding issues of extrapolation between different species.

For the sake of human health, our tax dollars should be directed into the best science. Whichever way you look at it, future biomedical research, including vaccine development for pandemics like COVID-19, will be based on human biology and human-specific testing methods. These methods are quicker, cheaper, more humane and — most importantly — relevant.

Orca who carried her dead calf for more than 1,000 miles is pregnant


JULY 28, 2020 / 6:32 AM / CBS/APhttps://www.cbsnews.com/embed/video/?v=a1868626732568dd7f4b07740245c7ea#1VZtb9xEEP4rliUQoGy8a%2Fv8clKFElpEoFShbZAgrk7r3fHdEr%2FhXSc5qvx3Zny%2Bu7T9UCgCCZ103peZ3ZlnZp7Zt74cXdfXcusv3TDCiX9rNHT%2B8q1vHDTWX16%2F9d22B3%2Fp33baP%2FGNxqGUsVBhFrKo4gsWi7xkZZZxJrlcaBULKOMQZZv%2B%2FiVUF6Rxddm03fYi%2FeXFj5CVP12cb%2F%2F49ffz1fflz6qUpVuhtK3HNUpCVXWDY65jG6h7pgbjjJJ1vWXQatmuYQDNukFJizrOuJpsezYpea7zSMk7KnlHJW%2BvpOEGVXBQjXX9SSco2XYtbb%2F%2BFG1nGrBONr2%2FFIsoSfIkTyPOOVo2DtKZrqWN8Dh9Lkuo8RYeLiPCtd7NWzQfA9LINViKmCWgN871dlkERaBK28KdFac4MHgfWnSquqYINmNZBKYIhiIIuciKgOdFIAR%2BkzjPhFCM50nK4oSnLJMxTiPF4ziCVHBeBG4zNmUrTV0ESczvowTXKimrUvCMR7zMJKR6IbRUEqIwVDIOQ7pDCEb29NJtmNqYtutumEgWizjlbD7o9Ld%2Bjf5t%2FnNHRJjx%2BzTExQRynkalSirgWpThIl6EsVJRleVRrjT8HU8eTvx%2BgFsDd1dD%2FY5Ltq%2BNglPZ1OtT0xWB7NGNW4RpKr8i%2BFi5FMF8cBH4h5p9dP7d3d3pDNsOqt0FCE1lanCdtej017YbBwVPTC81s24A2Zh2%2FTm59eSz8NsGtJH07e%2FxnwDGD8%2FxTwj6i0SaRyHPEeJ42hFitYdlNcOy2sGSrJws8d7TJhqzvcHh%2F8liLO9GOqK%2BnkI3lWUR3LOmh%2FXVy%2BcoMb4X4g8cmkP71%2Fltiq2xF03fWQeDv6xkbZGikbCNmiia6iSTUaqSRclUqWMWlwq5mOuEVSUHqcI0F2l2ZFeyiCrMwCAHtUHav96tvcFclQO07jWd%2FkI2RGvfnL968Vj6fLvbuN7tvMEEh97YTuOawDtAWiIvX9CFsG7wuN3G2GO%2BWntwAf09UwpXzutO3RyozF5ZGF6NpUVUStAHcdt3re2GvdwG7s%2BeQiXHmiLCT%2FDnT6vnx9UoP4kXJ4uc%2BHaQ6gbzhCDDSFjVDTCNMQORdxc8S5DS49nfOV7E8gkufUVX4qS1K%2BtWa0KFQrpbkf1Kkr8viuDMf0A0mvH%2Bcuh6GNz2B0Bw%2FTBOQctFgqmnxSLO41yEUSSjxH9AxBtwcmJuNNHBektjXNt0epdpmBHTsXPwKpBupPRQ1BiA2vHcm9FghIjgPvZEHGIN4eCQevcbZErV1TWoXf4e1LDK3jsbi83YVd2t16BXpn3Cic0eI2nss5ZKRO9fDnLARK7hbET7B2r6137EsQvoUrFEZpIJASHLtQgZx9KsIJOcl5wy7x3VfYrNxeN9sTFaQ%2BuV29q08OUj%2BellgU%2BRLOHRgqWZUixWeLzMS8F0HOWhSqXI09Q%2FqFyO5VN0jyLDQ86wMYSZJzj21SVPjmL7vk516N1tOk%2FJYTDYwzcweBqkxoW68rCSvQazyXMb2XriBJu41yBdWc9YDzN%2B3copJPtT98FqHWK%2BmlenF8kttoN5W4O9wRKfav8p3JKpPhXnei9AqKzoeUZVht%2FvDJHDtT9awoZWXu0CjLKjnYVmXaxCqiVzC94dlP5MJhOQVco1ZBHSRwjVLlgS33eMh8iTGaKc7qrpET9Mp9emMVhx8cHNVxNJ78iGeBxlykG2%2BrKWjnh0um2O7opsWx1dpul8%2BCxBV4KszdhQ1vVDR%2F3guE0KKAItAYW7mvL08D57v%2B9%2BQMo0KgIKM8MwsznMjELMKMQMXwqcTTFlxrJ9TCdqntrNZYcWINYzvjUqztH6V%2B%2BmC2ac%2FtlBEzV81NRP6V0PD38C

An orca known as Tahlequah, who raised worldwide concern when she carried her dead calf for 17 days and more than 1,000 miles almost two years ago, is pregnant, scientists said. Casey McLean, the executive director of Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research (SR3), confirmed the pregnancy, CBS affiliate KIRO-TV reported.

Tahlequah’s pregnancy carries special meaning for a region that grieved the death of her calf with her.

The southern residents frequent Puget Sound, are struggling to survive, and most pregnancies are not successful. Tahlequah’s baby was the first for the whales in three years. The southern residents have since had two more calves, in J pod and L pod. Both are still alive.

A baby orca whale is seen being pushed by her mother July 24, 2018, after being born off the Canadian coast near Victoria, British Columbia, in this photo provided by the Center for Whale Research.
A baby orca whale is seen being pushed by her mother July 24, 2018, after being born off the Canadian coast near Victoria, British Columbia, in this photo provided by the Center for Whale Research.DAVID ELLIFRIT/CENTER FOR WHALE RESEARCH VIA AP

The current population of the southern resident orcas is 72.

Get Breaking News Delivered to Your Inbox


post on the nonprofit’s website says that the majority of recent pregnancies have not resulted in successful births, due to a lack of access to Chinook salmon prey. About two-thirds of all southern resident pregnancies are typically lost, researcher Sam Wasser of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington has found.

L72 pregnancy photo courtesy SR3 – Sealife Response + Rehab + ResearchSR3 – SEALIFE RESPONSE + REHAB + RESEARCH

Several of the juveniles in the pods also are looking thin, Fearnbach said.

“There are stressed whales out there, critically stressed,” she said.

Trending News

Boaters should respect the whales’ space and give them the quiet they need, Fearnbach and Durban said. Whales use sound to hunt, and boat disturbance and underwater vessel noise is one of the three main threats to their survival, in addition to lack of adequate, available salmon and pollution.

First published on July 28, 2020 / 6:32 AM

Dolphins are learning smart fish-catching trick from peers, not mothers

By Katie Hunt, CNN


Updated 1:56 PM ET, Thu June 25, 2020

Dolphins learn this fish-catching trick from their peers

Dolphins learn this fish-catching trick from their peersCNN01:27/01:27Now PlayingDolphins learn this…

Source: CNNDolphins learn this fish-catching trick from their peers 01:27

(CNN)Only a very few animals use tools. Crows wield sticks to find food, chimps have fashioned primitive spears to hunt and dolphins in Australia have been spotted trapping fish in huge conch shells.Now, scientists have discovered just how these dolphins learn to catch their prey in this extraordinary way — using their beaks to bring the shells to the surface and then shake the fish into their mouths — similar to how we humans get at those last few chips at the bottom of a packet.”Our study shows that the foraging behavior ‘shelling’ — where dolphins trap fish inside empty seashells —spreads through social learning among close associates,” said Sonja Wild, who conducted this research for her doctorate at the University of Leeds.

It's not only humans who are right-handed. Dolphins also have a dominant side

It’s not only humans who are right-handed. Dolphins also have a dominant side“This is surprising, as dolphins and other toothed whales tend to follow a ‘do-as-mother-does’ strategy for learning foraging behavior,” she said in a press statement. Dolphin mothers and calves typically form very tight bonds, staying close to one another for at least two years learning social behaviors and feeding techniques.The findings provided more evidence of similarities between dolphins and great apes — chimpanzees, gorillas and humans — who have also shown a range of socially learned foraging behavior, the study, which published Thursday in Current Biology, said.close dialog

Receive Fareed Zakaria’s Global Analysisincluding insights and must-reads of world newsActivate Fareed’s BriefingBy subscribing you agree to ourprivacy policy.“Despite their divergent evolutionary histories and the fact they occupy such different environments: Both dolphins and great apes are long-lived, large-brained mammals with high capacities for innovation and the cultural transmission of behaviors,” saidMichael Krützen, director of the department of anthropology at the University of Zurich and senior author on the study.Using boats, the international team of researchers conducted surveys in the western gulf of Shark Bay, Australia, between 2007 and 2018 to evaluate how shelling behavior spread across the population.In 5,278 encounters with dolphins during that time, the scientists identified 1,035 different Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). They spotted 19 dolphins in the act of shelling 42 times.This image shows a dolphin shelling in Shark Bay in Western Australia. This image shows a dolphin shelling in Shark Bay in Western Australia.Although shelling appears quite rare, both the number of shelling events and the number of individual “shellers” is likely to be an underestimate, according to the study, as the shell-shaking only lasts a few seconds, and is therefore hard to observe.”Some dolphins use shells quite regularly during foraging, while others have only ever been seen with a shell once,” said Wild.”So, while there may be other explanations, it’s possible that some dolphins have mastered the skill more than others.”

The social network

To find out how this way of foraging had spread from one dolphin to the next, the researchers looked at the influence of environmental factors, genetic predisposition and the dolphin’s social network.The model they developed showed that dolphins learn shelling from associates within their social group and they concluded that using the shells spreads primarily within — rather than between — generations, providing the first evidence that dolphins are also capable of learning from their peers, not just their mothers.

Male bottlenose dolphins form gangs to get a mate

Male bottlenose dolphins form gangs to get a mateShelling is only the second reported case of tool use in dolphins. Dolphins in the same area are also known to use marine sponges as foraging tools to help them catch prey, according to the researchers.Wild said that a marine heat wave in 2011 wiped out Shark Bay’s critical seagrass habitat and triggered a die-off of fish and invertebrates, including the gastropods — sea snails — that live in the giant shells. She said it was possible that the resulting abundance of dead giant gastropod shells may have made it easier for the dolphins to learn this behavior.A mother and calf swimming together in Shark Bay, Australia.A mother and calf swimming together in Shark Bay, Australia.”Our results show that dolphins are definitely capable, and in the case of shelling, also motivated to learn new foraging tactics outside the mother-calf bond,” Wild said.”Learning from others allows for a rapid spread of novel behaviors across populations, and it has been suggested that species with the capacity for learning from others in this way may be better able to survive,” she said.

  • Paid Content4/5


Dog with eyes closed in car
This expression is commonly known as ‘having the sh*ts’. Source: Flickr

Many recent studies have confirmed what you always knew: your dog has feelings.

Dogs can read human emotionsSo, it appears, can horses. Whales have regional accents. Ravens have demonstrated that they might be able to guess at the thoughts of other ravens — something scientists call “theory of mind,” which has long been considered a uniquely human ability. All of these findings have been published within the past several weeks, and taken together they suggest that many of the traits and abilities we believe are “uniquely human” are, in fact, not so unique to us.

That statement probably sounds as if it is veering perilously close to anthropomorphism, and if you know anything about research concerning animal behavior, you likely know this: Anthropomorphism is bad. Animals are animals, and people are people; to assume that an elephant, for example, experiences joy in the same way a human does is laughably unscientific. This has been the prevailing mode of thought in this line of scientific inquiry for most of the last century — to staunchly avoid, and even ridicule, any research project that dared to suggest that animals might be thinking or feeling in the same way that humans do.

But new studies like these, along with a slew of recent books by respected biologists and science writers, are seriously considering the inner lives of animals. Now some prominent scientists are arguing that, though the impulse was well-intentioned, decades of knee-jerk avoidance of all things anthropomorphic may have mostly served to hold this field back. “It ruined the field,” biologist and author Carl Safina told Science of Us. “Not just held it back — it’s ruined the field. It prevented people from even asking those questions for about 40 years.”

New studies … are seriously considering the inner lives of animals. Though the impulse was well-intentioned, decades of knee-jerk avoidance of all things anthropomorphic may have mostly served to hold this field back.

The theme of Safina’s book Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel pairs nicely with a forthcoming title from famed primatologist Frans de Waal called Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? Both scientists make the case for something the biologist Gordon Burghardt called “critical anthropomorphism” — using your own human intuition and understanding as a starting point for understanding animal cognition. “Thus, saying that animals ‘plan’ for the future or ‘reconcile’ after fights is more than anthropomorphic language: These terms propose testable ideas,” de Waal writes.

Animal behavioral science began in the 1910s and 1920s by focusing on description in order to combat superstition (cats are not witches’ familiars, tortoises are not especially tenacious, and grasshoppers are not lazy, etc). The problem is that, eventually, “[d]escription — and onlydescription — became ‘the’ science of animal behavior,” Safina writes in his book, which was published last summer. “Wondering what feelings or thoughts might motivate behavioral acts became totally taboo.” Here’s an example Safina uses: A “good” scientist’s notes might say something like, “The elephant positioned herself between her calf and the hyena.” A bad, anthropomorphic-leaning scientist, on the other hand, would observe the same scene and write, “The mother positioned herself to protect her baby from the hyena.” How can the scientist prove what the mother elephant was intending to do? You can’t see a thought; you can’t observe a feeling. Therefore, to presume that animals possessed either of these things was considered unscientific.

Even raising the mere question of animal awareness was once enough to potentially ruin a career. In the 1970s, the biologist Donald Griffin published a book that did almost exactly that: Question of Animal Awareness. Griffin at this point was a well-respected scientist who had recently made the discovery that bats use echolocation, or sonar, to navigate their surroundings. But after the publication of his book, his professional reputation was largely ruined. Even Jane Goodall caught some flak for going so far as to “humanize” her chimp research subjects by giving them names, and as recently as the 1990s, a writer in the prestigious journal Science advised that research concerning animal cognition “isn’t a project I’d recommend to anyone without tenure.”

Even raising the mere question of animal awareness was once enough to potentially ruin a career.

Better data, including advances in neuroimaging technology and videos from scientists doing fieldwork, is now forcing many to reconsider some very basic questions of animal cognition. Today it sometimes seems like barely a week goes by without the publication of some new study that shows evidence of one species or another demonstrating what might’ve once been considered a strictly “human” ability or emotion.

Evidence of empathy, and even comforting behavior, has been observed in a variety of species

A recent study proposed that the humble prairie vole, a rodent found across the United States and Canada, appears to console its fellow vole after mean scientists stress it out by giving it a (small) electric shock.

Behaviors that look a lot like consolation have also been observed in animals known for their sociability, like elephants. When one Asian elephant sees that another elephant is agitated, scientists have observed that the calmer one will respond by touching the distressed animal with its trunk. “I’ve never heard that vocalization when elephants are alone,” Joshua Plotnik, who led the study, told Discovery. “It may be a signal like, ‘Shshh, it’s okay,’ the sort of sounds a human adult might make to reassure a baby.”

Contagious yawning, some scientists argue, is another signal of empathy and has recently been observed and recorded in chimpanzees.

Some research suggests that a few animals have demonstrated signals of self-awareness

The best way scientists currently have of measuring this admittedly abstract concept is the mirror recognition test (though some recent work has called the accuracy of this method into question). This usually involves marking the subject with some kind of conspicuous, but odorless, dye and placing it in front of a mirror. Passing the test involves examining the mark in the mirror, and then examining it on their own body; this suggests that the animal grasps that the reflection is a representation of them. Apes and monkeys seem to be able to figure the game out.

In the early 2000s, a pair of scientists found that bottlenose dolphins could also pass the mirror test with flying colors. In her new book Voices in the Ocean, science writer Susan Casey nods to that study, and notes that, in subsequent years, elephants and magpies have also taken the mirror test and passed. (For context, humans don’t pass this test until they are about two.)

Some animals appear to be capable of understanding the perspective of others 

Beyond the raven’s newly discovered behaviors, there is evidence that scrub jays are able to see the world from another scrub jay’s viewpoint, which helps them hide their food. Male Eurasian jays seem to be able to make a good guess at what sort of food female Eurasian jays might like to eat. “It was long thought that only humans could do this,” University of Cambridge psychologist Nicola Clayton told Wired of the jay research. “What we’ve shown in a series of experiments is that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

To be sure, in an era of viral videos, it’s easy to take this idea —Anthropomorphism is okay now! — and get carried away with it. A perfect recent example is a back-and-forth over a picture of a trio of kangaroos. According to the Facebook caption accompanying the photo, the female had recently died, and the male and baby were “mourning” it. Media outlets took this at face value and ran with it, with headlines like “Dying Kangaroo Mom Spends Last Moment Holding Her Baby.”

And then, as is the circle of life for a viral news story, came the debunkings: The male kangaroo was just trying to have sex with the female, these articles scolded, and to believe any differently was a sign of “naive anthropomorphism.” Safina’s impression of the photo, incidentally, is that there really isn’t much we can tell one way or the other from a still photo. Really, the photo — or, more specifically, the instantly polarized online reactions to the photo — tell us more about ourselves than they do about kangaroo behavior.

“The one thing that is almost never allowed, or never thought of, is that there can be nuance,” Safina said. “There can be a range of emotions that happen in nonhumans, just as there is in humans.” After a human death, for example, the person’s loved ones show a range of emotions — denial, confusion, even some terribly inappropriate laughter. “But with animals everything has to be either/or,” Safina continued. People either want to believe that animals are pure and kindhearted and all-around better than we are — or they want to believe the very opposite, that humans are the most remarkable creatures on Earth, and animal behavior is driven only by instinct. (As if human behavior isn’t, too.)

Rushing to an unsupported conclusion that animals are just like us is bad, biased science. But willfully ignoring evidence of animal behaviors that look suspiciously like human emotions is unscientific and biased, too. “The key point is that anthropomorphism is not always as problematic as people think,” de Waal writes, adding that this is probably particularly true of animals with brains like ours: apes, sure, but even elephants and some marine mammals like dolphins. After all, we’re animals, too.

This week Insight is looking at the emotions of dogs and their human companions. Do they actually love us? | Tuesday 26 April, 8:30pm SBS 


Elephant Remembers Old Trainer in Emotional Reunion


Stephanie Officer
Ad 00:35 – up next: “Elephant Reunites With Old Trainer”
Elephant Reunites With Old Trainer

As the adage goes — an elephant never forgets.After 35 years, Kristy the Asian elephant still has fond memories of her former zookeeper, Peter Adamson. He was Kristy’s trainer in the early ’70s and ’80s, when she lived at a zoo in Scotland that is now closed.

The pair reunited at the Neunkircher Zoo in Germany while Adamson was visiting friends in Germany.

He found out Kristy was still alive at 52 years old and still healthy. The average lifespan for Asian elephants is 48 years.

Adamson contacted the zoo and officials arranged the emotional reunion.

As that reunion unfolded, a pair of baby elephants got a second chance at life.

a close up of a man: Kristy the Asian elephant was reunited with her trainer after more than 30 years.© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Kristy the Asian elephant was reunited with her trainer after more than 30 years.The calves somehow slipped into a pit in Sri Lanka, struggling there for three hours before wildlife officials brought in an excavator to dig an escape route.

It took a little upper body strength, some wiggling and a little bit of help before both tots were able to climb out.

Wildlife officials used loud crackers to chase the calves back into the wild, so they could run right back to their mothers — capping an adventure they may never forget, either.

Have you herd? It turns out cows have feelings, too.


Throughout the 20th century, animals were viewed as tools to be exploited. But in recent decades a shift has occurred, as people have begun to recognize cats, dogs, and even cows as sentient creatures.

Yves Herman/Reuters
Cats and goats live together at the association Les Petits Vieux, a home for dozens of older animals, including dogs, cats, pigs, and goats, in Chièvres, Belgium. Over the past quarter century, people’s perceptions of animals have been shifting.

Moxie had cared for her son for just one day three years earlier. But she could immediately sense his presence.

The retired dairy cow had just arrived at VINE Sanctuary, a farm animal rescue mission in Springfield, Vermont, just as her son, Maddox, had. She and her son were among the hundreds of cattle, chickens, sheep, and others that had, one way or another, slipped free from an industrial apparatus and wound up at this wooded hillside sanctuary.

“When [Maddox] came in sight,” the sanctuary’s co-founder, pattrice jones, recalls, “Perhaps it was scent – she looked up and made this rumbling low moo. As soon as she made that sound, he stopped. They walked very slowly and carefully closer together, and then they touched noses.”

A generation ago, animal behaviorists would have dismissed such questions as unobservable, and therefore outside the bounds of science. Today, a shift is underway, as scientists and society alike begin to recognize a role for nonhuman animals’ inner mental states.

Is our political divide, at heart, really all about abortion?

A particularly “mechanistic view of animals” has prevailed throughout the West, says Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal. “And I think we are basically abandoning that view, and that has obvious moral implications.”

Professor de Waal’s bestseller published in March, “Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves,” argues directly for the existence of animal emotions, and for animals’ humane treatment.

“That’s a very old obsession in the West – and in our religion of course – that we have souls and animals don’t have souls,” says Professor de Waal. “There’s many people who accept evolutionary theory, but they always make an exception for the human mind.”

This exclusionary view, he says, is becoming increasingly untenable. For one thing, humans and mammals, in addition to sharing the same biology associated with emotions, also often share some of the same basic facial expressions.

Stories of animal minds exceeding human expectations usually attract popular attention. “I think there’s a desire from most people,” says Lori Gruen, a philosopher at Wesleyan University who specializes in animal ethics, to recognize that “there’s not such a great divide between us and them.”

‘An underground railroad of sorts’

The goats and chickens sunning themselves together in the hay at VINE Sanctuary, along with the roughly 500 other residents – including cattle, sheep, doves, parrots, geese, emus, and a few alpacas – represent the charmed few, ambassadors for a radically different way of life for domesticated animals. The animals mingle freely at the 106-acre facility, half of which is set aside as a refuge for local wildlife. Goats offer rides to chickens, alpacas lounge by the hay bales, and sheep and cows approach a strange reporter for head scratches.

“Just like us, animals like to make friends with people of other species,” says Mx. jones, who identifies as non-binary and prefers the gender-neutral title Mx.

But overall, Mx. jones is wary of describing the networks that deliver the animals, which Mx. jones describes as “an underground railroad of sorts.”

“There have been many kinds of people who are close to the [meat and dairy] industry who will find ways to bring animals to the sanctuary,” Mx. jones says.

Mx. jones links animal liberation inextricably with feminism, noting how learning about standard dairy practices – forcibly impregnating cows and taking away offspring after one day – was all it took to go vegan.

“It was gut-wrenching to realize that I had been participating in such sexualized violence,” Mx. jones says.

A shift in thought

Scientists were not always so dismissive of animal emotions. Indeed, Charles Darwin published an entire book in 1872 detailing the continuity of emotional expressions between humans and animals.

“Humans thought less of animals in the 20th century than we did before the 20th century,” says Kristin Andrews, a philosopher at York University in Toronto.  

“As we industrialized more and more, we lived farther and farther away from those animals, and that allowed us to forget that they are minded and feeling beings,” she says.

“Humans were probably happy to accept behaviorism,” she says. “We were being told that [animals] don’t feel anything.”

In the study of human psychology, behaviorism began to lose its preeminence in the 1960s, with the advent of the so-called cognitive revolution, which began to systematically study phenomena like memory and attention. In animal behavior, the shift away from behaviorism began in the mid-1990s.

“We sort of lost track of [animal emotions] for a century,” says Professor de Waal.

“In the early 2000s, chimps were still being used in research,” says Dr. Gruen. “And I would often talk to other philosophers and activists and those who were in the chimp world that maybe in our lifetimes we could stop it. And then it stopped,” she says. “It stopped way before I thought it would stop.”

Dr. Andrews suggests that factory farms will soon follow. “It’s too expensive for the industry to keep all these animals alive, and they’re putting a lot of money into fake meat, into lab meat and all sorts of alternative proteins,” she says. “I’m really optimistic about that piece.”

On their terms

When we compare animal emotions with our own, are we losing something? Alexandra Horowitz, a psychologist who specializes in canine cognition and behavior, cautions against anthropomorphizing animals’ inner lives.

“It seems to me presumptuous in the extreme to assume that [cows’] emotions are exactly like ours,” says Dr. Horowitz, author of several books including the 2017 bestseller “Being a Dog” and “Our Dogs, Ourselves,” scheduled for release in September 2019. “I’d rather that the cow show me, without my prejudgment, what that emotion is.”

Dr. Gruen agrees. “We tend to ignore differences,” she says. “When we try to assimilate all other animals into sort of a human framework … we’re missing out on a whole range of other things that are not just beautiful and wondrous, but valuable.”

But Dr. Horowitz also says the growing recognition of the inner lives of animals is cause for hope. “Now that we’re tending to [nonhuman animals] at all really, as opposed to seeing them as nuisances or just as functionaries for our purposes, it could change. I think it’s an act of desperation to hope for that, but that’s where I think we are.”

An earlier version of this article misidentified pattrice jones. Mx. Jones identifies as non-binary and prefers the gender-neutral title Mx.

Stray Dog Follows Climbers 23,000 Feet Up A Mountain

“I have had dogs follow me on climbs before, but never on something like this.”

PUBLISHED ON 03/21/2019
climbing dog
climbing dog
climbing dog
climbing dog
climbing dog
climbing dog
climbing dog
climbing dog

Stripping Animals of Emotions is “Anti-Scientific & Dumb”

There’s more than enough science that shows animals are emotional beings.

Posted Mar 09, 2019

“We like to see ourselves as special, but whatever the difference between humans and animals may be, it is unlikely to be found in the emotional domain.” (Frans de Waal)

A recent New York Times easy by renowned Emory University primatologist Dr. Frans de Waal called “Your Dog Feels as Guilty as She Looks” with the subtitle “Animals are no less emotional than we are” has generated a good deal of interest including a good number of emails to me that arrived yesterday and overnight. Dr. de Waal’s piece is an excerpt from his new book titled Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves that was reviewed by Sy Montgomery in which she writes, “In this book, de Waal sets the record straight. Emotions are neither invisible nor impossible to study; they can be measured. Levels of chemicals associated with emotional experiences, from the ‘cuddle hormone‘ oxytocin to the stress hormone cortisol, can easily be determined. The hormones are virtually identical across taxa, from humans to birds to invertebrates.” She also notes that to avoid charges of being anthropomorphic, “researchers have invented a glossary of contorted terms: Animals don’t have friends but ‘favorite affiliation partners’; chimps don’t laugh when tickled, but make ‘vocalized panting’ sounds. This isn’t just silly; it’s dangerous. Instead of worrying about anthropomorphizing animals, we should fear making a far worse mistake, what de Waal calls ‘anthropodenial.’ When we deny the facts of evolution, when we pretend that only humans think, feel and know, ‘it stands in the way of a frank assessment of who we are as a species,’ he writes.”

Dr. de Waal similarly ends his piece by writing, “For the longest time, science has depicted animals as stimulus-response machines while declaring their inner lives barren. This has helped us sustain our customary ‘anthropodenial’: the denial that we are animals. We like to see ourselves as special, but whatever the difference between humans and animals may be, it is unlikely to be found in the emotional domain.”

I couldn’t agree more with the above views, and it astounds me that there still are some people who ignore the results of ample comparative research on the emotional lives of nonhuman animals (animals). According to a colleague who wrote a detailed email about all that we really know about animal emotions, the denialists’ views are “anti-scientific & dumb.” A good number of emails weren’t as friendly, because so many people are simply sick and tired of people ignoring what we know and making sweeping and false claims about how other animals simply are automatons and don’t experience emotions. For those who want to peruse all that we know about animal emotions please click here for numerous essays in popular and scientific media and for a long list of scientific studies click here. You’ll easily see that ignoring the rich and deep emotional lives of animals truly is “anti-scientific & dumb.”

What do we really know about dogs and guilt?

The title of Dr. de Waal’s essay also caught my eye because I’m interested in everything “dog.” So, when he writes, “Your Dog Feels as Guilty as She Looks,” I immediately thought of discussions along the lines that research shows that dogs don’t experience guilt. This isn’t so. (For a more detailed discussion see Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They DoUnleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion the Best Life Possible, many essays here, and links and references therein.) In an essay called “Dogs and Guilt: We Simply Don’t Know,” I wrote about how the results of an experiment by noted Barnard College dog researcher, Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, have routinely been misinterpreted by many people who haven’t read what she actually wrote. In an essay published in 2009 titled “Disambiguating the ‘guilty look’: salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour,” Dr. Horowitz discovered that we are not very good at reading guilt, but this does not mean that dogs can’t or don’t feel.

I asked Dr. Horowitz to comment on this and she wrote:

“Spot on, on ‘guilt.’ Thanks so much for alerting me to and correcting the ubiquitous error about my study, some years back, which found that dogs showed more ‘guilty look’ when a person scolded or was about to scold them, not when the dog actually disobeyed the person’s request not to eat a treat. Clearly what the results indicated was that the ‘guilty look’ did not most often arise when a dog was actually ‘guilty.'”

“My study was decidedly NOT about whether dogs ‘feel guilt’ or not. (Indeed, I’d love to know…but this behavior didn’t turn out to indicate yay or nay.) I would feel dreadful if people then thought the case was closed on dogs (not) feeling guilt, which is definitely not the case. Many secondary sources got this right, but it must require reading the study to appreciate exactly what I did.”

So, I’m glad Dr. de Waal selected the title he did for his essay because while we really don’t know if dogs feel guilt, I do agree that when the proper research is done we’ll learn they do. It’s extremely important to get things right, and it’s essential to pay attention to what researchers actually study and discover in their research. There’s also no reason why dogs shouldn’t be able to feel guilt, as do other mammals, so let’s wait and see what we learn in future work.

There have been similar discussions of whether or not dogs feel jealous, with some people saying something like, “Of course they don’t” and others saying “Yes they do.” In fact, after the proper studies were done, we’ve learned they do. (See “Jealousy in Dogs: Brain Imaging Shows They’re Similar to Us” and “Dogs Know When They’ve Been Dissed, and Don’t Like It a Bit” in which I discuss a research essay called “Jealousy in Dogs.”) It’s not clear why some people continue to ignore what we know and strip dogs of jealousy and guilt and rob other animals of their emotions, but that another story.

Evolutionary continuity

“It’s time to accept these strongly supported facts and accept that the real question at hand is why have emotions evolved, not if they have evolved, and learn more about them.”

In the description of Mama’s Last Hug, we read, “De Waal discusses facial expressions, the emotions behind human politics, the illusion of free will, animal sentience, and, of course, Mama’s life and death. The message is one of continuity between us and other species, such as the radical proposal that emotions are like organs: we don’t have a single organ that other animals don’t have, and the same is true for our emotions.” Also recall Charles Darwin’s ideas about evolutionary continuity, in which differences among species are seen to be variations in degree rather than kind: “If we have or experience something, ‘they’ (other animals) do too.” Arguments based on continuity support the claim that discovering jealousy in dogs is not all that surprising, and it won’t be all that surprising to learn that dogs also experience guilt. But, of course, we need to wait for the proper studies to be done. Along these lines, Dr. de Waal writes, “We like to see ourselves as special, but whatever the difference between humans and animals may be, it is unlikely to be found in the emotional domain.”

All sorts of scientific research, ranging from observational studies to neuroimaging projects, strongly supports the fact that we are not alone in the emotional arena. So, it’s time to accept these strongly supported facts and accept that the real question at hand is why have emotions evolved, not ifthey have evolved, and learn more about them.

What makes the field of cognitive ethology—the study of animal minds—so exciting is that there is so much fascinating research to be done. There’s no doubt that many animals experience rich and deep emotions. We must never forget that our emotions are the gifts of our ancestors, our nonhuman animal kin. We have feelings and so too do other animals.