Talking Apes & Dancing Bees
"Forcing animals to live in captivity, to perform for our pleasure, to die for our needs is justified only if animals are essentially different from us. Some feel animals do not suffer because they do not feel as we do. But what if they only differ from us in degree, not in kind?" So writes Betsy Wyckoff in her introduction to these twenty-three beautifully illustrated anecdotes and accounts of wondrous facts, truths, and episodes from many areas of the animal kingdom, showing the sometimes unbearable and always poignant kinship we share with other creatures.
Besides material about apes and bees, the book brings intimate glimpses (to mention but a few specimen pieces) of grieving elephants, tool-using otters, communication among bats, cooperation among lionesses, mindful dolphins, and of course, singing Humpback Whales. "Why is it important that we view animals as thinking, feeling creatures?" Betsy Wyckoff asks. "We identify with beings similar to us and objectify those we perceive as different. Turning a living creature into an object is a diminishing act. We form a chain with our animal cousins, and to diminish one member of the chain is to diminish all."
The last piece in the book is devoted to the subject of animal altruism, "the willingness of an individual to sacrifice himself or herself to benefit another." The author documents altruism practiced by family members of the same species among dolphins, chimpanzees, lions, zebras and even rats, and goes on to show that altruism can even be found across species and between non-related individuals, the latter implying "the existence of compassion and generosity" among animals.