In today's New York Times Richard Conniff published an essay called, "A Trophy Hunt That's Good for Rhinos". He writes, "auctioning the right to kill a black rhino in Namibia is an entirely sound idea, good for conservation and good for rhinos in particular." This conclusion is too fast for me, and he does not present data that support this claim.
It's well established that rats display empathy and now we know this prosocial behavior is influenced by social experience. Unfortunately, what we know about the emotional lives of rodents and other animals has not been factored into the U.S. Federal Welfare Act in which rats are not considered to be animals. We must use what we know about other animals on their behalf.
A Texas hunting club auctioned off a black rhino purportedly to save other rhinos and their homes. This sale raises many questions about how we try to save other species. One major question is, "Should we kill in the name of conservation?" People disagree. My take and that of compassionate conservation is this is not acceptable. The life of every individual matters.
A recent video clearly shows goal-directed planning by a dog trying to get chicken nuggets from a toaster oven. "Operation Nugget Liberation" is well-worth watching. Cleverness in tool manufacture and use is clearly widespread among diverse animals, as shown by the numerous examples in a recent book, a wide variety of experiments, and observations by citizen scientists.
A new book offers valuable guidelines for giving dogs the best life possible by our learning what they want and need, what they're telling and asking us, and respecting their desires. It also stresses positive, rather than abusive, training. I like to think of dog "training" as dog "teaching" that centers on a close reciprocal respectful relationship between dog and human.
What a way to begin 2014. Dogs who poop and pee aligned with the Earth's magnetic field and now dolphins who get high on pufferfish. New video shows that young dolphins chew on and pass around pufferfish who produce a neurotoxin that seems to produce an altered state of consciousness. We're not exceptional in getting high with a little help from our friends.
A recent study supports the conclusion that dogs line up with the Earth's magnetic field to poop and to pee. The data show not only do dogs prefer the North-South direction when pooping and peeing but also that they avoid an East-West direction. This is the first demonstration of magnetic field sensitivity in dogs. What an interesting start to 2014.
By paying attention to who other animals are we can learn many valuable lessons about ourselves and keep alive our hopes and dreams for a much better world. Sensationalist media that portrays other animals as brutal bloodthirsty beasts is thoroughly misleading. We should be proud to be members of the animal kingdom and therein lies hope for a better future for all beings.
Denise Herzing's recent TED talk on dolphins made me think of "big" questions about animal minds. Are "they" like us? Do other animals have language? Are dogs smarter than cats or vice versa? Are there "higher" and "lower" animals? Many animals experience emotions ranging from contagious joy to deep sadness, make and use tools, and some play "just for the hell of it."
Just as investigations expand into neglect at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., news breaks of another endangered animal's death, this time a young Przewalski’s horse who broke his neck, at their Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia
Three new, outstanding, and well-researched books, "Behemoth, The History of Elephants in America", "Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering", and "After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind", are well worth the read.
Is the fascinating observation of the use of sticks to lure prey by crocodilians really tool use and what's the National Zoo going to do about new charges of serious animal neglect that are reminiscent of what happened more than a decade ago?
If you need an "up" please watch this video narrated by world renowned British broadcaster, naturalist, and filmmaker David Attenborough and marvel in our magnificent world. You may find yourself going to this video more than once over the next few weeks as end of the year stress wears you down. Ample research shows these experiences are good for all of us.
Guard dogs reduce livestock loss due to predators and acidic ocean water stresses fish. In this essay I also review some recent discussions about whether fish feel pain, and I conclude they do even if it's not the same sort of pain that humans feel. And, there's no reason to expect that fish or other animals would feel pain just like we do.
In "Exposed: USDA's Secret War on Wildlife" you'll see former federal agents and a Congressman blow the whistle on Wildlife Services' barbaric program and expose the government’s secret war on wildlife. U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio notes, “Wildlife Services is one of the most opaque and least accountable agencies I know of. It is not capable of reforming itself."
An essay in Time suggesting killing urban wildlife is okay is profoundly disturbing. The author tries to argue that killing these "pests" is just what's needed to solve the problem of their success and our addictive invasive ways as we redecorate nature. This anthropocentrically driven essay deserves careful reading and dissemination to get much-needed discussion going.
Why kill turkeys to celebrate Thanksgiving? Millions upon millions of turkeys are horrifically raised and killed, but why? There really is no reason at all to mercilessly slaughter and to eat these fascinating sentient beings in the name of a holiday, and it is very easy to choose alternative meals. Animals shouldn't be used as mere token objects of joyous festivities.
President Obama signed a bill to support the retirement of chimpanzees to sanctuaries. These individuals have suffered far too much and for far too long and deserve their "freedom" and now there's hope that millions of other animals will also be spared being used and abused in research. What a nice way to celebrate thanksgiving. And, what an inspirational message of hope.
Abuse and death of animals in Hollywood continues despite supposed monitoring by the American Humane Association (AHA). A recent essay in The Hollywood Reporter makes it clear that the AHA isn't doing its job and the phrase "No Animals Were Harmed" they rubber-stamp at the end of films is meaningless. Horses are killed, dogs beaten, and goats drown despite AHA monitoring.
In the past weeks there's been significant news about animals. A new documentary called "Speciesism: The Movie" clearly dispels myths about human superiority and shows how confused we are about our relationships with other animals, and we've also learned that British zoos don't meet welfare standards, fish have personalities, and coldblooded does not mean stupid.
Aging and elderly animals are important in many social systems, including human households, but their role in influencing the behavior of others is often ignored. A recent photo essay about "the beauty and dignity of elder animals" and a novel and seminal book called "The Social Behavior of Older Animals" are very useful guides to what we know and what needs to be done.
Theories about what causes different behavior patterns need more open discussions and study. For example, I would like to see Rupert Sheldrake's ideas and theories about morphic fields revisited because while they are considered to be "radical" we must remember that many causal explanations about why nonhuman and human animals do what they do are constantly being revised.
What does genetically engineering animals such as producing glowing fish and establishing frozen zoos really mean? A book called "Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts" by Emily Anthes made me think deeply about this and other questions and as the field of anthrozoology—the study of human-animal interactions—grows, so too should our concerns.
Kiss a pig contests used by schools to raise money demean everyone involved, the human kissers and the pigs. Students should be to taught to extend kindness to everyone, including other animals. With so many innovative and humane ways to motivate kids, schools are failing themselves and their students by promoting animal exploitation and bullying for cheap laughs.
The way in which dogs wag their tail tells us how they're feeling. A wag to the right indicates a positive emotion and a wag to the left indicates a negative emotion. But, what do dogs themselves make of seeing an image of a dog wag his or her tail to the right or to the left? Is it a form of communication? One researcher thinks it's not. I'm not so sure it isn't.
A new book considers the nature of fieldwork and what we really do and know as a result of this sort of research. It is a must read for practicing fieldworkers regardless of the species in which they're interested and for students who plan a career doing this sort of research. There's no doubt the discussions in this book will make for more ethical and better studies.
A new interdisciplinary book called "The Politics of Species: Reshaping our Relationships with Other Animals" contains diverse essays about animals and us. It is a major contribution to the growing field of anthrozoology, the study of human-animal interactions, and will help to change the ways in which people view and interact with other animals.