Dec 2, 2017

The Inner Lives of Animals

by Peter Wohlleben

This book explores the emotions of animals, and their thinking capacity. Its conclusion is that humans are nothing special when it comes to having feelings, so we should treat animals with consideration and kindness. It reminds me a lot of What A Fish Knows, but the main focus here is mammals and birds. Even ticks, house flies, tardigrades and very tiny beetles in the weevil family are mentioned.

Among the many examples Wohlleben gives are squirrels who adopt orphans (but only if they're related), wild boars who show evidence of fear (knowing where it is safe during hunting season), goats who teach their offspring good behavior, birds who cheat on each other (and a rooster who tricks his two harrassed hens into mating with him), rats who dream about their tasks in a research lab, corvids that play games and identify each other by name, deer who grieve their lost offspring, dogs and other animals who suffer dementia in their old age. There were some familiar anecdotes and research studies referenced in here, and many others I read about for the first time. Notable things I learned: why moths are so furry, the exact reason rabbits (also gerbils, hamsters, etc) eat their own droppings, that cities are becoming preferred habitats for many animals because the monoculture of cultivated land lacks diversity, and that deer will often starve if they are fed by well-meaning people in the winter (they will burn more energy than they gain, having to raise their body temperature for digestion. Better to live off their stored body fat). For some reason the description of a slime mold outlining the routes of a subway system in Tokyo made me think of the carnivorous lichen in William Sleator's Interstellar Pig.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5       277 pages, 2016


Thistle said...

Wow, good to know that about deer! I often worry I might be doing more harm than good when I feed wild animals (just squirrels and birds).

Jeane said...

I'd actually read something similar in another book years ago- not that feeding deer made them starve, but that it would make them sick. I think it was something about hay or corn that was detrimental to them in winter... have to go back and find that reference now I'm curious again.