Emotions are Qualities of All Beings
Many animals have long been known to exhibit remarkable intelligence and loyalty (see The News # 157, “The Loving Intelligence of Dogs”). However, as far back as the nineteenth century scientists have also recognized animals’ capacity to show feelings. For instance, in 1872 British naturalist Charles Darwin published the book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, which discusses how animals and humans express and signal their sentiments to others. The following accounts support this view by showing that our animal friends can indeed reveal deep sensitivity and responsiveness to love.
A Chimpanzee Overcomes Smoking
With the help of zoo staff members at a northwest China zoo, twenty-seven-year-old chimpanzee Ai Ai (Mandarin for ‘Love Love’) has quit smoking after sixteen years. The chimp took up the habit in 1989 after her first mate died, and later she became a chain smoker when her second spouse passed away and her daughter was moved to another zoo. Reporting on Ai Ai’s story, Beijing’s Xinhua News Agency attributed her smoking to feelings of solitude and grief, which apparently can have profound effects on these sensitive primates. In devising strategies to help Ai Ai stop smoking, the zoo staff enriched her daily routine by introducing her to a program of supervised walking and gymnastics along with music therapy. One staff person even loaned Ai Ai his portable audio player and earphones “so she could enjoy some pop music.” Tasty treats added to her normal diet of milk, bananas and rice also proved helpful in diverting Ai Ai’s attention away from smoking.
Over time the zoo’s efforts were successful, and Ai Ai has been free from cigarettes for more than four months. Still concerned that she is lonely, however, her caretakers are trying to find a new companion to take the place of Ai Ai’s lost mate.
Regarding the difficulty of dropping bad habits such as smoking without positive activities to replace them, Master says, “No one can step out of addiction without happiness to substitute for it” (excerpted from DVD #719, Overcoming Bad Habits, June 9, 2001, Florida, USA). Thus, it’s comforting to see that the zoo workers recognized this need in Ai Ai and that the animal responded so quickly in regaining her physical and emotional stability.
Elephants Know and Mourn Their Dead
Another creature that appears to show powerful emotions is the elephant, one of the largest living being on Earth, and like many of nature’s other peaceful animals, is vegetarian. Also, despite their great weight of nearly three tons, elephants are agile enough to run at speeds approaching 50 mph (80 km/hr). Besides these physical qualities, elephants have recently been found to attach great emotional significance to the loss of other members of their species. For instance, a study conducted by researchers from Sussex University and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants found that upon encountering the remains of their own kind versus those of other animals, elephants showed remarkably strong reactions. “They are not interested in dead mammals [of other species] but in other dead elephants,” remarked researcher Dr. Karen McComb.
When the subjects in the study came across an elephant carcass, they would survey the body by touching and smelling it with their trunks, sometimes gently rocking the tusks back and forth with their sensitive feet.
Moreover, famed for their memory and large brains, elephants are known to shed tears. These peace-loving creatures can also remember relationships with as many as a hundred other elephants. So it’s no wonder that they carefully inspect the dead animals they encounter. Perhaps even more than some humans, elephants realize the importance of each and every member of their species.
For a closer look into the lives of elephants, you may view the Walt Disney production Whispers: An Elephant’s Tale. Filmed in Botswana, the movie features live-action footage of a baby elephant’s struggle to survive when his herd is attacked by poachers and he is separated from his loving mother. The film will touch your heart and give you an insightful glimpse into the inner world of these remarkable beings.
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