There aren’t enough words in the English language to do justice to ‘Animal Wise: the Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures’. This remarkable book by Virginia Morell is transcendent. Morell takes on the question of whether or not animals think and feel by visiting with various scientists around the world who have devoted their studies to a widely disparate sampling of nature’s creatures from ants to elephants.
If you have ever wondered if animals think and feel, wonder no more. If you have ever questioned whether animals have social relationships, question no more. ‘Animal Wise’ provides those answers and deep fascinating insights in its examination of what makes different species tick.
Morell’s style makes learning the science fun and exciting. She makes the science accessible to everyone by drawing the story of each visit together with the study she is observing. She discusses each scientist’s struggle with maintaining the objectivity necessary in any scientific study that is to be taken seriously. The book never flags in interest from the first sentence “Animals have minds.” To the last, “Now that we know this, will our relationship with them change?”
Morell writes about the well-known studies of Darwin, Panksepp, Pepperberg and Goodall, and the lesser known studies of present day scientists who have designed imaginative tests to learn more about the creatures who share the planet. From laughing rats to grieving elephants to primates playing computer games, each chapter challenges the reader’s perception of a species, and of the animal world at large.
Readers will be dazzled by the profound insights being gained through scientific study, and cannot help but feel empathy for every creature discussed. These discoveries raise ethical questions about how we treat animals, the respect they deserve, and the length that humans should go to in order to protect them.
Morell finishes the book with the animal most readers have at least encountered in daily life; the dog. In the final chapter she writes about the studies being done with wolves in Austria, as scientists try to discover how domestication of the dog came about. The chapter leaves the reader with a deep sense of wonder - as such domestication seems like nothing less than absolute magic.
Virginia Morell is an author of science and natural history books, and a prolific contributor to Science, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and other publications. Morell lives in Ashland, Oregon, with her husband and fellow-writer, Michael McRae, their dog, Buckaroo, and sweet, but camera-shy Calico kitty, Nini.
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