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Rediscovering Animals 

The Social Behavior of Older Animals by Anne Innis Dagg--a review

Author Dagg details the behavior of many different animals, those near the end of their life. She makes a good deal of generalizations, but in one chapter focuses on the four methods animals use for teaching: imitation, making deliberate "opportunities" to learn, encouragement, and punishment.

 

Most other chapters include descriptions of adapting, sociability, reproduction, hierarchy, mothering and family, as seen by elder animals. Then the reader discovers amazing stories--interactions and behavior that reveal the wisdom, acquired knowledge, and deliberate teaching that individual animals exhibit, independent of their human connections.

 

We learn how similar animals are to us, not only in their interest in training the young but in their ability to play-act, or deny emotion when needed, or appreciate music, or play, or initiate brave behavior in fire emergencies, or mourn the death of loved ones.

 

Our denial of animal emotion illustrates a long history of human ignorance.

 

One of the most striking examples is the author's description of a big (440 lb.) male lion in the Kenya savanna who was apparently "knocked flat" by a 11 pound cub, who proceeded to grip with his teeth the big male by the throat. The big male pawed the air, groaned, then lay still, while the cub "slid to the ground and pranced off." Then the male sat up and gazed calmly into the distance.

 

Often, elder males may do battle to stay with their pride, but the loser will go off as a lone nomad.

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