Monday, November 30, 2009

The Dark Side

My goal in writing this blog is to inform anyone I can about the intelligence and loving nature of the animals whose societies surround us everywhere. I want to be positive and uplifting.

Sometimes I can't help but look at the dark side. I rail against such blind myths as "wild" and "domesticated" and the damage they do to our perceptions of animals, but I try to balance that by showing what really paying attention and truly observing animals can reveal.

Sometimes the dark side overwhelms me. Tigers are being killed to extinction because of the crazy belief in magic--tiger penises are supposed to have mad crazy aphrodisiac powers. This is a closed circle of insane beliefs, because if you believe something will have an effect on you, in an aspect that is largely psychologically-controlled, then it will. The tiger has no magical powers, but it is the victim of a self-perpetuating circle of insanity.

And my current trip into the dark side is the result of a similar story in the news about belief in "magic" in Africa: Albino people are supposed to bring disaster wherever they go, but a dead albino person can be carved up and sold for $75,000 because their body parts are believed to have magical powers. So these people have little refuge while alive and plenty of people trying to kill them. All because of unexamined, insane myths.

But if people are willing to do that to other people in their own towns, how can I hope that people will ever examine and discard their myths about other species?

OK... I'm sorry. I promise to return soon with a more uplifting post.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Playing with a Polar Bear

Polar bears have a bad reputation. Everybody knows they are one of the most fearsome species on earth. So what happens when a hungry polar bear comes across some Husky dogs that are chained up and can't run away?

This story is on YouTube in several different versions, but I think the one above is the best, simply showing what happened without a lot of extraneous nonsense.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Part of the Pride

Part of the PrideKevin Richardson has a new book out now called Part of the Pride, a memoir in which he tells how he came to be "The Lion Whisperer".

Here's a short quote from early in the book, when Richardson was just being introduced to the lions at the Lion Park:
...We came to another enclosure containing two older cubs. At 6 or 7 months, they had reached an age where they could no longer be petted by visitors to the park, and they were big--much bigger than I had expected. One was called Napoleon and the other, which had yet to be christened, had the most incredible clear eyes.

Conventional wisdom--or perhaps superstition--among lion keepers, I later learned, was that one should never trust a lion with clear eyes. Like a lot of things people told me about lions over the years to come, and like conventional wisdom in general, that little gem turned out to be bullshit.
Oh, yes -- I'm going to like this book.

Here are some other rules about lions that Richardson was told:
  • Don't look them in the eye.
  • Don't turn your back on them.
  • Don't crouch or kneel or they will climb up on your back.
  • Don't run.
  • Don't make any sudden movements.
  • Don't scream. Talk quietly.
I can tell you right off that "don't look them in the eye" is bullshit. Every captive lion or tiger I've seen--that hasn't had his spirit broken or hasn't given up trying to make contact with humans--wants you to look them in the eye. They want you to recognize that there is a person in that fur. That sort of contact is the solid foundation of a good relationship with the animal.

Besides, lions, like cats, use the 'slow blink' as a means of letting you know everything is cool with them. You can't exchange this signal if you don't look them in the eye.

As for never crouching in the presence of a lion, click here to read what I learned from a very endearing lion.

I was so glad to see Richardson dismiss silly "conventional wisdom" as bullshit. So much of it is. He has learned through first hand experience how to treat animals, and he has been rewarded with some of the most wonderful animal friendships, even with animals others wouldn't go near.

I will definitely be reporting more from this book. Below is a short video of Kevin Richardson with some of his animals.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Words vs. Thinking

I haven't posted for a while; part of the reason was the flu, the other part is that I've gotten bogged down in other people's words while trying to research new articles. I'll try to break free by limiting my own words in this new post.

Bog 1: Tom Regan spends a lot of time philosophizing in his The Case for Animal Rights, but too many words can serve to hide the truth more than examine it. And if he can say that humans have a higher life quality than any other animal, he must not realize that such a statement is only a little bit different than Descartes' "biological machines" view of animals.

Bog 2: Some scientists do recognize that animals have societies and cultures of their own. But they're afraid of going all the way with this idea. That leads to a lot of roundabout language. Still, this article is interesting, about male dolphins bringing a bouquet to a prospective mate: Dolphins Use Weeds to Get Girls.

And here's an earlier article about whale culture: Culture Shock

There. I hope that ends my writer's block.