Monkey See, Monkey Think?

Animal Wise by Virginia Morell

Animal Wise by Virginia Morell

First Line: “Animals have minds.”

What a fun nonfiction read! It was never really a stretch for me to appreciate elephants and dolphins and dogs as being “smart.” But birds and ants? I never thought they had much going on emotionally or intellectually. That is, until I read this book.

When their home is destroyed, ant societies have meticulous house-hunting methods. They include special scouts who find the property and then return home to bring others to the site one-by-one, in a sort of follow-the-leader/teacher-and-student approach. When faced with a set of objects, a parrot can understand the question, “What’s different?” and answer correctly. They not only know how to make judgements—they can articulate their thoughts, too!

The studies with the larger mammals are no less impressive. The two chapters devoted to dolphins left me in awe. Evidently we humans are not the only creatures with the ability to be creative. One pair of dolphins was able to devise a synchronized water trick on their own

The scientists conducting these studies have documented some truly amazing animal behaviors. The question, “Are they thinking?” now shifts to, “What are they thinking?”

Bottom Line: Animal-lover or not, this read forces you to take another long look at the world around us.