Archives for July 2007

Animals in the News

More news out about animals hits the news weekly. This week it is that the domestication of felines took place much further back than originally thought–some 100,000 years according to a short snippet in Science. With all the genome studies and testing using DNA our theories about animals and issues surrounding them keep changing.

This weekend in the Los Angeles Times Parade Magazine, Eugene Linden wrote about animal intelligence and empathy–something that he has written about since the late 70’s (at least when I remember reading some of his work).

It cracks me up how “suddenly” anecdotal observations or hypothesizes suddenly become “official” once a scientific study or two explores a topic and then publishes the results.

If truth be told, if I had a choice between having an academic or a street wise animal person watching my back–the street wise person would win out most of the time.

When push comes to shove I want someone with ability and common sense to save my life not ponder the ramifications of behavior being shaped by external stimuli…or dismissing behavior (or intuition about the behavior) simply because it hasn’t been definitively proven.

I just read what came across as a snotty reply over “anecdotal” observations shared by someone writing in to someone that is considered my colleague–she dismissed the notion that animals may perceive changes in barometric pressure and other phenomena surrounding thunderstorms–in relation to noise phobia.

I don’t have time to rant on about that subject but will say that since I’ve been in my career since the mid-70’s–most of our thoughts about animals have changed. Also, infrasound, ultrasound and other unique perceptions come from hardwiring for survival.

My comment is that animals have to be in tune with their environment and others in it to successfully propagate and have their unique composition remain in the gene pool.

Wh wouldn’t they have better senses, intellegence, and emotional components that we don’t understand?

How ridiculous and arrogant to think that humans (who are incidentally animals) are the only ones with special gifts, cognitive processes, or emotions!

Granted, people often don’t interpret behavior or signals very well–but that is for another commentary.

Montecore & The Email Triggered Rant

One of the things I find frustrating about being in animal behavior and training is that people don’t want to hear anything thing outside of their belief system. In many cases, people ask me an opinion and then want to argue about it—you’d be better off NOT to ask.

This week has been full of that type of stuff. It must be some kind of universal test of tolerance and backbone.

You know, I worked in my field for about five years before I began to concurrently work and study in my chosen field. I don’t consider myself an academic nor am I simply someone who has apprenticed without any formal education.

I am happy to say I am a mix, and in many cases worked with industry icons and participated in the programs that were precursors to some of the courses in the animal field now available—many were simply ideas back then.

With thirty plus years under my belt I thought perhaps people might take the opinions they ask for, or that I have given, seriously but that is not always true.

In many cases they simply don’t want to believe me. Today I got an email from someone who didn’t like my professional opinion about the attack on Roy Horn by Montecore.

Above: Tiger photo courtesy of Gavin Bell

Okay, fair enough. Can I ask what professional expertise you have on the subject?

My opinions are given from my experience and observations over my career AND as someone who has seen multiple attacks and has no illusions about what tigers really are. I actually have known and worked with many captive tigers so I think I have a pretty good handle on the topic.

My opinion is based on the fact that I’ve been up close and personal to attacks, low level aggression, and yes—to the wonderful and warm capacities those cats have—but not for one minute do I have an illusion about tigers (or animals in general).

People don’t want to believe that tigers are hardwired as predators and have the capacity to react as such. Tough, it is true whether you want to believe it or not.

By the way, for those of you who don’t know me well, I don’t consider myself an animal lover—don’t gasp. I am an animal professional who loves animals and that is why I am in this field today. However, unlike many of those proud of the “animal lover” moniker, I think I have a realistic view of animals—incredible and different beings.

The AL title makes me (an other professionals) cringe more often than not–and I think this is the whole problem behind those who are humanizing animals, making them into accessories, and who put them on pedestals—they are not seeing them as the wondrous creatures they are but as toys, or something to indulge, and so are treating them with anything but respect.

Now that I have ranted on beyond what I probably should have, I can truly say that I am glad that animals are getting more attention, and I am glad that people are actually thinking about them in a different manner–but I think the pendulum is spinning out of control during the swing from one side to the other.