How to relate to a lion

Ostensibly, this is a short video (14:43) about the endangered lions of South Africa, hence its title ‘The New Endangered Species?’ But, for me, it’s about how to relate emotionally to (other) animals. Watch how this guy—Kevin Richardson—relates to these lions (and hyenas). What, do you think, is his ‘secret’?

Lion and humans, both are endangered species. The first from loss of habit, the last from the commercialization of their emotions. Act now to stop both.

Pleasure-in-Others’-Misfortune: the Orangina Pigeon – YouTube

via Orangina Stay Alive Ads – Pigeon – YouTube.

In describing pleasure-in-others’misfortune, two features are not disputable: our pleasure and the other’s misfortune. These features describe a significant conflict between our positive evaluation of the situation and the negative evaluation of the other person. (Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, The Subtlety of Emotions, p. 355).

But what of the emotions of the pigeon? Is it ‘wicked’ as the video caption says? I don’t think so.

While the action was deliberate, it didn’t want to eradicate the annoying person. It wanted to teach that person a lesson.

Birds know what they are doing—even if we don’t know what they’re doing.

Pigeons’ high-risk strategies reveal why we all love a flutter

Charles Darwin and his pigeons return to 50 Albemarle Street, London

Pandas and Pandering

‘CCTV from a Chinese zoo shows a terrified panda trying to climb a tree in fear when a huge earthquake struck on Saturday [April 20th, 2013].’

Some of you may have already seen this on television. We’re quite fond of cute critters displaying human- like emotions.

Some reports attached this photo, claiming it was the grateful panda. It seems, however, that it was taken some years ago.

lYANJThe subtext is ‘Here is this cute panda. See it gets scared, just like we do. But we will calm it down and everything will be OK.’ The photo seems to suggest, ‘Thank you. Don’t leave me.’

For me, there are two issues here: 1. the emotions of the giant panda, and 2. our human interpretation of the panda’s behaviour.

Giant Pandas have been around for a very long time and it would be surprising if they have not developed an understanding of earthquakes. Most mammals have senses we cannot begin to comprehend. Some of them can sense ‘natural disasters’ before we do.

While hundreds of thousands of humans were killed during the tsunami in 2005, very few other mammals were. Most headed for the high ground long before it hit.

Giant Pandas are not quite the solitary creatures we like to think they are. Research mentioned here suggests that they live in small groups (7-15) spread over a large area. They communicate their emotions through vocalizations. Listen to these extraordinary examples. Here is the sound of a baby Panda (‘pathetic’ is the wrong word here):

How to respond to an earthquake would be knowledge handed down through generations of pandas over hundreds of thousands of years. Natural selection may have converted this into an instinct.

It would be interesting to know how pandas living in their natural habitat respond to earthquakes. I believe they would feel the earthquake’s oncoming presence and head for somewhere safe and trusted. They would know better than us where such places are.

But the panda in the opening clip is in an enclosure, so any natural behaviours are constrained by the fence. It cannot run. And it must surely know that climbing a tree is not going to help. They’re not stupid.

Is this panda afraid of the earthquake, or is it afraid because it has no experience of this happening and there are no other pandas around to share information and feelings? The chain of generational knowledge may have been broken long ago and the panda may have no idea of what is going on.

I would expect it to vocalize its fear, but it makes not a sound, perhaps because there are no other pandas around.

Certainly other mammals have emotions, but they have emotions appropriate to their species and its circumstances. Projecting human emotions onto them isn’t going to do them any good. We need to imagine life through their senses, through their emotions. Better still, to look at ourselves through their senses.

Bird flu pandemic panic

Every few years along comes an avian flu pandemic panic. This time the trouble is in China.

China reports nine bird flu cases amid allegations of cover up on social media | World news | The Guardian.

As you would expect in mammals with brains the size of ours, just to be safe, let’s kill as many chickens as we can.

As any passing Raven will tell you, it is not ‘avians’ that threaten humans with a flu pandemic, it is our treatment of them.

Flu is a natural occurrence among birds. It only becomes deadly when we cram thousands of ducks and chickens into unsanitary and inhumane pens‚ the perfect breeding ground for this sort of virus.

Just when we thought we were safe from bird flu, last year it was discovered that scientists had created a deadly bird flu super virus. As this clip reveals, for these three credulous characters, it’s a threat to US national security.

To keep things in perspective, here is Jon Stewart on the last panic, in 2006/7:

The parable of the elephant and six foolish men (as it should have been told)

BEYOND Ghor there was a city. All its inhabitants were blind. A king with his entourage arrived near by; he brought his army and camped in the desert. He had a mighty elephant, which he used in attack and to increase the people’s awe.

The populace became anxious to see the elephant, and some sightless from among this blind community ran like fools to find it. As they did not even know the form or shape of the elephant they groped sightlessly, gathering information by touching some part of it and reported what they felt.

elephant eye

The elephant’s enormous strength was brought under control by self-discipline and transformed into mindfulness, equanimity. He felt neither attraction nor antipathy towards these human gropers, only disinterested benevolence. He noted the sensations of their touches and dismissed them.

He marvelled at these attempts to know him by touch alone. Could they not feel his shape by the shadow he cast on the breeze? Could they not hear his size and strength. Could they not smell his animal power? Most of all he marvelled at how they acted as if he were a passive, unfeeling thing.

They are foolish not because they attempt to know the whole of him from his parts. They are foolish because they treat a living sentient being as an object simply awaiting the pleasure of being known by them.

The elephant smiled mysteriously and the earth shook.