Book review: The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben

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After reading Peter Wohlleben’s first publication The Hidden Life of Trees (reviewed here), I wanted to learn more about his second book The Inner Life of Animals. And I wasn’t disappointed. The Inner Life of Animals is a fascinating read, a true eye-opener to the world of animals. The book tells many interesting stories about animals: loving mothers-squirrels, smart (wild) pigs, ravens with their impressive memory, grieving does, empathetic mice or altruistic bats.

For me the most interesting chapter was on animal communication. Can animals express more than ‘words’ via their communication, in other words, can they form verbal and non-verbal communication? The author uses ravens as an example. Ravens have the ability to express themselves in detail with the use of vocal expressions and physical movements (p. 254). Wohlleben also points out research that seeks to test communication skills: there have already been attempts to teach animals how to speak a human language (e.g. among gorillas). As those attempts are time-consuming and the results are neither very clear nor successful, he suggests that we should perhaps approach the dilemma from the opposite direction and we as humans should learn the language of animals (!). Unfortunately, no serious research considers such approach. From my perspective, I think that even though this idea sounds a bit unusual (impossible?), I cannot agree more that it’d be a thrill to understand animals’ speech and to be able to communicate back to them. Don’t you agree? 😉

Furthermore, the book shows how little we actually know about the animal kingdom, yet we act as if we know it all – forming a very one-sided relationship. Our superiority over other animals ‘allows’ us to act in a manner that’s ‘good’ and ‘comfortable’ for us (humans) and not necessarily for other species (e.g. how animals are treated in factory farms or when hunting). Maybe with more knowledge and understanding, humans will be able to change their approach?

Have you recently read any interesting publications on animals? Please let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

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