Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures

Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures

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by Virginia Morell

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New York Times Bestseller

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a fish? Or a parrot, dolphin, or an elephant?  Do they experience thoughts that are similar to ours, or have feelings of grief and love? These are tough questions, but scientists are answering them. They know that ants teach and rats love to be tickled.

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New York Times Bestseller

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a fish? Or a parrot, dolphin, or an elephant?  Do they experience thoughts that are similar to ours, or have feelings of grief and love? These are tough questions, but scientists are answering them. They know that ants teach and rats love to be tickled. They’ve discovered that dogs have thousand-word vocabularies and that birds practice their songs in their sleep. But how do scientists know these things?
   Animal Wise takes us on a dazzling odyssey into the inner world of animals and among the pioneering researchers who are leading the way into once-forbidden territory: the animal mind. Morell uses her formidable gifts as a storyteller to transport us to field sites and laboratories around the world, introducing us to animal-cognition scientists and their surprisingly intelligent and sensitive subjects. She explores how this rapidly evolving, controversial field has only recently overturned old notions about why animals behave as they do. In this surprising and moving book, Morell brings the world of nature brilliantly alive in a nuanced, deeply felt appreciation of the human-animal bond.

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Editorial Reviews

Animals are smarter than you think. With every passing year, scientific researchers provide new proofs that our fellow creatures are no mere automatons. Nobody shares these stories of animal intelligence any better than veteran science author Virginia Morell (Ancestral Passions; Wildlife Wars). Her anecdote-filled accounts of Alex, the wonderful talking parrot; decision-making earthworms; pedagogical ants; and other talented species who display talents that until recently, we humans vainly imagined were unique to themselves. Now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“[A] delightful exploration of how animals think….Morell makes a fascinating, convincing case that even primitive animals give some thought to their actions.”
Kirkus Reviews

“After you read this book, you will be convinced that many different animal species have true thoughts and emotions.  You will take a journey to the center of the animal mind.” – Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human

“From real-estate appraising ants and wife-beating parrots to laughing rats, grieving elephants, and dogs that play Simon Says, Virginia Morell’s Animal Wise is a fascinating and intellectually sweeping overview of the new science of animal cognition.  With Morell’s unusual ability to capture the passion and humanity of these scientists, this extraordinary book is an impressive treatment of animal minds and a must read for anyone who has ever wondered what is going on in the heads of the creatures we share our world with.” – Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat

“Why is it that until very recently, many scientists claimed that animals can’t think?  Every pet owner knows better, and Virginia Morell is our champion.  But she’s not going on guesswork and opinion – Animal Wise is thoroughly and meticulously researched.  And it’s a page-turner – a window to the natural world that will change the way we view other species.  We place ourselves at the top of the evolutionary ladder.  Of course we do.  We invented the ladder.  In her marvelous book, Morell displays the folly of this viewpoint.  Animal Wise is fabulous!” – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

“Morell’s Animal Wise is science writing at its best.  Here she not only translates scientists’ jargon and data into enviable prose, but transmits her love of the field to her audience.  Novice readers will be enthralled to learn about the intelligence of the creatures in this book, and experts will be extremely pleased to see how she makes their work and that of their colleagues accessible to everyone.” – Irene Pepperberg, author of Alex & Me

“From chimpanzees playing computer games to amorous dolphins, Virginia Morell takes us on a lively tour of what we have learned about the emotions and intelligence of animals.  By inviting scientists to tell their personal side of the story, she not only brings the animals closer but also the thrill of discovery.” – Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy

“These animals have incredible minds.  Now thanks to Morell they have a voice.  I love this book.  It makes me even prouder to share this Earth with our non-human kin.” – Jennifer S. Holland, author of Unlikely Friendships

“Anyone who reads this book will be changed forever in their view of life on earth.” – Richard E. Leakey, FRS, Stony Brook Professor of Anthropology and author of The Sixth Extinction

“The scientific expertise Virginia Morell provides to this very important subject, and the way she ties this in with the researchers who know their animals – because knowing them is their life work – make this an important book and a great read.”
Bernd Heinrich, author of Life Everlasting

Animal Wise brings the reader into the lab and field to learn firsthand from the scientists that marvel over the minds of other animals.  Using the sharp pen of an investigative reporter, Morell exposes the expected brilliance of apes, dolphins, and parrots, but also surprises us with simple discoveries of genius among fishes and ants, and even laughter among rats.  Each page allows you to anticipate, sweat, grieve, and celebrate with dedicated scientists as you discover and experience their worlds, and those within the minds of the astounding animals that they study.  Your journey causes reflection; a consideration of how we treat other species and what they think about us.” – John Marzluff, Professor of Wildlife Science, University of Washington and author of Dog Days, Raven Nights and Gifts of the Crow

Animal Wise is a thought-provoking and highly engaging set of essays that captures the changing views of scientists toward the minds and emotional lives of animals. It is sure to have broad impact on attitudes towards other species and our treatment of them. Thank you, Virginia Morell, for adding legitimacy to what we have so painstakingly observed.” – Joyce Poole, PhD, Co-Director of ElephantVoices, member of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, and author of Coming of Age With Elephants

“In sprightly and clear prose Virginia Morell enters the world of animals with respect and insight and with the compelling argument that our lives differ only in degree.  The recognition that we are bound in mind to many other creatures, all of them dependent on us for survival, will, I hope, arouse our compassion and assure them a future.  This is a fascinating, timely, and important book.” – George B. Schaller, Panthera and Wildlife Conservation Society

“From ants to apes, Animal Wise covers wide-ranging scientific research on the cognitive and emotional capacities of many different non-human animals.  Noted author Virginia Morell writes clearly and concisely, and this easy read will surely be good for animals because we must use what we know about them to make their lives better in an increasingly human dominated world.” – Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals and The Animal Manifesto and editor of Ignoring Nature No More

“It is nice to see a science writer of Virginia Morell’s distinction take on this increasingly important topic, and it is good to have her calm and careful voice added to the conversation.  She has a great deal to teach us about the latest research on the frontiers of this fascinating new world.  Animal Wise is a fine book.” – Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep

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Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was very informative and told in simple language that provided an easy read. Most books of this nature are filled with scientific data that is too wordy and involved. The author used an informal style to make her facts about the different animals come to life. I learned a great deal from this book. It made me feel the plight of the animals, and the need for us all to tread more softly in their worlds.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating book based on scientific experiments around the world with animals from ants to elephants, but it is written in layman's terms. Even though it is not about pets, it makes you look at your pets in a whole new light.It shows how animals communicate with one another, make plans, think, and share knowledge.
IAmy More than 1 year ago
Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review. I don’t venture into Non-Fiction very often, but when I do books about animals is one of the subjects I will pick up.  Those of you that know me, or follow me on Instagram, know that I share my life with quite the menagerie of furred and feathered creatures.  And this book wasn’t quite a stretch for me personally, or any animal lover/pet owner really.  IF you share you life with animals you have no doubt what so ever that animals are intelligent feeling creatures, filled with their own wants, dislikes and agenda.  I hoped this book would be an interesting look into how the scientific community was proving what many of us lay people already knew when I requested it for review. The book was a little slow to start off, I already read non-fiction at a much slower pace than fiction, but the introduction was bogged down with a lot of technical information about the history of research involving animals.  How the scientific community has historically viewed animals and their intelligence and emotions.  In my opinion kinda insulting and the disregard they showed the animals in their care was horrific at times to read about.  It was also very dry reading and I struggled to push on.  I understand and appreciate the need for this background information, especially since I am coming at this book with little foreknowledge, but that still didn’t make it any easier to get through.  I made it though, and encourage you to stick with it if you want to know more or skip it and get into the different studies about the various animals featured in each chapter. After you get past the history lesson on scientific study of animals you get to the most interesting part of the book, or what you probably signed up for when you decided to read this book.  There are ten chapters each featuring a different type of animal or a different approach to studying them.  For example there are two different chapters talking about dolphins, one focuses on animals in captivity the other on animals studied in the wild.  The chapters are filled with delightful observations and antidotes that the researchers shared with the author as well as her observations from her visits to the different studies.  These section gave me quite a bit to think about, even though I am an animal lover I still hadn’t thought much of why ants or fish do the things they do.  While in the middle of this book I visited the vet for my cat and as I sat there in the waiting room I noticed a fish tank with two large fish of some sort inside.  The book made me take a closer look at them and I wondered what would their world be like for them.  Do they notice the clients that come and go bringing different animals in for care?  Are they here for our entertainment or are we theirs?   Also make me rethink any future fishing trips we might have planned… It wasn’t all fun stories from field and lab studies.  Some aspects of how animals are still treated in studies upset me while reading this book.  I had a particularly difficult time with the chapter on rats.  Hopefully through learning more about animals and their feeling future projects will be more like the Japanese program for the chimpanzees were the animals are treated more as partners than experiments.  Still it important to read about the good along with the bad.  We will not change if we shy away from things that are unpleasant to read about. I wanted to share with you some of my favorite observations or quotes from the book.  They are all near the end and I don’t believe I am going to be spoiling anything for you, after all this is not a story. I’m not giving away a plot by sharing these lines.  Still if you don’t want to know, stop reading here. The first quote is from the Japanese scientist, Tetsura Matsuzawa, that works with chimpanzees: ” I really do not understand this need for us always to be superior in all domains.  Or to be separate, so unique from every other animal,” he said. “We are not. We are not plants; we are members of the animal kingdom.” I so wish more people thought like this.  We are not above animals or below them, and we are not all that different either.  We have just evolved differently, adapted differently to fit our environments and needs.   There is much we can learn from the fellow creatures that share this planet with us.  Maybe we would not feel so isolated if we realized this or perhaps humbler.  I definitely think animals would be better off as well if more people thought as Mr. Matsusawa. Which leads to another passage written by the author: “We were wrong about why these animals behave as they do, in part, I think, because most of us do not grant animals even the simplest form of thought, or recognize that they do things intentionally.” Again animals are not so different from us.  I love spending time with my birds (peafowl, chickens, guineas, and a very affectionate turkey), and I see this everyday.  I love watching the drama that plays out in my coop.  They have very strong reasons behind their behavior and hierarchy, and you only need to pay attention to realize this.  Is it so hard to see that a cow just turned out to pasture after a long winter is experiencing joy.  Or that a peacock that lost his mate to a raccoon attack is mourning her loss. One more and then I’m almost done, if you’ve managed to stay with me this long…  This is perhaps one of the most tragic ideas in the book and I hope it makes you think as it did me.  The author writes: “I once suggested to my editor that we keep a weekly or monthly tally box, announcing that such-and-such a creature has just gone extinct - its behaviors, mind, thoughts, and ways, its beauty vanished from our planet.” Once these animals are extinct they are gone forever, (yes, I know about cloning but that isn’t necessarily a solution) and our world is a poor place for their absence.  Every animal has a purpose on this planet and we need to find a way to protect the animals that share our home instead of causing them to disappear. Wow, perhaps I should not have gone on so long…  Bottom line this is a good book and I hope you read it.  I hope it makes you think.  I hope it changes you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Every time I read or see a Nova on animal's abilities, I find it remarkable and so parallel to humans. I really enjoyed learning more and it was fun to learn. Well done!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that this book is beaautifully