Book Review The Inner Life of Animals

Want to know why male bears kill cubs? Or have you heard of the humpback whale which expressed gratitude on release from netting?

Whether they are better natured than people? Or simply why some animals feel safe around humans and the majority don’t?

German author Peter Wohlleben has spent a lifetime managing a forest in his home country and has made pithy but subtle observations on animal traits on his lifestyle farm.

In his latest book – a follow up to his best-selling The Hidden Life of Trees – Wohlleben has brought animals to life. He examines whether they have a soul (they do, he concludes, though he admits he does not believe in an afterlife).

His Animals is also widely researched; many conclusions have been drawn from laboratories around the world to form one whole in his work.

Do animals recognise kindness as in our humpback whale? My experience is reinforced by the whale of a tale.

Many years ago, while jogging, I found a shimmering pup lost in a Kaharoa lane. I nursed it for an hour or so, before a motorist kindly offered to deliver it to the SPCA.

Its owner was found.

Many years later, on the same country lane, I stopped at a homestead for water. A large Labrador bound towards me, licking at the sweat equity of a mid-afternoon run.

The owner said: “You were the gentleman who looked after a pup some years back?” “Yes,” I replied. “But how would you know?”

The farmer replied: “Without fail, this dog barks at everyone and every car that comes down the drive – he did not bark at you!” Animals is not a definitive book on wider behaviour (indeed it is a snapshot) but it’s the closest most will get to understand animals’ behavioural nuances. Wohlleben has drawn convincing outcomes.

His style is casual and his curiosity expands globally and he beams right into our backyards, our kitchens and lounges.

The Inner Life of Animals – Love, Grief and Compassion, by Peter Wohlleben – Pbk

– Phil Campbell

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