Can Animals be Altruistic ?

“No act of kindness,
no matter how small,
is ever wasted.”
Aesop

“If we all do one random act of kindness daily,
we just might set the world in the right direction.”
Martin Kornfeld

 

“Comptine d’un autre été  – l’après-midi” (Rhyme of another summer – the afternoon) by Yann Tiersen:

 

Hump-Back-Whale-humpback-whales-32310746-1600-1200

Some time ago I watched three times Tom Mustill’s extraordinary documentary on BBC4 about humpback whales living close to the Californian coastline, in Monterey Bay. To watch this giant mammal, over 30 tonnes in weight, propelled by its massive tail to soar upright into the air and then do a turn before splashing back into the ocean, is the most breathtaking spectacle you could ever hope to see.

It seems that anyone who watched this detective story about understanding more about the lives and actions of those unique creatures was deeply affected. The featured scientists, divers and photographers have all dedicated their lives to understanding and protecting these special giants of the ocean. India Bourke, an environment writer at the New Statesman, wrote: “One can only hope that if it comes to saving other species, humanity becomes a lot more whale – and fast.” After watching the footage of humpback whales saving other animals and us from predators, I wholeheartedly agree.

A clip from Our Planet showing these beautiful creatures in action:

 

A clip from Planet Earth Live showing humpback whales’ attempt to save grey whales from attack by killer whales

 

humpbackwhale

What fascinated the scientists, in particular, was the indisputable fact that humpback whales intervene on behalf of hunted creatures, seals, dolphins, sunfish or even humans. There are over one hundred documented cases of these acts by humpback whales, that clearly aim to improve the welfare of others; an established notion of altruism.

One scientist, a woman biologist, admitted that if it hadn’t happened to her, she would have not believed the story of being saved by a humpback whale. She was filming the humpback whales of the Cook Islands when one came close to her and started pushing her away and towards her boat. Unable to resist the powerful creature (they are 500 times the human size), and dismayed by its action, she held on for safety to the whale’s huge fin, and as her camera was working, we could see the close up of the whale’s face and its eye, intelligent and focused, looking at the biologist. It was only when the whale got her close to the boat that the scientist noticed a shark that was being kept away from her. She reached the boat while the humpback whale swam close behind her, making sure that she was safe. Filmed by the crew of the boat from their side, we can see the whale looking while the biologist scrambled on board. She then waved and called out to the waiting humpback whale: ‘I love you too! I love you!’ I am not sure, but I have a feeling that I called the same to the TV screen.

Another witness described seeing and recording on his mobile phone, a group of killer whales washing off an ice floe a seal that was resting on it. As the seal fell into the water, a few humpback whales broke the surface of the water and surrounded the seal. One scooped the seal in his fins and held it to his chest. The observers noticed that when the seal started at some point sliding down, the whale put the seal back high on his chest. The humpback whales waited until the killer whales got bored and departed, and only then let go of the seal, who swam back to the safety of the ice floe. There are now 115 recorded similar cases of humpback whales and they provide indisputable proof that humpback whales are altruistic. As we know very little about these mysterious creatures, researchers are working on many questions; from how long do they live to why do they rise in the air in ‘breach’, and why do they save humans, after more than 2 million whales were killed in the last century before the law of protection was introduced?  Why?

A few years ago in India, in the city of Kanpur, a crowd of commuters witnessed something extraordinary happening. A monkey walking on the overhead high-tension cables got electrocuted and fell down onto the railway track, and was lying unconscious. Another monkey jumped onto the track and started resuscitating his friend by shaking and slapping the unresponsive animal. As nothing seemed to work, he even dunked the victim in cold water that was in a container by the rail track. More slapping and shaking followed, and after more water treatment, finally after 20 minutes of hard work, the by then bedraggled monkey opened his eyes. He was hauled to a safe place off the rails, just as a train pulled into the station. The cheering crowd then watched the survivor even being groomed by his heroic friend. We could all do with a friend like that, couldn’t we?

A clip of this amazing rescue:

 

It has been documented time and time again that animal empathy transcends the barriers that divide the species. Altruism among animals is a fact.

During World War II, a small, malnourished bear cub was sold by a young boy to a Polish regiment of soldiers travelling through Iraq (Persia). The soldiers knew that his fate would be dreadful, if not rescued, as the cub would be trained in a barbaric way to become a dancing bear. If he was lucky he would die young. The soldiers bought him for a few bits and pieces and a large tin of bully beef. Wojtek, as they called him, was to become their link with normality, and was loved, without exception, by everyone in the regiment. After months of travelling he grew to be a handsome creature, thriving on diluted condensed milk and apples. He loved his saviours as much as they loved him. When the regiment arrived at Monte Cassino, in Italy, the soldiers were preparing to storm the fortress that the Germans had three times repelled. In the difficult mountain terrain the soldiers started to frantically unload and move into the right position heavy boxes of artillery shells. To their amazement, Wojtek stood upright and extended his paws, indicating that he wanted to move the boxes and help his comrades. He was never trained to handle 100-pound boxes, but observant and intelligent, he instantly realised what the men were doing. Effortlessly he carried the boxes to the artillery position, returning several times to the army lorries to collect more. Monte Cassino was taken by this Polish regiment and this battle became a legend. The bear became even ‘a fully enlisted soldier’. After the end of the war, the regiment and Wojtek settled in Scotland.

His story has been told in several books and he has a statue. Aileen Orr wrote her beautiful, touching book ‘Wojtek the Bear’: “His first glimpse of Scotland was Glasgow; thousands of Glaswegians lined the streets to cheer him and his Polish regiment as they marched through the city. In the grey age of post-war austerity, he must have been a considerable spectacle. His story was known to the populace and he was regarded as a war hero, so the welcome was genuine and heartfelt. The bear revelled in it.”

In Dijon, France, lives an amazing stallion, called Peyo. Twice a month he visits a hospital and a care home to see the most sick and vulnerable patients. It is Peyo who chooses whom he will see that day, and with a remarkable sixth sense he always enters the rooms of those who need him most. It is spellbinding to watch the transformation in the sick or elderly, who snuggle up to Peyo’s face and gaze into his eyes; the spiritual connection is there, even though we don’t quite understand how or why he has such a gift. Even a dying young man who had given up on the world and withdrew into himself, unresponsive to medical staff, came back to life and was changed when Peyo touched his face and gazed into his eyes.  As the commentator remarked – some things are best left unanswered, and we have to accept that not everything has an explanation.  At least, not yet.

 

The wonderful Peyo at work:

For some moments of reflection, the cathartic Eclogue for Piano and Strings Op. 10 by Gerald Finzi:

 

Being passionate about nature isn’t a one-way only commitment to help wildlife and the environment using our knowledge and skills. By observing nature closely it is obvious that animals and plants respond to our care by showing their appreciation in many ways. I would even dare to suggest that by following the mantra of our pets, wild animals in need and plants, we could aspire to be better humans. What mantra? It is: “I aim to please.” The enthusiastic greetings of our dogs when we are back home, cats rolling tummy up to make us laugh, the gratitude of those wild animals that have been saved from cruel treatment or illness, and the flourishing of well-cared-for plants and trees, prove that the environment reciprocates our efforts. This fact was noticed in ancient times – Egyptians referred to birds as highly valued friends, and Aesop recounts a story of a lion with a thorn in his paw being helped by a mouse who removed the thorn because the lion hadn’t squashed her on a previous occasional encounter.

It takes so little effort to please others, so little trouble to make someone happy. In one of his famous classic films, Cary Grant remarked: “If only we could be more like humans, we would create Heaven right here on Earth.”  My and all the animals in my wildlife garden’s sentiments exactly.

And the heavenly sounds of Bach’s Air on the G string are a fitting conclusion to this post.

PS Here is an interesting book for those who want to know more about these wonderful animals:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52 thoughts on “Can Animals be Altruistic ?

  1. Oh wow. I didn’t know that humpback whales were such amazing creatures that intervened on the behalf of the hunted. I had heard about that incident about the scientist and the shark. It’s amazing indeed that animals can be so caring. They can be so much humane in stark comparison to humans who have hunted, abused and treated them in the most inhumane manner. I loved reading this post.. It was so uplifting

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, Shweta, very much for your lovely comments. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These random act of kindness is totally amazing. That monkey rescuing his friend is so astonishing. Ive heard this incident before.
    Didn’t know about the shark and that bear soldier story, it all was so boosting to read. Thank-you so much.

    Like

  4. This is a life changing post, for the ones who hear, see, know, observe, are sensitive to feel, to trust in nature; this is the truth at its best. I am spellbound by the research, the examples that are going beyond geographies, giving one single message or rather meaning to life. You my dearest are a force that i time and again speak about, learn from and look up to. Animals are us or we are one. Love in its depth or at its peak does never need any language. Will never do. Your this essay suggests something even deeper, pushes me to embrace something more that i haven’t tried or even moved towards, i will. I must.

    This post should become a highlight in the digital reading world and i will share it with as many people as i can. You are but nature yourself dearest Joanna. I am even in love with the way this work is presented, almost like a composition in its entirety. Thank you for doing it, making us see the deeper realities of our beautiful plant.

    Love to you
    Nara x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re most welcome 🙂

    Like

  6. Thank you so much, Narayan, for your wonderful comments, it makes my day!! Thank you for sharing with others. and saying things I could only hope to hear. I am elated, thank you.

    Love to you,

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Ritish, for your generous comments. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What an amazing post! Wojtek and Peyo just stole my heart. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing it with us. Again you made my day.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you, Joycemaryj, I aim to uplift and inspire, and I am grateful for your appreciation!!

    Joanna

    Like

  10. I enjoy the music and the videos. Beautiful! 👍🙏🙏🙏💐

    Like

  11. Thank you, Chen Song Ping, for your appreciation. It means a lot to me!!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What an incredible post, Joanna. These beautiful creatures continue to amaze us. If only more humans could act in the same selfless way.
    Thank you for sharing and have a good weekend, Lauren 💗

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thank you, Lauren, it is a good post thanks to those amasing creatures, hardly my doing, but thank you.. Here, the weather is boiling, almost.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve read two books on elephants and became totally enamored with them. We have so many amazing animals that enrich our lives even if it’s from watching them on a screen, or if we’re fortunate enough to meet them in person. 🙂 Sorry to hear about the hot weather. Try to stay cool. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You’re very welcome! xo

    Like

  16. Today only I was looking at a clip showing a monkey cuddling an old lady on her bed. The lady used to give him a loaf daily. When he didn’t see her for two days as she fell sick, he came inside searching for her.

    Earlier too, I had seen a video as to how a sparrow breathed his last when he saw his partner dead. I feel animals, whether it is a dog or cat, horse or elephant, have the better sense and instincts. They are more considerate.

    The stories of humpback whales given by you are spectacular. The quotes and clippings are wonderful, but the crux was Cary Grant’s remark that says it all. In all, a mesmerising piece once again. After going through only, one can realise how much effort has been put in for publishing such a post.

    Thanks a lot, Joanna.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow Joanna,
    your photos and words were such a gift!👏👏👏👏🌷🌷🌷🌷

    Like

  18. Thank you, Cindy, I am very happy that you like the post, it means I have done my best, thank you.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  19. You’re so welcome. It was awesome 💖💖💖

    Like

  20. Thank you again. Much appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I think you gave me an idea for the next week’s post, Lauren, thank you!!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Haha! Happy to inspire, Joanna! 💗

    Like

  23. Thank you, Kaushal, for your generous review. Gary Grant’s remarque is my favourite too, It comes from an old Hollywood classic “Bishop’s wife”

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  24. My pleasure!!

    Like

  25. Thank you, KK, again. Much appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  26. You are welcome, Joanna!!

    Like

  27. Nothing more uplifting than random acts of kinds, it’s interesting how much empathy is possible and common in nature. Lovely post👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Thank you, Christo, of course, you live surrounded by nature,

    Joanna

    Like

  29. Of course, they are! I have more books on trees than I can tell here but one, in particular, opens up a world of underground connections that we humans just cannot see! “Finding the Mother Tree” by Suzanne Simard opens a door to a world we humans don’t comprehend, don’t wish to admit, because humans think they alone can “understand” life and living! Thank you for the Gerald Finzi piece (beautiful); it also shows your depth and breadth of understanding! (Can I ask if you know of Patrick Hawes? More modern, but I love his piano works!)

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thank you, Ashley, I know and wrote about trees. Might do it again. Yes, I know Patric Hawes, might include him some time.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Aw Joanna, this is such a heart-touching compilation of beautiful souls from around the world and it’s such a warm reminder of how beauty shines through. “animal empathy transcends the barriers that divide the species” was a wonderful way to put it. Thank you so much for sharing all those videos, it was a lovely experience to watch it all happen and to be reminded that we all live on the same planet. I especially enjoyed reading about Wotjek, whom I had watched a short documentary on and Peyo who has a remarkable sixth-sense. Hope your week is going well, Joanna!
    -D

    Like

  32. Thank you, D, for your understanding of the importance of animals in our life. I loved the documentary so much that I had to share it

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Very uplifting and heart-warming post Joana, thanks for a lovely share.

    Like

  34. Thank you, Henrietta, for your kind comment. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  35. What an interesting and informative post Joanna! I love the video clips of the whales. The monkey and bear story was amazing. Animals do look out for humans at times. Great post!

    Like

  36. Thank you, so much, they do, more often than we realise.
    Thank you.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Thank you again. Much appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  38. You are welcome!

    Like

  39. Such an uplifting post, Joanna! Astonishing stories and lovely photos. I think care and concern for others is natural for humans too, but often our own selfishness and greed get in the way. This beautiful post made my day! Thank you. ❤

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close