Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
I wanted to know what they were experiencing, and why to us they feel so compelling, and so-close. This time I allowed myself to ask them the question that for a scientist was forbidden fruit: Who are you?
Weaving decades of field observations with exciting new discoveries about the brain, Carl Safina's landmark book offers an intimate view of animal behavior to challenge the fixed boundary between humans and nonhuman animals. In Beyond Words, readers travel to Amboseli National Park in the threatened landscape of Kenya and witness struggling elephant families work out how to survive poaching and drought, then to Yellowstone National Park to observe wolves sort out the aftermath of one pack's personal tragedy, and finally plunge into the astonishingly peaceful society of killer whales living in the crystalline waters of the Pacific Northwest.
Beyond Words brings forth powerful and illuminating insight into the unique personalities of animals through extraordinary stories of animal joy, grief, jealousy, anger, and love. The similarity between human and nonhuman consciousness, self-awareness, and empathy calls us to re-evaluate how we interact with animals. Wise, passionate, and eye-opening at every turn, Beyond Words is ultimately a graceful examination of humanity's place in the world.
animals. Newest among them: certain fishes. Our rarefied list of beings who use gestures to direct the attention of companions—humans, bonobos, dolphins, ravens, African hunting dogs, wolves, domestic dogs—must now include groupers. Yes, the same fish that’s in countless fried fillet sandwiches; they’re among the smartest. When its intended prey escapes into a coral crevice, the grouper rotates and points down in the direction of the hiding prey. If no help is forthcoming, the grouper might go
when making decisions. Spotted hyenas also lie. Researchers studying free-living hyenas have observed scenes like these: While higher-ranking hyenas are feasting, a low-ranking hyena falsely calls out an alarm that scatters them, then races directly to the carcass to snatch a few fast bites before its clanmates realize there’s no danger. To disrupt hyenas who are fighting with her offspring, a mother sometimes utters a false alarm call. A subordinate hyena who knows where food’s hidden sometimes
wear a bead necklace that no one taught her to make. The topic of aesthetics raises the oft-asked question “Why do birds sing?” Diamond writes, “It is suspicious that they sing mainly during the breeding season. Hence they are probably not singing just for aesthetic pleasure.” Agreed, not just for pleasure. But how many human songs are love songs? And isn’t the bulk of popular music most enthusiastically heard and sung by humans who are sexually mature and not yet married—in other words, in their
aware of the thought. Much happens before words flow. Looking around a room, you don’t say to yourself, “My refrigerator, the sink, my love.” A photo of a loved one is worth a thousand words—and doesn’t need any. Instant and wordless, it says all. The fewer words, the more directly you experience. After a dog has been scolded, they understand when a mere touch says, “We’re still friends—let’s move on.” For some huge things, words are optional. “I love you” is enough said, and more reliable if
elevations, traveling as far as fifteen miles or so outside the park’s borders. They were in more lucrative territory—with a lot more elk. It was all new terrain; they had never before in their lives been there. The Lamars could not have known the reason they found no resistance from other wolves at the eastern borders of their usual territory. They could not have understood that they had just gone from being protected by a national park and the Endangered Species Act to becoming targets in a