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How The Hen House Turns: Goodwill Between Animals

on December 24, 2018 - 7:55am
A turkey named Little Bear. Courtesy photo
 
By CARY NEEPER
Formerly of Los Alamos
 
In this season of good will to all, I remember how the Hen House birds often roamed their half-acre together without argument or bullying. They also had no problem raising each other. Turkeys raised baby chicks. Chickens raised they young turkeys. Ducks also raised chicks without complaining.
 
This year TV programs have featured animal relationships across species. In Nature’s show “Animal Partners” we saw hippos cleaned by small skin-nibblers, Jack fish rubbing parasites off on the rough skin of sharks, African lions hosting fly-catching lizards, ravens fetching a wolverine to dig up a dead frozen deer, and in East Africa, the honey guide bird leading boys to a bee hive high in the trees. The boys gave the birds a share of the honey combs.
 
We are most familiar with animals of the same kind working together. Grandmother elephants aide the young. Killer whales hunt together in the Arctic. Humpback whales coordinate their swimming to create circles of bubbles to trap fish. Wolves need to hunt as a pack to successfully bring down bison. Hyenas call others in to drive a lion off its kill.
 
In his Planet Earth II series, David Attenborough describes filmed examples of deep sea cooperation between species of small fish cleaning large ones at favorite rock cleaning stations. He shows large fish working with an octopus to trap smaller prey between rocks on the ocean floor.
 
In October, PBS aired “Animal Reunions” here in California. Stories were told of strong animal emotional ties to the human beings who had raised them. After five years in the wild, a young ape in Gabon recognized, hugged, and visited with his human for some time. A chimp raised by humans also responded with welcome gestures after he had been in the wild for a year. Orphaned elephants raised and released by humans were visited after a year with a wild herd, and the entire group obviously enjoyed the greeting ceremony.
 
Of course, it was Jane Goodall who was the first to observe such bonding behavior, along with personality differences, and emotional responses in animals.
 
But the most amazing story to be aired this year was the acceptance of a calm human male by a cheetah and her cubs after a year of patient watching and sharing.
 
A final note from The Week magazine Oct. 12, 2018 reported research “suggesting” that dogs miss eye contact if their owners spend too much time “staring at smartphones.” Depression and anxiousness were the symptoms--something I noticed in the Hen House birds when our 12-year-old turkey suddenly died.

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