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Humorist Linda Lombardi, author of Animals Behaving Badly, takes inspiration from the animal kingdom to share with us some of the more salacious things that those cute and supposedly cuddly critters do when we humans aren't looking. Don't worry, no people were harmed in the writing of this story.
About a year ago, it was reported that some wild dolphins in Australia had been spotted moving across the surface of the ocean while standing upright on their tails. They had apparently learned the trick from a former dolphin-show performer who'd been released from captivity. This caused much excitement among scientists, who were fascinated by this striking example of cultural transmission in animals.
Here's what I wanted to ask these dolphins about their new skill: "Why bother? Most people already think you guys walk on water."
Who does the PR for dolphins, anyway? They're geniuses — whoever these people are — because there's no animal whose reputation is more out of line with its true nature.
People view dolphins as loving, intelligent and wise. In other words, they’re practically some kind of aquatic saint. The reality? These psychopaths of the sea commit gang rape, kill baby dolphins, batter harbor porpoises to death for no reason, and sometimes try to sexually assault or even drown humans. (Sure, there are all those stories of dolphins who save people, but those are only the ones who live to tell their stories. You never hear from the people who dolphins push away from shore.)
Dolphins are just one extreme example of a bigger problem: We're completely deluded about the many species that share our planet. We've somehow convinced ourselves that animals are noble, adorable and admirable — even that they’re better than us.
Seriously, people. Have you gone outside lately? Have you seen what goes on out there?
Consider one of our most fundamental delusions: People think that the human species is uniquely cruel and violent. Animals supposedly kill only for food or to defend themselves. Otherwise, it's all harmonious frolicking in fields of flowers, with no war, murder, child abuse or any other dark products of humans’ huge brains and their corrupt civilization.
But the truth is that dolphins and people aren't the only creatures who perpetrate random and not-so-random attacks on neighbors. It's been known for decades that groups of chimps wage violent battles against other groups for control of territory. Sounds just like human war, huh?
Innocent animal babes aren't safe from violence either: In many species — like that reputedly brave and noble king of beasts, the lion — males often murder infants when they take over a harem of females, so they can sire their own offspring.
If that's not enough to convince you that the motives of animals can be as diabolical as our own, consider the case of two red pandas who were found slain at the Nuremberg Zoo. Their injuries were apparently caused by a sharp instrument, so the police were called in to help find the perpetrator of such a heinous attack on these cuddly creatures.
The investigation found no evidence of human involvement, and the crime was eventually pinned on the Muntjac deer who shared the pandas' enclosure. Despite their tusklike canine teeth and pointed hooves, the deer had originally been excluded from the list of potential suspects. Why? The animals had lived together peacefully for years — until then.
Of course, the police would never apply such faulty reasoning to a human suspect. They'd know full well that years of cohabitation is exactly what would bring someone to their breaking point. Since animals are assumed to be above such things, an obvious clue had been overlooked: The day before the pandas were murdered, they'd attacked a newborn deer.
We'll never know what drove the pandas over the edge; maybe yet another squalling infant deer was the last straw. In the end, their murderer's motive was obvious: Revenge is sweet — even for Bambi.
Linda Lombardi is the author of Animals Behaving Badly and the blogger behind Animals Behaving Badly.
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