Updated: Jul 29, 2020
Anyone who loves animals know that the bonds we have been them is as deep as anything between humans. And they have very particular ideas about who their friends are -- and they aren't always from members of the same species. Stories abound of animals nurturing and parenting orphans from other species. There is no biological imperative for a chimp to mother an orphaned Siberian Tiger Cub. So, what causes them to do this?
These photos show a chimp in a rescue sanctuary who, without training, saved the life of a tiger cub.
The level of empathy and the depth of connection between animals rivals anything we humans show. It reminds us of the best of nature -- the best of animal and human-animal nature. We are inspired by these stories, and they remind us of the unity of all life as well as for the potential to reach across the "species aisle." These animals are role models for higher meaning and the power of love to heal.
Many people have seen the stories of Koko, the gorilla who was taught sign language and adopted kittens who she adored and pampered. Her handlers at first wondered if a tiny kitten would be safe in her arms. But they quickly realized it was the safest place a kitten could be. Koko demonstrated her understanding of this kitten's small size and the need for loving protection. What a lucky kitten!
And unusual friendships have been documented across many animal species. There is a National Geographic video about an orangutan in a sanctuary who "adopted" a big, lost dog and the two became inseparable. As the organizer of the sanctuary said, seeing the depth of their connection, "It's enough to make you believe in past lives." It will tickle your heart.
It is inspiring to see that some animals are not "prejudiced" or limited by their sense of "species identity." Rather they view each other as individuals. The bonds are as close as any family. We can learn so much from these role models for inclusivity and the absence of "breed prejudice."
When we see such wonderful unexpected friendships, it inspires us to think about the nature of love. Love is natural. It is sometimes unexpected. Maybe there is an animal out there that you could love, or love a little more.
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Genie Joseph, PhD
Director: The Human-Animal Connection