Did you know that crows use sticks to get bugs out from the trees?
Usually, I’m not an emotional person that can be moved by any sad thing, or so I thought until I watched something on National Geographic that broke something in my me, and now I can’t stop being moved to tears. It was the story of a pregnant elephant living in an animal shelter. For about half an hour, they took us on her journey through pregnancy and explained what the process is like with this species, from the beginning to birth. Unfortunately, the baby didn’t make it, and seriously, watching the mother elephant trying for literally hours to bring it back to life was just too much to bear. Not only was I surprised by this mother’s instincts, but also by the compassion the other elephants showed by supporting her, mourning with her, and even gathering around the baby’s body in a sort of ceremony. This not only changed me emotionally, but actually made me reconsider my perspective on animals. I realized most of them are amazing creatures with great characteristics and abilities that could teach us so much about the most important things in our lives. Like this one, there are many other examples of the great things animals do; if you don’t believe me, take a look at the following.
Animals that are best friends
We like to believe that what makes us special and unique among the many species on the planet is our ability to communicate and convey emotions, but actually, that’s not a unique trait of human beings. Many animals create bonds with other creatures in a process called "symbiotic relationships." This is a biological interaction between two different species for mutual benefit or for the survival of one of them. More importantly (and something we should really learn about these), these relationships are forever and preserved by other individuals of the species.
Animals that go through mourning
As I said before, our emotional bond with others is what makes us feel superior to any other species, when in fact, this isn’t a unique trait. For instance, there are creatures that are very well aware of the cycles of life and understand death and life perhaps even better than we do. Mourning the death of another being of their circle is something we share with many animals that even have ceremonies and attitudes to honor and say goodbye to their beloved.
Animals that use drugs
Now, let’s move on to something a little lighter, and that is the use of recreational substances. Yup, we’re not unique on that matter either. Most animals are well aware of their environment and know perfectly the effects certain plants and foods have on their system. As you can see, there are some species that even go through difficult and hard journeys to try some substances that alter their minds and bodies, just like many humans do.
Animals that use tools
Intelligence is one of those words we love to use as a distinctive of our species, but once again, it’s not unique to us. Animals can be really inventive beings and will use anything surrounding them to make their lives easier. The use of tools is something very common in the animal kingdom, and in some cases, it can be truly extraordinary in terms of complexity and usage.
Animals that change their sex
If you're a human and want to change your sex, you'll have to get a very expensive and complicated surgery, but some animal species have a natural ability to change their sex and adapt to their own reproductive needs. Whether it's due to a lack of mates to reproduce, or even a matter of dominance in their group, there are some animals who don’t necessarily follow gender roles all their lives and change according to their needs.
The greatest dad in the animal world
Remember what we said about how some animals follow their emotions and create important bonds among their communities? One great example of this is the relationship between parents and their offspring. Many species create long-lasting bonds and would do anything to protect their children from any predator and risk. Take a look, for instance, at this peculiar frog that wins the title of best dad in the animal kingdom.
As you can see, going back to what I was saying at the beginning, animals aren’t inferior beings, as people tend to believe. On the contrary, many surpass us in so many ways that sometimes we end up looking really bad. So, to sum it all up, their unique traits should be seen as examples to follow, and their abilities as great life lessons that can make us more thoughtful and aware human beings.
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Cover illustration by Lisa Perrin