Monday, October 02, 2006

Animal Cunning

Nature shows are some of my favorite television programs. Now, camping, hiking, and generally going outside hold little appeal for a lazy, allergy ridden, internet addicted man, and so I tend to spend very little time in the wilds. Even so, I personally have a vast and unbounded love of nature, but it is the kind of affection best practiced from afar. In fact, my principal participation comes in the form of animal documentaries.

While watching these programs, I am often struck by the fundamental difference found in animal thought and priorities, vis-a-vis people. To illustrate this contrast, I'll use an example I recently saw on Animal Planet.

A group of lions had managed to separate a buffalo from the herd and quickly pounced on it. After an epic struggle, the assembled lionesses managed to wrestle the beast to the ground and proceeded to administer those tender grips by which animals become food. As for the poor hamburger's friends, they stood around for a little while before eventually continuing on their way.

The thing is, if the buffalo actually help each other, then none of them would die. If the lions bring down one, the others could come charge in and save it. This has both short-term benefits, in saving the intended meal, and long-term too, by frustrating the feeding attempts of predators and driving them to starvation. Of course, many animals are incapable of this kind of planning. They simply roam around at their own leisure, their only concerns being food and personal (or, in some cases, familial) safety. Whether that is a better life than we have, or worse, I cannot say for certain. But the difference sure is amusing.

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