Saintly Elephants June 7, 2009Posted by Dwight Furrow in Animal Intelligence, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Science.
Tags: morality in animals, Wild Justice
A new book, Wild Justice, by Professors Bekoff and Pierce, argues that animals have rich moral lives in many respects like that of humans.
Via The Telegraph
… Prof Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that morals are “hard-wired” into the brains of all mammals and provide the “social glue” that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups.
He has compiled evidence from around the world that shows how different species of animals appear to have an innate sense of fairness, display empathy and help other animals that are in distress…
Elephants are intensely sociable and emotional animals. Research by Iain Douglas Hamilton, from the department of zoology at Oxford University, suggests elephants experience compassion and has found evidence of elephants helping injured or ill members of their herd.
In one case, a Matriarch known as Eleanor fell ill and a female in the herd gently tried to help Eleanor back to her feet, staying with her before she died.
In 2003, a herd of 11 elephants rescued antelope who were being held inside an enclosure in KwaZula-Natal, South Africa.
The matriarch unfastened all of the metal latches holding the gates closed and swung the entrance open allowing the antelope to escape.
This is thought to be a rare example of animals showing empathy for members of another species – a trait previously thought to be the exclusive preserve of mankind.
The authors accumulate evidence from coyotes, wolves, dogs, monkeys, chimps, rodents, bats, and whales as well.
There are, of course, many differences between human and animal moral behavior. I doubt that animals are reflectively aware that they are moral beings, for example. But the view that humans are not fundamentally animals is increasingly hard to credit.
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