I was asked this question a few days ago, and I must say the answer has eluded me. I have discussed it with my colleagues, and everyone seems to have their own good reasoning. Every living thing needs water and we all drink it, but why is watching animals do it so intriguing? After much thought, I have come up with some of my own reasoning to this question.
Firstly – and most people who I have spoken to agree on this one – is the fact that the animals are in an anomalous position; one which we are not accustomed to seeing them in. The sighting is by default filed in the “Unusual” category in our subconscious.
A good example of this is the Giraffe. Due to the size of their neck, they have to bend their legs to drink, which looks very strange compared to the tall elegant animal we usually observe. Another example would be leopards and in fact most cats, who get on their haunches and lap up the water with their tongues. Regardless of the animal, if they’re drinking we all tend to sit there mesmerized whilst our camera shutters snap away.
Secondly I believe it is because of the animals own vulnerability whilst performing this simple act. There is something about vulnerability that humans find appealing. Research has shown that there is an intriguing mismatch in the way we take a more negative view of our own vulnerability than we do of other people’s. We live in a vulnerable world and one of the ways we all try and deal with this is to numb that feeling. We love observing the raw truth and openness in other people but what if we like to see this in other species as well?
Vulnerability is something humans can be afraid to let anyone see in them but are enthralled by vulnerability in others. So, for that moment where that animal is in the vulnerable position of bending down to take a drink, is that what we are captivated by? Without realising it, we are seeing that everything can be potentially vulnerable, even the mighty 6 ton elephant and 200 kilogram lion.
“Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me.” – Brené Brown
Lastly, the suspense we feel.
Suspense keeps everybody on their toes. So, in tying in with vulnerability comes the moment of suspense that some action is about to happen, whilst that animal – no matter if it’s predator or prey – gets into the awkward position to drink. We sit and wait in anticipation. Will they perhaps fall in? Is there a crocodile lurking in the shadowy waters below? Is there a leopard hiding in the nearby thicket? Is that elephant going to spray some of that water on all of us on the vehicle?
I am sure everyone can think of many other reasons why, and I would love to hear them, but next time you have the pleasure of viewing any animal take the time out of its day to rehydrate at a water hole, it’s worth taking a moment to think about why the sighting has so much appeal…
Filed under Wildlife
I admit, my favorite sightings at Londolozi involved either drinking or eating. 🙂
The giraffe drinking wasn’t how I thought it would be at all! The elephant we saw drinking was fun, and we could hear the water when he poured it down his throat. And the lions all eating as a family was the coolest memory I’ve brought home. (I know it isn’t drinking water but it was still vulnerable and suspenseful)
Love this blog Dean. Is it because water is so nessesary for all creatures that we are fascinated by it. I always feel that we are drawn to a body of water, if it is a river, a big dam or a small puddle in the veld. Is that maybe when we want to observe the animals using this essential source to life. My favourite animals observing at water are elephants. They enjoy it with so much abundance.
I agree with your three listed reasons, Dean, and I think that seeing an animal drinking is seeing that animal clearly, out in the open. Simply being able to enjoy watching an animal without a bush or tree or tall grass in the way is a real pleasure.
My first reaction when seeing any wild animal drinking water is quiet relief that their basic need is being met. No arid patch or drought. I pity the leggy giraffe who must awkwardly fold up half-way like a broken card table which might topple. Line up a row of lions with their Cubs all drinking represents, to me at least, a hope for the future. But oh those elephants! They splash, squirt, guzzle and roll in anything half wet. They celebrate any kind of water and that attitude makes me smile. The image presented of the young Ellie’s face half submerged was endearing and demonstrates how these young ones….just go for it! So, this is my take on animals drinking water. Dean, this was a different and uncommon topic that made the reader think about their reaction to the simplest, but vital, need in the bush. Excuse me while I find a spot of water and stick my head in…..lol!
It really is a magical feeling watching animals at a waterhole: pure unadulterated magic.
I also think that a part of the fascination is the fact that we all must drink water to survive. The primary difference for us being that we are not as susceptible to being attacked as those in the bush!!! Drinking for them, even a lion, is always a risk.
Most of my friends agree that my image of a leopard drinking is their absolute favorite.