About the Author

Robyn Morrison

Londolozi Alumna

Robyn grew up in Johannesburg and every family holiday was spent exploring the Lowveld or camping around Southern Africa. Her love of nature and conservation propelled her to complete her Masters degree at the University of Edinburgh’s school of Geoscience. Although this gave ...

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on Do Wild Animals Have A Moral Compass?

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Love this!!! Thank you Robyn!😊

Hi Robyn, as this is the main topic of interest in my daily work, I can share my personal point of view with you. I know Frans de Waal well. He belongs to the “ethologic ” area and is a primatologist. Then there are the behaviourists. The limit in his wonderful and very appreciated work is that he only works with chimpanzees in enclosed environment. To have a fair idea of behaviour it is better to observe animals in the wilderness. Personally I feel he’s right, none the less all the examples you quoted are related to creatures sharing the same gene pool. What I find very difficult to explain is the behaviour of carnivores when they rescue their potential prey or viceversa. The famous lioness Kamunyak was observed by Sheila Douglas Hamilton for some time, when she adopted not one, but seven newborn antelope calves. They were all killed by other predators, while she tried to drink or rest. Or, when a hippo saves an antelope from a crocodile attack. What pushes them to this risky limit, or even to annihilate their survival instinct like Kamunyak? It’s not easy to give an answer. I also watched a female leopard trying to rescue a newborn lion cub, the offspring of her enemies, whileshe had two cubs of her own. Doing so she lost one. Nature is more various and unforeseeable than our impressions

Ps the most striking form of altruism to me are whales and dolphins that rescue humans, even after they have been hunted in cruel ways for centuries. This is almost unbelievable, and is a clue of how deeply intelligent and complex such mammals are

Robyn, Thanks for the interesting insights into the moral compass in animals. Your examples are perfect!

Well stated and researched Robyn! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it fueled my brain to think about how this relates to other animals.

Senior Digital Ranger

Robyn – a fascinating and thought provoking blog – thank you so much for making us stop and think……..!

Just goes to show that animals do care for one another regardless of what the situation is. It is fascinating to see the white rhino calf can be excepted by another rhino mother and her calf. The monkeys seek fairness and they can kick up a huge noise letting the guilty one know he is wrong. Very interesting your blog Robyn.

Great post Robyn, and totally agree about anthropomorphism and anthropodenial!!! We do these at our own and the whole world’s peril. Also, recalling the curious case of the elephant skull movement from a couple of years back. Do you recall this one?

Certainly humans should never forget that they are also animals and that probably animals like the ones you mentioned and lots more have a moral compass. Humans used to believe that animals don’t use tools, later they stated that animals don’t have emotions a.s.o. only because humans had not been able to discover and observe these facts. There is certainly a lot more we don’t know about animals yet, but maybe one day we will.
Thanks for this great blog, Robyn

Hello Robyn, So intresting to read your blog today! So well written! A very interesting topic. The more I learn about animals the more impressed I become!
Thank you for taking up such an intresting topic!
I think they have a moral compass, their moral compass. Every species have their ideas what is importent to them. Thank you for sharing!

What a brave topic to take on, and you did it marvelously. I think we would do better as a parasitic species on a dying planet if we stopped worrying about projecting human characteristics on nonhuman animals, and simply assumed all creatures are basically alike – they suffer, think, have joy and sorrow, and so on. We might behave better and have a chance at saving earth, other species, and ourselves. Bravo!

Robyn, what a nice recap of animal behavior. thanks for reminding me of the emotional side of animals as they live their lives, It is more than just survival of the fittest.

Senior Digital Ranger

Wonderful pictures. The lion cub is so precious as are the young elephants. Vervets are fun to watch and the antics they can get up to. The dwarf mongoose are also fun to watch.

A great article Robyn. We can all learn from the animal world.

Senior Digital Ranger

I think this might be the most well received post ever written. Impressive and I thank you for your eloquence, deep thought and understanding. So refreshing verses the many posts “if animals have emotions” (?)…sigh… as a Cetologist and someone who studies behavior and communicates with animals professionally I have experienced so many remarkable acts of consciousness and have concluded we are the children on this planet with so much to learn from other species. Our role is to change our environment bringing about new experiences of growth for all. It’s simply how our brain is wired but we are also stuck in the future and past and not the present as animals exist primarily in the present. We also judge most everything in our lives which creates the moral concept. Who’s to say if that concept establishes evolution or actually holds us back, keeping us in reactionary fear which most of us are run by rather than moving us forward into unconditional love? It’s a game of evolution, personal or global. I loved the stories of the rhinos and your story of the baby elephant. Such a great post! Thank you!!!

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