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Robyn Morrison

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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 Conscious Thought?

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What a beautiful examination of consciousness in the animal kingdom. These types of behaviours are also noted in many marine species as well. Yet more evidence of how humans need to have so much greater respect for our planet and all its inhabitants. Thank you so much for this post.

Great blog and I couldn’t agree more. It is people-centric to believe that only humans have emotions. I still remember an Elephant holding bones of an Elephant that had died. It was incredibly emotional and we moved on as it felt like we were intruding on the Elephant’s mourning.

Robyn, I share your thoughts about conscience in animals. While not on the thought process and extent of human thought animals certainly possess thought and emotions.

This is such an interesting article Robyn about a subject that I’ve followed because I’m fascinated by animal behavior. It definitely seems plausible that animals do possess some conscious thoughts and behaviors, especially elephants. I hadn’t thought about how these attributes apply to buffalo but it seems to make sense. I often wonder about the felines; are they problem solvers, do they show emotions? Watching lion prides, one can observe what seems to be a family bonds, but is this a sign of caring or just instinctual? If a cub is killed, are they sad or angry? So much to consider.

Thanks, Robyn, for this fascinating article on animals’ conscious thought.
In my experience they definitely possess that. I have witnessed lots of times how animals did something consciously with thought and feeling. Though we humans do not normally speak “animalish” and understand not all of the animals’ communication with. each other, this does not mean that there is none. There certainly is a lot and we can only admire the animals and try to be a bit humble. For too long a time, humans have thought they are much “better” than animals because we do not understand them. But they often understand us, our good and bad ways.

I have zero doubt about this! Even with orca and whales, the way the mourn deaths and develop behaviors over time, we are not that superior in our consciousness. In fact, we I believe have become far less superior sadly.

Excellent story Robyn. Animals do show emotions and they are very clever. As you said the elephants swat the flies with a branch. Nobody taught them that, they figured it out themselves. Look how the buffalo herd stick together, when one gets ambushed part of the herd will come back with a force to get rid of the lion and save there friend. Communication is vital in the animal world.

Hi Robyn, the attachment to one’s own offspring is explained by behavioural ecologists and behaviourists as the need to protect their own dna. These are the studies I did, so, even if I don’t personally think that evolution favoured only the DNA preservation, I must remind it. And I personally love giraffe and elephants… it becomes quite interesting and more difficult to explain when it comes to marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins, cruelly persecuted by humans and still asking them for help or even helping them. Then totally unrelated animals and species. I watched the Indian news about the deep and lasting relationship between a cow and a leopard. That particular leopard still looks for comfort close to the cow, a long-term behaviour that has been lasting for many months… evolution favoured emotions as they help species to survive, to preserve their dna and thrive. And then likely they evolved to more specific feelings such as compassion and empathy

It’s sad that we’ve denied the reality of consciousness in other animals for so long, usually so that we could exploit them without feeling guilty. When you consider that scientists have recently discovered that even such relatively simple animals as bees appear to exhibit emotional states and enjoy play activities, it becomes obvious that more complex animals must possess a great degree of consciousness.

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Robyn, thank you! With all of the past posts that have headed in the opposite direction I appreciate your ‘consciousness’ in the matter. Truth is, it’s only humans that have the need to compare themselves to other animals in hope (arrogance) of coming out more compassionate, smarter, more aware, when in my vast experience of working with animals over the many decades I have only found humans that lack these things—too many to count actually! Animals are here to teach us, the Earth’s children, if we would only listen! 🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿

“ They challenge the traditional view that animals are governed solely by instinct and survival instincts.” Agreed Robyn. And just maybe the traditional view that we human are governed solely by “higher” motivations, rather than balanced with drives of instinct and survival should also be challenged!

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