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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 Live Happy Lives?

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Hello Robyn,
Great article. In an interview I did with the late Richard Leakey, he said that he was convinced all animals, whether they be pets of wild animals, experienced the whole array of diverse sensations, including joy and pleasure. Joy at the first rains after drought, pleasure in grooming family members and satisfaction in social bonding. I would agree. Joy and pleasure are not primarily brought about by thought, but via sensory perceptions that cause chemical messages in the brain that are carried through the body via feelings.
Both pleasure and pain are part of any living organism.

Great stuff!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and those of Richard Leakey, Robyn and Fransje! I, too, tend toward the more optimistic view.

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What great pictures. I enjoy watching animals and how they react to certain things or to someone. You can learn alot from them.

A really big philosophical question. I think as long as animals can live the lives they are intended for by nature, they face both: happiness about being alive, forming partnerships, having young ones a.s.o. and also great unhappiness when they are in danger of being preyed upon or getting injured or ill and finding a painful death.
However, the same is also true for humans. We can enjoy great happiness but also have to face war and deaths, fights and depression a.s.o.
What we as humans should not do: make the animals’ (and humans’) lives more dangerous, difficult and painful by threatening them or enforcing circumstances on them they would not have in their natural surroundings. So, no hunting of animals, no keeping them in unnatural environments, no endangering of their lives or exploiting them in painful ways. Same should also be the case regarding our fellow human beings. Nature itself is already cruel enough. Why make it even worth for animals and humans alike?

Robyn, thanks for sharing your insights. Nature and wild animals have been on earth for many years and like us all experience life and death. The pleasures of life are great whether short or long and I am sure all creatures experiences are similar. Wonderful insights thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

Hi Robyn, there’s still a debate about why fish, marine mammals and impala, for example, jump. Everybody knows they want to show their fitness to predators, competitors and partners, but another solid reason may be found in their will to play. While this is the base of their apprenticeship in hunting or escaping as young creatures, then as adults they may just enjoy their time. I was surprised in the first years I followed Londolozi blog, as there was no one-eyed lioness. They are quite common elsewhere after severe altercations or prey-inflicted injuries… and there’s no doubt about the strong bond between mother and offspring. After all, this is likely the happiest moment of an animal’s life… I did enjoy the impala picture and all the others

Hi Robyn, great article on the happiness or pain of the animals. I think there is a balance of both. Looking at the animals in the wild they look happy and positive to me. They have to kill to survive and that is how God intended it be. When they get old I am sure there will be pain and stress. Just like humans go through rough and disheartening times which cause negative thoughts. So also good times bring forth positive thoughts a d happiness in humans.

wonderful perspective!

Hi Robyn,
Thanks for giving us another thought provoking article. Whilst I don’t believe animals possess thoughts and feelings as experienced by humans, I do think they express fear, caring, contentment, desire, happiness, etc. in their own way. I have observed elephants at play in the river, spraying one another, babies carefully monitored by their mothers and a family gathered around a partial carcass, swaying and touching the bones with their trunks. I’ve seen lions nuzzle their cubs, groom them, so there must be some sort of attachment there. Great topic and so much to consider!

I would argue pain is inevitable, but suffering is what happens when we (humans) ruminate, worry, and obsess over our circumstances and are distracted from the present moment. That’s not to say non-human animals can’t suffer, because of course there is suffering in the non-human animal kingdom (I say non-human as we are also animals, and the idea of humans being somehow better or higher than, is problematic in a lot of ways). Non-human animals are always in the present moment. Some are more difficult than others, but to your point, a few uncomfortable or unfortunate moments over the span of a lifetime doesn’t equate to a lifetime of suffering. I question if their inability to worry about the future or fret about the past (both unproductive uses of conscious thought cycles that we humans get trapped in) probably contributes to a much higher quality of life than many people.

WOW! I loved this article. Very well written and something I often thought of. Realistic perspective but positive. Jeanmarie Braat

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10 April, 2798
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