Empathy, intelligence and compassion in animals, plus Koko the gorilla who talks…

This Ted-talk by Frans de Waal on Moral behaviour in Animals is thought provoking and not at all surprising for anyone who has ever had and loved a pet.

Looking at the qualities of empathy, fairness, caring about the well being of others and cooperation, de Waal shares test results that show many animals also possess these traits.

Considering that many of these traits are those that define human morals and values, and that many of the animals in the studies are the same species that are often still barbarically used in scientific drug and procedure testing, isn’t it time we really recognised that animals have the right to the same care and concern that we would show to our youngest children?

Also see these great videos on Koko the gorilla:

Koko talks through sign language and provides an amazing insight into not just the fact that animals can communicate but on how she thinks about life and what is important to her. She loves kittens, cries at sad movies, has expressed the wish to have a baby and has a great sense of humour. These two short videos give a taster but it is worth visiting The Gorilla Foundation website to see more of Koko in action.

About Frans de Waal

Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal is a biologist and primatologist known for his work on the behavior and social intelligence of primates. De Waal is C. H. Candler Professor in the Psychology Department of Emory University and Director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Center, in Atlanta. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (US), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, he was selected by Time as one of The Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People Today, and in 2011 by Discover as among 47 (all time) Great Minds of Science.

His first book, Chimpanzee Politics (1982), compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Ever since, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from peacemaking and morality to culture. His scientific work has been published in hundreds of technical articles in journals such as Science, Nature, Scientific American, and outlets specialized in animal behavior. His popular books – translated into fifteen languages – have made him one of the world’s most visible primatologists. His latest books are Our Inner Ape (2005, Riverhead) and The Age of Empathy (2009, Harmony).


About Koko The Gorilla

The Gorilla Foundation (http://www.koko.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, protection and well-being of gorillas and other great apes through interspecies communication research and education. Established in 1976 as a 501(c)(3) corporation, it is best known for “Project Koko,”  the longest interspecies communication study in history, and the only one involving gorillas.  It  has evolved into an institution that provides a unique resource for great ape conservation, care and understanding. For more on Koko see their website here.