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A gorilla shrewdly sells back a missing key chain to the highest bidder. An orangutan picks a lock to let himself out of his zoo enclosure and two elephants adopt a tag-team strategy to keep their handlers from putting them back into theirs.
In The Parrot's Lament, noted environmentalist Eugene Linden offers more than one hundred true anecdotes about animal acts of cooperation, heroism, escape—even tales of deception or manipulation of human beings. Drawing on the first-person experiences of veterinarians, field biologists, researchers, and trainers, Linden has compiled a warmly entertaining and powerfully persuasive argument for animal consciousness that, while not human, far exceeds what humans usually grant animals.
Scientifically sound and emotionally compelling, The Parrot's Lament contains remarkable stories that are sure to resonate with animal lovers, turning skeptics everywhere into believers.
Since the 1970s, Linden (Apes, Men and Language) has argued that many animals possess humanlike intelligence. Here, he drives that point home by presenting more than 100 anecdotes "about attempts by animals to deceive or manipulate their keepers or each other, stories about games, stories of understanding and trust across the vast gulf that separates different species, stories of animal heroism, and, especially... stories about escape." Linden's sources include vets, trainers, zookeepers, field biologists and researchers. Most of the accounts involve animals that live in complex and fluid social groups--apes, elephants, parrots, dolphins--and that exhibit a wide range of humanlike behaviors, from trust and cooperation to deception and greed. Prominently featured are orangutans--virtuoso escape artists with an amazing facility for using human tools; they continually test their keepers and try to outwit them. In one case, an orangutan named Fu Manchu used a piece of wire, which he had hid in his mouth, to jimmy a door lock and "effect a series of nighttime escapes at the Omaha Zoo." Other animals invent games--polar bears at the San Diego Zoo simulate a seal hunt, and a pair of elephants at the Bronx Zoo play hide and seek with their keepers. Linden discusses the programs that zoos have devised to enrich the lives of their animal inhabitants and the use of dolphins by the military. If the scientific community remains skeptical about the quality of animal intelligence, Linden leaves no doubt about where he stands. He accepts evidence of animal consciousness and, at the end of his brisk, detailed report, so will many readers.