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Lions Roar : July 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2011 24 darkness always lulls him. But when they came to remove her body, Tiko screeched loudly from his darkened room and re- fused to stop for several minutes, as if somehow he knew what had happened. For months after that, Tiko came down each morning and sat on Anne’s pillow, looking forlorn and miserable. He was clearly grieving for one of his flock and only gradually did he recover his old self. He took it particularly hard when I had an operation and was limited to a down- stairs recliner. He remained with me, re- fusing to go upstairs to his nighttime cage, unless I cajoled him into it, and then only if he could ride on my husband’s hand. By daybreak, he was back at my side, cooing softly. Often he keeps his distance, trea- suring his personal space, but whenever I am ill, he remains in close contact. His demeanor becomes quiet and subdued, as befits a sick room, and he switches to comforting me. We seldom have a chance to observe this behavior in the wild, be- cause there we are not part of the flock, and when birds are injured they hide in dense vegetation to recover. Understanding compassion and em- pathy in the animal world is an emerging field in science, and it is no longer a mat- ter of a few anecdotes, but of our recogni- tion that there are too many examples of animals caring for one another to ignore. All science starts with observations. Even- tually, we compile these observations and develop hypotheses. Then we devise ex- periments to test them. Now is the time to gather observations about a wide range of animals, and to track the rise of empa- thy and compassion through the animal world to ourselves. The evidence of animal compassion will come from species that are social and occur in fairly stable groups, and in species that enjoy long lives. Over evolu- tionary time, cohesion, compassion, and care for other members of the group have no doubt led to higher individual sur- vival rates and an increased production of young, just as it has in humans. When we can increase our understanding of how other animals show compassion, we will understand more about ourselves. ♦