An Australian animal behaviorist takes readers on a wild tour across the globe as he searches for a more accurate picture of how animals build societies. Along the way, Ward shows that the social impulses we've long thought separated humans from other animals might actually be our strongest connection to them.
Mr. Ward’s The Social Lives of Animals explores, in extensive and often exhilarating detail, the many ways in which animals, like humans, 'hate to be alone' ... A fish researcher by training, Mr. Ward is particularly good about aquatic creatures, but he has an irrepressible and infectious interest in virtually everything that creeps, crawls, climbs, swims, jumps, runs or flies, from bumblebees to baboons to African elephants ... Reading Mr. Ward’s book is like entering a maze, too, with surprises awaiting the reader at every turn. What holds it all together is the author’s natural gift for storytelling and penchant for punchy, provocative one-liners ... Here, too, strength lies in numbers—the number of facts, that is, likely to give pause even to the most die-hard believer in human superiority.
Vampire bats 'have each other’s backs', according to one of the extraordinary stories in this fascinating book ... Ward...draws very few explicit connections between animal behaviour and our own, and is cautious about ascribing emotions or motivations to the creatures he studies—even in tear-jerking anecdotes about how elephants and wolves appear to mourn. But it’s hard not to take from some of his stories the idea that humans could learn a lot from social animals ... Ward describes this book as his attempt 'to distil the wonder that I still feel in the company of animals', and it certainly does that ... Some thought-provoking chapters about baboons, bonobos and chimpanzees show how humans could learn from our closest relatives, too.
Ward has a good eye for details...and he writes vividly ... This is a survey, not a memoir, but you catch likeable glimpses of the author ... This book does get a little lost in the wonders of animal behaviour. There isn’t much of a thesis. Ward does make one very striking observation, though. He points out that herd behaviour does not have a good reputation. We dismiss 'groupthink' and deride 'sheeple'. Yet the evolution of intelligence depended on emulation and imitation as much as on innovation. Civilisation is founded on co-operation—on the social instincts we evolved and share with fellow animals.