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The Remarkable Capacities of Animals: Sniffing Out Cancer and Deadly Land Mines, Rescuing Suicidal Girl, and More

December 8, 2023

The Remarkable Capacities of Animals

Dear PEERS subscribers,

In September, a Southern California city adopted a first-of-its-kind ordinance. The Ojai City Council made legal history by becoming the first city in the US to recognize the legal right of a nonhuman animal. The deeper meaning of the ordinance points to the recognition that a sustainable, just, and free future belongs to all life on Earth.

For centuries, animals have been exploited, abused, deliberately harmed and killed at the hands of humans. Animal welfare scandals have led to massive calls for compassion and corporate accountability. Earlier this year, it was discovered that the Pentagon was intentionally wounding animals through radio frequency wave testing in attempts to induce and determine the causes of “Havana Syndrome,” a mysterious ailment that was afflicting US diplomats and government officials.

At PEERS and WantToKnow.info, we’ve summarized over 3,000 inspiring news articles since the beginning of our organization in 2003. Within this collection, we’ve summarized countless stories about the incredible skills, emotional intelligence, and sentient capacities of animals. From sniffing out cancer and deadly land mines, helping people rehabilitate in prison and learn how to trust, serving as a better pest control than pesticides, and rescuing a suicidal girl, we’ve included below some of the most remarkable stories of animals and what they’re capable of. We hope you enjoy!

With faith in a transforming world,
Amber Yang for PEERS and WantToKnow.info


Ants can be better than pesticides for growing healthy crops, study finds
August 17, 2022, The Guardian (One of UK's Leading Newspapers)
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Ants can be more effective than pesticides at helping farmers produce food, according to new research. They are better at killing pests, reducing plant damage and increasing crop yields, according to the first systematic review of ants’ contributions to crop production. Ants are generalist predators and hunt pests that damage fruits, seeds and leaves, leading to a drop in crop yields. A greater diversity of ants generally provides more protection against a wider range of pests, the study found. The analysis looked at 17 crops, including citrus, mango, apple and soya bean in countries including the US, Australia, the UK and Brazil. “In general, with proper management, ants can be useful pest controls and increase crop yield over time. Some ant species have similar or higher efficacy than pesticides, at lower costs,” researchers wrote in the paper published in Proceedings of Royal Society B. There are more ants than any other insect, making up half of the planet’s insect biomass. There are at least 14,000 known species of ant, with many more likely to remain unknown. Citrus growers in China have used ants in farming for centuries, and the insects have also been used to help control forest pests in Canada, cocoa pests in Ghana and crop pests in Nigeria. Dr Patrick Milligan, from the University of Nevada Pringle Lab ... said the findings were “both heartening and not at all surprising”. He added: “They offer a neat and tidy description of ant-derived benefits that are ubiquitous across ecological and agricultural systems.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Blue Planet 'shark dancer' reveals how she's able to relax the predators simply by rubbing an area around their mouths
March 27, 2019, The Daily Mail (One of UK's Popular Newspapers)
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A professional diver has revealed how she uses a little known technique to placate sharks so she can remove hooks from their mouths. Italian-born Cristina Zenato, 47, who is known as 'the shark dancer' is often filmed on the ocean floor with 8ft sharks playing around her and nestling into her knees. The conservationist, who lives on Grand Bahama, has perfected the technique of relaxing the sharks, which is part of her efforts to save them by removing hooks that are caught in their fins. She induces the 'tonic' state in the shark using a little-known technique of rubbing the ampullae of Lorenzini - the name given to hundreds of jelly-filled pores around the animal's nose and mouth. A 'tonic' state is where a shark enters a natural state of paralysis, often by being turned upside down, for up to 15 minutes. The pores act as electroreceptors detecting prey moving in the electromagnetic field around the shark - but also for some reason rubbing them turns 'Jaws' into a sleeping baby. This gives Cristina the time she needs to remove the hooks. 'The first time I put a shark to sleep was my second dive with them,' Cristina [said]. 'This big female swam straight into my lap. The most amazing thing was this 8ft shark just swimming into me and resting her head on me. 'I started crying into my mask because it was so amazing, so unique.' Over the years Cristina has collected more than 200 hooks that have been caught in sharks, and has built up so much trust she's been able to put her whole arm into a shark's mouth to pull out a hook.

Note: Don’t miss this awesome 3-minute video of Cristina removing hooks from the sharks who then snuggle her. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Dolphins Guide Scientists to Rescue Suicidal Girl
May 29, 2014, National Geographic
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My research team and I were following a school of bottlenose dolphins near shore ... off Los Angeles, California. The dolphins were still feeding in circle near shore, when suddenly, one individual changed direction heading out toward deeper water. A minute later, the rest of the school turned to follow. Seeing them abruptly leave a foraging ground and change direction came as a surprise to the research team. I decided to follow them. The dolphins increased their speed. Somewhere near three miles offshore the dolphin group stopped, forming a sort of ring around a dark object in the water. “Someone’s in the water!” yelled my assistant, standing up and pointing at the seemingly lifeless body of a girl. As the boat neared, she feebly turned her head toward us, half-raising her hand as a weak sign for help. If we didn’t act immediately, the girl would die. We [pulled] the frail and hypothermic body on board. “She is cyanotic,” said one of my researchers, also a lifeguard, after a cursory examination. “She has severe hypothermia. We need to get her warm!” We managed to get some of her wet garments off and wrap her in a blanket. We took turns keeping her warm by huddling with her under the blanket. A couple of hours later, we were all waiting outside the emergency room at the Marina del Rey hospital. The ER doctor came out to talk with us. The girl, it seems, would pull through, and he thanked us for our quick action. He tells us the girl was vacationing in L.A. from Germany and, as the letter found in her plastic bag explained, she was attempting suicide. If we hadn’t found her, if the dolphins hadn’t led us offshore when they did, to that specific place, she would have died.

Note: This article has been adapted from the book Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist. For more on the amazing capacities of dolphins and other marine mammals, as well as the threats they face from human activities, click here. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


This Styrofoam-eating ‘superworm’ could help solve the garbage crisis
June 17, 2022, Washington Post
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A plump larva the length of a paper clip can survive on the material that makes Styrofoam. The organism, commonly called a “superworm,” could transform the way waste managers dispose of one of the most common components in landfills, researchers said, potentially slowing a mounting garbage crisis that is exacerbating climate change. In a paper released last week in the journal of Microbial Genomics, scientists from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, showed that the larvae of a darkling beetle, called zophobas morio, can survive solely on polystyrene, commonly called Styrofoam. The findings come amid a flurry of research on ways bacteria and other organisms can consume plastic materials, like Styrofoam and drinking bottles. Now, the researchers will study the enzymes that allow the superworm to digest Styrofoam, as they look to find a way to transform the finding into a commercial product. Industrial adoption offers a tantalizing scenario for waste managers: A natural way to dispose and recycle the Styrofoam trash that accounts for as much as 30 percent of landfill space worldwide. Among plastics, Styrofoam is particularly troublesome. The material is dense and takes up a lot of space, making it expensive to store at waste management facilities, industry experts said. The cups, plates and other materials made from it are also often contaminated with food and drink, making it hard to recycle. Polystyrene fills landfills, where it can often take 500 years to break down.

Note: This article has been adapted from the book Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist. For more on the amazing capacities of dolphins and other marine mammals, as well as the threats they face from human activities, click here. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


What does cancer smell like? These animals can sniff it out
February 27, 2023, National Geographic
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Next time you’re irritated that ants have gotten into your kitchen, you might take a moment to consider their extraordinary powers of perception. These tiny animals can detect markers of illness, such as cancer. In fact, ants are just one of many creatures whose senses can register signs of human disease: dogs, rats, bees, and even tiny worms can as well. The silky ant, Formica fusca, a common species found throughout Europe, can be taught to identify the scent of breast cancer in urine. Research from the University Sorbonne Paris Nord in France published this year in Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows ants can learn to distinguish between the scent of urine derived from mice carrying human breast cancer tumors from that of healthy mice. Ants and other animals pick up signs of disease by perceiving various volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These chemicals are produced in a variety of ways and can be found in exhaled breath, and in sweat, urine, and blood. Diseases can change the VOCs we emit, resulting in giving off a different odor. By placing a sugar reward near the cancer sample the ants learned to seek out that scent, a process called operant conditioning. Dogs can be trained to smell several types of cancers, including melanoma, breast and gastrointestinal cancers and some infectious diseases in humans, including malaria and Parkinson’s disease. They can also smell infectious disease in other animals, including chronic wasting disease, which affects the brains of deer and can be fatal.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


How giant African rats are helping uncover deadly land mines in Cambodia
September 10, 2019 PBS
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From Angola to the former Yugoslavia, land mines are a lethal legacy of wars over long ago. Cambodia is among the most affected countries, with millions of buried explosives that kill and maim people each year. Now, an organization is deploying an unexpected ally to find mines: the giant pouch rat, whose sharp sense of smell can detect explosives. Mark Shukuru is head rat trainer in Cambodia for the Belgian non-profit APOPO. He is from Tanzania, where this species is also native, and he learned early that they have some of the most sensitive noses in the animal kingdom. Each comes out of a rigorous program in Tanzania that trains them to distinguish explosives from other scents. Each time they sniff out TNT buried in this test field, a trainer uses a clicker to make a distinct sound, and they get a treat. Since 2016, APOPO's hero rats have found roughly 500 anti-personnel mines and more than 350 unexploded bombs in Cambodia. They're the second animal to be deployed in mine clearance. Dogs were first. Animals can work much faster than humans, although, when the land is densely mined, metal detectors are considered more efficient. APOPO plans to bring in some 40 more rats to expand the force and replace retirees. Each animal works about eight years, and then lives out the rest of its days alongside fellow heroes, all working toward the day when they can broadcast to the world that Cambodia has destroyed the last unexploded bomb.

Note: Don't miss the cute video of these hero rats at work, available at the link above.


Rats with backpacks could help rescue earthquake survivors
October 24, 2022, National Geographic
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Natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes can level entire towns, and for the search and rescue teams trying to find survivors, it’s a painstaking task. But an unlikely savior is being trained up to help out: rats. The project, conceived of by Belgian non-profit APOPO, is kitting out rodents with tiny, high-tech backpacks to help first responders search for survivors among rubble in disaster zones. “Rats are typically quite curious and like to explore – and that is key for search and rescue,” says Donna Kean, a behavioral research scientist and leader of the project. In addition to their adventurous spirit, their small size and excellent sense of smell make rats perfect for locating things in tight spaces, says Kean. The rats are currently being trained to find survivors in a simulated disaster zone. They must first locate the target person in an empty room, pull a switch on their vest that triggers a beeper, and then return to base, where they are rewarded with a treat. While the rodents are still in the early stages of training, APOPO is collaborating with the Eindhoven University of Technology to develop a backpack, which is equipped with a video camera, two-way microphone, and location transmitter to help first responders communicate with survivors. APOPO has been training dogs and rats at its base in Tanzania in the scent detection of landmines and tuberculosis for over a decade. Its programs use African Giant Pouched Rats, which have a longer lifespan in captivity of around eight years.

Note: Don't miss the images of these adorable and heroic rats at the link above. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Magawa, the Explosives-Sniffing Rat Who Uncovered 71 Land Mines, Retires
June 11, 2021, Popular Mechanics
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Magawa the rat is retiring. And while most rats step away from their active careers with little to no fanfare, this rodent is a bit different: he's directly responsible for saving the lives of untold numbers of men, women, and children. Magawa - who spent five years (2016-2021) sniffing out hazardous, unexploded weapons of war dotting the Cambodian countryside - is credited with leading his handlers to more than 100 buried explosive devices. This hero is a Gambian pouched rat. Like many rodents, Gambian rats have poor eyesight, but make up for it with an exceptional sense of smell. Magawa's trainers at the Belgian nonprofit APOPO taught him to sniff out military-grade explosives. The rat is essentially a living sensor, capable of detecting land mines, bombs, and other explosives. Minefields have proven especially deadly in postwar Cambodia. Experts believe that military forces left behind somewhere between 4 and 6 million idle land mines at the close of the Cambodian Civil War. Between 1979 and 2020, abandoned mines and other explosive devices killed 19,789 Cambodians and injured or maimed 45,102 others. Magawa completed his training in Africa, and then traveled to Cambodia, where he spent five years searching for whiffs of explosives. In his half-decade career, the big rat "helped clear over 225,000 square metres of land," according to APOPO. All in all, he led his handlers to 71 land mines and 38 other items of unexploded ordinance.

Note: Along with sniffing out land mines, rats have also been trained to detect tuberculosis. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


If we can farm metal from plants, what else can we learn from life on Earth?
April 15, 2022, The Guardian (One of UK's Leading Newspapers)
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For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with researchers in northern Greece who are farming metal. They are experimenting with a trio of shrubs known to scientists as “hyperaccumulators”: plants which have evolved the capacity to thrive in naturally metal-rich soils that are toxic to most other kinds of life. They do this by drawing the metal out of the ground and storing it in their leaves and stems, where it can be harvested like any other crop. As well as providing a source for rare metals – in this case nickel, although hyperaccumulators have been found for zinc, aluminium, cadmium and many other metals, including gold – these plants actively benefit the earth by remediating the soil, making it suitable for growing other crops, and by sequestering carbon in their roots. Hyperaccumulators are far from being the only non-humans that we might learn from. Physarum polycephalum, a particularly lively slime mould, can solve the “travelling salesman” problem – a test for finding the shortest route between multiple cities – faster and more efficiently than any supercomputer humans have devised. Spiders store information in their webs, using them as a kind of extended cognition: a mind outside the body entirely. A new conception of intelligence is emerging from scientific research: rather than human intelligence being unique or the peak of some graduated curve, there appear to be many different kinds of intelligence with their own strengths, competencies and suitabilities.

Note: This was written by James Bridle, an artist and technologist who was able to paralyze a self-driving car using salt and road markers. For more on his work, check out his fascinating perspective on how artificial intelligence technologies could be designed based on cooperation and relationships naturally reflected in living systems, as opposed to competition and domination.


What Humpback Whales Can Teach Us About Compassion
August 18, 2017, Smithsonian Magazine
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[Humpbacks whales] deliberately interfere with attacking killer whales to help others in distress. They dont just defend their own babies or close relatives. They intervene on behalf of other species - a gray whale calf with its mother, a seal hauled out on an ice floe, even an ocean sunfish. Humpbacks act to improve the welfare of others; the classic definition of altruism. Robert Pitman, a marine ecologist ... describes a pivotal encounter he witnessed in Antarctica in 2009. A group of killer whales washed a Weddell seal they were attacking off an ice floe. A pair of humpbacks ... inserted themselves into the action. One of the huge humpbacks rolled over on its back and the 180-kilogram seal was swept up onto its chest between the whales massive flippers. And when the seal started slipping off, the humpback, according to Pitman, gave the seal a gentle nudge with its flipper, back to the middle of its chest. Moments later, the seal scrambled off and swam to the safety of a nearby ice floe. Pitman started asking people to send him similar accounts. Soon he was poring through observations of 115 encounters between humpbacks and killer whales, recorded over 62 years. So are humpbacks compassionate? When I pose the ... question to Pitman he [responds], When a human protects an imperiled individual of another species, we call it compassion. If a humpback whale does so, we call it instinct. But sometimes the distinction isnt all that clear.

Note: Learn more about the amazing world of marine mammals.


Pets in prison: the rescue dogs teaching Californian inmates trust and responsibility
January 22, 2023, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
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Zach Skow [is] a man on a mission to bring dogs into every US prison. Skow is the founder of Pawsitive Change, a rehabilitation programme that pairs rescue dogs with inmates. He began a pilot programme at California City Correctional Facility in January 2016, teaching inmates to become dog trainers, and it’s now been rolled out to four more California state prisons and one female juvenile correction centre. To date more than 300 men have graduated from the programme and roughly 200 dogs from “high-kill” shelters have been rescued and adopted as a result of the inmates’ work with them (the shelters accept any animal [and] euthanise a certain percentage if they can’t rehome them). Seventeen of the programme’s human graduates have been paroled and so far none has returned to prison (at a time when the US recidivism rate stands at 43%). Working with the dogs and seeing what the animals are going through prompts the men to speak of their own experiences. When one student relates how his dog didn’t want to come out of the kennel in the first few days, another shares how he too didn’t want to leave his cell when he first came to prison. Many of these men have been told repeatedly from a young age that they’re not to be trusted, that they make a mess of things, that they’re not fit to take charge of anything. This message is then reinforced ... through the penal system. This programme challenges the “branding” these men have had imposed on them from an early age. It allows them to create new narratives.

Note: Watch a beautiful 4-minute video of an inmate and his beloved pup. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Behind prison walls, cats and inmates rehabilitate each other through animal care program
October 19, 2020, Indianapolis Star (A leading newspaper of Indianapolis)
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tCats are unable to distinguish between street clothes and prison uniforms – and that’s exactly what makes the relationship between the men at Pendleton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison outside of Indianapolis, and the cats that live there, so special. For six hours a day, seven days a week, a handful of men receive unqualified love from the more than 20 cats that live in the prison as part of the FORWARD program, or Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication. In exchange for care and a place to stay before being adopted, the cats at Pendleton offer inmates untampered, non-judgemental affection. Through the 5-year-old program, a select few incarcerated men are paid 20 cents an hour to spend their days caring for abandoned and abused cats, preparing them for adoption. Or, as some inmates will say, for a reason to get up in the morning. In partnership with the Animal Protection League of Indiana, the program removes cats from a traditional shelter and places them in the prison’s “cat sanctuary,” a wide-open room with scratching posts, climbing structures and nooks to hide in. The program houses them with incarcerated caregivers, who, incidentally, gain skills such as empathy, responsibility and self-esteem. The caregivers spend their days cleaning the cat sanctuary, changing litter boxes, and feeding and giving water to the cats. Everything but medical care is under the inmates’ purview. The work, albeit behind prison walls, is a full-time job.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


'Bees are sentient': inside the stunning brains of nature’s hardest workers
April 2, 2023, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
read on WantToKnow.info

When Stephen Buchmann finds a wayward bee on a window inside his Tucson, Arizona, home, he goes to great lengths to capture and release it unharmed. This March, Buchmann released a book that unpacks just how varied and powerful a bee’s mind really is. The bookWhat a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories and Personalities of Bees, draws from his own research and dozens of other studies to paint a remarkable picture of bee behavior and psychology. It argues that bees can demonstrate sophisticated emotions resembling optimism, frustration, playfulness and fear, traits more commonly associated with mammals. Experiments have shown bees can experience PTSD-like symptoms, recognize different human faces, process long-term memories while sleeping, and maybe even dream. Approximately one-third of the American diet, including many fruits, vegetables and nuts, relies on bees for pollination. In the past, bee research has focused on their role in crop pollination, but the work being pioneered by Buchmann and his contemporaries could force an ethical reckoning with how the animals are treated. Can large-scale agriculture and scientific research continue without causing bees to suffer, and is the dominant western culture even capable of accepting that the tiniest of creatures have feelings, too? Buchmann hopes an ethical shift will happen as details about the emotional lives of invertebrates – especially bees – are shared with the public.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Are we all psychic? Scientists believe that animals - including humans - have a collective consciousness
November 19, 2013, Daily Mail (One of the UK's largest-circulation newspapers)
read on WantToKnow.info

Why do people think about someone right before they call, for example, or have a feeling something is about to happen before it does? It may be due to something called collective consciousness - a term used by certain scientists to describe the practice of humans, and animals, sharing behaviours and ideas with each other telepathically. The "Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon", for example, was an idea put forward by South African zoologist and ethologist Lyall Watson and his scientific author colleague Lawrence Blair in 1975. During the 1950s, macaques on the island of Koshima learned to wash sweet potatoes and explicitly passed this skill onto younger members of the group. This behaviour then spread and was observed on neighbouring islands among groups of macaques who had never [come] into contact with each other. [Watson and Blair] chalked this up to the monkeys sharing a collective consciousness, often referred to as a shared mind or hive mind, in which the practices were shared telepathically. More recently ... blue tits ... taught themselves [to] break into milk bottles and drink the cream from the top. Similar groups of the same [non-migratory] species [later] exhibited the same skills in other countries throughout Europe and Asia. A science journal in 2010 published [the results of experiments] by Professor Daryl Bem, a physicist from Cornell University, that [indicated] humans have similar psychic abilities supposedly seen in the birds and monkeys. Professor Bem carried out nine different experiments involving more than 1,000 volunteers and all but one came down on the side of these so-called psychic theories.

Note: For a most astounding and moving documentary on a woman named Anna Breytenbach who communicates directly with animals, click here, or watch the three-minute trailer at this link. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Adorable moment a beluga plays rugby with a group of South African supporters just days after their World Cup win
November 7, 2019, Daily Mail (One of the UK's most popular newspapers)
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A beluga whale has been filmed passing a rugby ball back and forth with crew on a passing boat. The whale was filmed approaching the South African Gemini Craft boat in the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole. A member of the boat's crew threw a rugby ball out the to the whale. The animal grabbed the ball in its mouth before swimming back to the boat. The video has been viewed more than one million times since it was uploaded to Facebook and the footage has spread like wildfire across numerous sites such as Reddit. A number of amazed people have left comments in disbelief of the beluga whale's skills. 'I can't believe what I'm seeing,' one person said. Another one commented: 'How many people can say they've played fetch with a beluga?' The Gemini Crew had earlier been sailing near the Norwegian town of Hammer fest, which recently gained media attention about a possible Russian spy whale swimming in its waters. Russia is understood to have moved a pod of beluga whales to a secret Arctic base before one of the sea creatures reportedly swam to Norway. A beluga was found wearing a harness marked 'equipment of St Petersburg' around the area in April. The sea creature, which had the harness for a camera, was hanging around the port performing tricks for locals in return for food, with many residents joking he had 'defected'. Russia has dismissed claims its 'spy whale' was caught snooping on the fishing vessels of a NATO country.

Note: Don't miss the incredible video of this amazing event at the link above. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Dolphin rescues stranded whales
March 12, 2008, Smithsonian Magazine
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A dolphin swam up to two distressed whales that appeared headed for death in a beach stranding in New Zealand and guided them to safety, witnesses said. The actions of the bottlenose dolphin -- named Moko by residents who said it spends much of its time swimming playfully with humans at the beach -- amazed would-be rescuers and an expert who said they were evidence of the species' friendly nature. The two pygmy sperm whales, a mother and her calf, were found stranded on Mahia Beach, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) northeast of the capital of Wellington, said Conservation Department worker Malcolm Smith. Rescuers worked for more than one hour to get the whales back into the water, only to see them strand themselves four times on a sandbar slightly out to sea. It looked likely the whales would have to be euthanized to prevent them suffering a prolonged death, Smith said. "They kept getting disorientated and stranding again," said Smith, who was among the rescuers. "They obviously couldn't find their way back past (the sandbar) to the sea." Along came Moko, who approached the whales and led them 200 meters (yards) along the beach and through a channel out to the open sea. "Moko just came flying through the water and pushed in between us and the whales," Juanita Symes, another rescuer, told The Associated Press. "She got them to head toward the hill, where the channel is. It was an amazing experience. The best day of my life." Smith speculated that Moko responded after hearing the whales' distress calls. "They had arched their backs and were calling to one another, but as soon as the dolphin turned up they submerged into the water and followed her."

Note:  To watch a video featuring Moko's rescue of the whales, click here.


About whales: Complex social behavior
July 12, 2009, New York Times
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Scientists have now documented behaviors like tool use and cooperative hunting strategies among whales. Orcas, or killer whales, have been found to mourn their own dead. Just three years ago, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York discovered, in the brains of a number of whale species, highly specialized neurons that are linked to, among other things, the use of language and were once thought to be the exclusive property of humans and a few other primates. Indeed, marine biologists are now revealing not only the dizzying variety of vocalizations among a number of whale species but also complex societal structures and cultures. Whales, we now know, teach and learn. They scheme. They cooperate, and they grieve. They recognize themselves and their friends. They know and fight back against their enemies. And perhaps most stunningly, given all of our transgressions against them, they may even, in certain circumstances, have learned to trust us. For all of their inherent elusiveness, the gray whales of Baja baffle scientists for the opposite reason: They cant seem to get enough of us humans. The question of why present-day gray-whale mothers, some of whom still bear harpoon scars, would take to seeking us out and gently shepherding their young into our arms is a mystery that now captivates whale researchers and watchers alike. There may be something far more compelling going on in the lagoons of Baja each winter and spring. Something, lets say, along the lines of that time-worn plot conceit behind many a film, in which the peaceable greetings of alien visitors are tragically rebuffed by human fear and ignorance. Except that in this particular rendition, the aliens keep coming back, trying, perhaps, to give us another chance.

Note:  For many important reports from reliable sources on the amazing capabilities of marine mammals, as well as serious threats to their well-being and survival from human activities, click here.


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