THE PARROT'S LAMENT by Eugene Linden


and Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity
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Empathetic stories of animals displaying intelligence and fellow-feeling, with some references to controlled experiments to help put the acts in context, from journalist Linden, the author of several books on animal cognition as well as other subjects. This “decidedly unscientific” collection of animal tales, wherein the beasts “tried or succeeded in outsmarting, beguiling, or otherwise astonishing the humans in their lives,” is written simply to knock on our intuitive doors and get us to appreciate the lives of animals and whatever consciousness they possess. Linden keeps the anecdotes short and sweet, and, thankfully, taps into those untold rather than recycling the same stories about apes saving human toddlers and elephants enjoying sunsets. There are chimps and parrots that specialize in devilry and pranksterism, and a marvelous sampling of deceit, from the disingenuous use of body language by dolphins to a white-winged shrike tanager abusing its sentinel duties “by occasionally making the alarm call when no hawk is around. As its feathered colleagues head for cover, it wolfs down all the food in sight.” There are great escapes from zoos and parks, which for orangutans is “a singular obsession”—they shape tools, conceal their intentions, and choose the best opportunity to make their move. The acts of heroism, trust, and loyalty may sound familiar, though the odd friendships are a delight: the tale of wolf and the goat feels too biblical, but the one about the horse and the turkey couldn’t be better. Linden closes with an enviable ramble through back-of-beyond central Africa, where the animals reacted to humans with inquisitiveness rather than fear, for a single, very good reason: they had never encountered us before. Most of all, these stories suggest a range of possibilities in animal awareness and feeling that signal the caring respect to be awarded any creature. Animals are an indicator species, Linden suggests, so take a look: how we treat them reflects how we treat everything else.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-525-94476-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999


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