From My Bookshelf: Mama’s Last Hug

By Lynn Willoughby

Mama’s Last Hug ~ Frans de Waal

This author has spent four decades researching and studying animals.  His previous book, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are” was a best seller which explored animal intelligence.  Mama’s Last Hug deals with animal emotions and feelings.

Mama was a chimpanzee matriarch who had formed a strong bond with biologist Jan van Hooff.  She was dying when van Hooff visited her in her night cage for one last hug.  Mama not only embraced the professor after welcoming him with a big smile, she then patted him reassuringly on the back – in a gesture considered typically human.  

From this and other similar interactions de Waal argues that humans are not the only species with a capacity for love, hate, fear, shame, guilt, joy, disgust and empathy. de Waal’s research and the research of many others show us definitively that animals have emotions.  Most of his research centres on mammals, but he also shows us emotions in birds – specifically corvids (crows) and fish.  He proposes that “emotions are like organs: we don’t have a single organ that other animals don’t have, and the same is true for our emotions.”  Chimpanzees lift their lips and furrow their brows, wrinkle their noses in disgust – just as we do!  (I tried it).  Many species cooperate to achieve common goals.  Animals remember where food has been stored.  Baby chimpanzees imitate adults and only eat fruit and vegetation the adults are eating – ensuring they do not die from poisonous plants.

Politics, heirarchies, alliances and friendships are just as common in the animal world as in our own.  Intelligence and emotions are so intertwined you will never look at animals the same way again.

  • Primates and Philosophers
  • Our Inner Ape
  • ….. and several others

Who Knew?

Carnivoires are on average larger brained than herbavoires.  Without meat we might never have become the intellectual powerhouses we are today!