Do animals display love, compassion and empathy and can they teach us to be more compassionate? Scientists are still debating this, but if we pay attention, the answer may be found by observing them in their natural habitat. Animals demonstrate love and compassion toward their offspring, family members, friends and mates. They also show empathic behavior toward other animals who are hurt or afraid. The following are examples of the many ways animals teach us about love, compassion and empathy that will open your heart to these qualities in a whole new way.
Caring for Orphaned Chicks
The kestrel is a small songbird found across the northern hemisphere. The kestrel is also known as the sparrow hawk, and it belongs to the same genus as the falcon. Kestrels lay three to five eggs. When an egg is infertile, it may fail to hatch, or the newborn kestrel may appear weak and die shortly after hatching. Research has shown that kestrels have a special way of taking care of the orphaned chicks. It has been discovered that the parent kestrels feed the weak and dying chicks just as much as they feed the healthy ones. This is rare in the animal kingdom and reflects a special kind of love and compassion for the weaker chicks that is not shown by many other species.
Another example is chickens. Hens will hatch and care for chicks that aren’t their own. One hen may even hatch and incubate the eggs of other hens. Once the chicks hatch, they will be fed by all of the hens in the flock.This process shows us that animals can care for offspring that is not their own and that altruism is possible. Hens are often thought of as maternal and caring creatures; however, they aren’t the only animals that demonstrate this kind of love. Rats will adopt and care for other rat pups. Even though they aren’t their own, rats will feed them and protect them as though they were their own.
Protecting and Nurturing Orphans
Baby animals who have lost their mother have a very high mortality rate. They don’t have a chance of surviving without the help of a surrogate parent. Many different kinds of animals have been observed taking care of young who are not their own. Some of the most commonly known examples include wolf packs raising baby deer, rhinoceros who raise baby hares, and lionesses who raise baby squirrels. Humans have observed this behavior for thousands of years. It’s clear that the animals know that these babies cannot survive on their own. They feel compassion for them and want to protect them.
Scientists would love to know how this compassion is triggered in each specific species. Does it happen automatically when an animal finds a baby who is not its own? Or does the animal need to be taught this compassion? It’s possible that the compassionate behavior is genetically programmed into certain species. It’s also possible that certain species are more likely to show compassion because they have been observed doing so over thousands of years.
Wild animals may actually be more compassionate than humans. In many cases, when human mothers lose their children, they will try to nurture another child. In some cases, they’ll take in another species. This is a sign that animals are more compassionate than people. One example of this is the green sea turtle, who will take in other species of sea turtles that are struggling to survive. In some cases, a green sea turtle will take in an endangered species, like a hawksbill sea turtle. This is a selfless and compassionate act, especially because green sea turtles are not endangered.
The Different Ways Animals Show Love and Compassion
The chimpanzee is a close relative of humans. Researchers have observed that chimpanzees show love and compassion for each other when a family member has been injured or killed. Scientists who studied chimpanzees in Africa have reported that chimpanzees have displayed empathy for a wounded or dying comrade. These chimpanzees have also been seen to carefully gather up their fallen comrade and carry the body away from the fighting. They have even been observed building a special nest for the comrade to rest in. This shows that chimpanzees are capable of feeling empathy for a wounded or dying comrade. This is important to our understanding of love and compassion because empathy is an important part of these two emotions. Empathy is the ability to understand what another person is feeling.
Many animals will protect and defend their families, but some animals extend compassion to their friends as well. One study found that rats will show empathy for their friends when they are hurt or injured. The study found that rats will stop and examine a rat who has been injured, as though they feel compassion for their fellow rat. Rats don’t show this same behavior when they see a human or mouse who has been hurt. This shows that rats are capable of feeling compassion for their own kind, but not for humans or other animals. This is one of the strongest arguments for compassion in animals, because it is difficult to argue that animals don’t feel this emotion. Rats won’t show compassion unless they are placed in cages with other rats, so there is no reason for them to do this unless they feel compassion for their friend.
Elephants Stand Out When It Comes to Empathy
Elephants are very similar to humans in many ways. They are intelligent, with complex social groups that include a family structure made up of a mother and her offspring. These animals show compassion and love for their own species. They also show a special compassion and love for other species, such as humans, that is not shown by many animals.
Scientists who study elephant herds in Africa have observed a special form of love and compassion toward young elephants who have lost their mothers to poachers. These elephants are known to gather together and protect the young orphans while they are growing up. Researchers have also discovered that the elephants will bring food to the orphans, just as a mother elephant would feed her young. This love and compassion that the elephants show toward the orphans shows that these emotions are not limited to humans.
When one of them dies, they don’t eat or drink until the entire herd has touched and smelled the body. This is a time-honored tradition observed in many different herds. The elephants seem to know that the deceased elephant’s spirit must pass through their herd. They gather and wait for the deceased elephant to pass through their area. After the deceased elephant has passed through the herd, the elephants break their silence and begin to loudly trumpet and roar. They stay with the deceased elephant for days, and the herd members will keep guard to make sure the body is not disturbed.
Elephant Gathering for Humans Who Have Passed
Elephants are also compassionate towards humans showing extreme kindness and caring other animals and humans, even their mahouts (elephant keepers who ride and tend the elephants in South and Southeast Asia). One elephant in Thailand was seen gathering grass, flowers and leaves and placing them over the bodies of her fallen mahouts. This is a strangely human-like behavior that indicates an overwhelming compassion and love for her fallen comrades. Elephants also have been known to travel long distances to visit the graves of fallen mahouts. This is an even stronger indication oftheir compassion, as they travel to visit the graves of humans. It is a sign of true love and deep compassion, like any other highly developed emotion.
Marine Animals Teaching Us About Love and Compassion
Many marine animals also display compassion. Fish and aquatic mammals, such as dolphins, have been observed interacting with humans in a way that shows love and compassion. One story tells of a dolphin who carried a man who was drowning back to the shore. This isn’t the only example of dolphins rescuing humans, and it certainly isn’t the only time that dolphins have been kind to humans.
Dolphins have also been observed protecting swimmers from sharks. They use their sonar to communicate, and many humans report feeling better after having dolphins communicate with them. Some people even report feeling healed. This is a clear sign that dolphins are compassionate and loving.
Dolphins have been trained to help humans in various ways, such as rescuing drowning people or finding sunken treasure. Scientists who study aquatic mammals and fish have also observed these interactions with humans show deep love and compassion for us.
And they are just as compassionate with each other. Researchers have noticed that dolphins will help injured fellow dolphins by pushing them to the surface so that they can breathe. This kind of compassionate behavior is often observed in marine mammals who spend a lot of time under water. Scientists have also observed that dolphins will try to console another dolphin who is upset or grieving. Dolphin mothers will stay with their dead babies for days, stroking them and singing to them.
There is a lot we can learn about love, compassion, and empathy by observing animals in their natural habitats. Many animals demonstrate these qualities toward one another, toward their young and toward other species. Human beings are social animals who need each other to survive and thrive. Animals show us that love and compassion are part of the natural order. These qualities are found not only in humans but also in all life. Animals teach us a lot about how we should treat each other, and how we should treat animals.
If you’d like to learn how to connect to animals in a compassionate way, visit our About Animal Reiki page.