Learning about love, from animals

Animal Friendship

By: Claire Foran

Love is complicated.

It comes at different times, manifests in different ways and it can definitely take you by surprise. But this is also what makes it beautiful. Another special characteristic about the emotion of love is that we, humans, are not the only species who experience it. Like us, love in the animal kingdom can also be complicatedly beautiful.

There are many species that mate with one companion for life; beavers, penguins, wolves, french angel fish and gibbons to name a few. Penguins search all day for the most perfect, smooth stone to give to their mate while Birds of Paradise put on extravagant performances to impress their love. Beavers stay in dedicated partnerships until death and bald eagles maintain long distance relationships for up to twenty years. The attachment and devotion these animals develop to one another demonstrates a kind of emotional capability many have denounced animals from having. While only 3% of mammals maintain socially monogamous relationships the rest still experience and show love, just in different or some would say less conventional ways. 

Like us, many animals live and travel in very close familial packs. These groups usually have leaders, rankings and very intricate dynamics. But one thing rings true through many, a mother and child bond is one of the most loving there is. The instinct for mothers to protect and nurture their young is not just a human quality. Orangutan mothers stay with their young for 7 and up to 9 years, teaching them everything they need to know about survival. Alligators carry their babies in their jaw for maximum protection and female lions are the dominate dedicated hunters for their pride.

That is love, simply. 

The animal kingdom is also filled with some more unlikely friendships. There are countless stories and examples of two different species forming unbreakable loving bonds. Another telling example of animals wide range of emotional ability. These bonds develop in various situations, sometimes the animals don't have a pride, have lost their pack or a female animal takes on a parent role with a baby.  Or simply, it is just friendship. Take Bubbles, a rescue elephant who lost her entire family to poaching in 1981 and Bella a black lab shown above, both residents of a safari reserve, these fundametally different animals spend every moment together.

Some might consider the human animal bond to be unlikely at times. The love that exists between humans and their pets is a beautiful companionship that millions of people get the chance to experience. But others have taken the time to develop trusting relationships with wilder animals, like biologist Jane Goodall and her life long love of chimps, Kevin Richardson’s devoted relationship to lions and the late Esmond Bradley Martin fight against the ivory trade to preserve rhinoceroses. Both Jane, Kevin and Esmond have documented experiencing reciprocated love from these animals. 

So what can we learn about love from animals? These companionships truly show us that love can be simple and complicated all at once.

Most importantly, they show us that animals have complex minds and are deserving of this kind of love. 

To gift your loved one with a Thula charm and support World Animal Protection click here 

And to learn more about the incredible work of The Jane Goddall Institute, The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary and Save the Rhino follow these links