Over the years we have been contacted repeatedly by rescuers and lay people, who were caring for corvids such as magpies, jackdaws and crows, and who observed that their foster birds showed difficulties with flying despite appearing otherwise fit and healthy. Some of these birds demonstrated abnormal flight feathers and showed an unusual or even abnormal behaviour not normally expected in wild birds. A closer assessment of the plumage showed quite quickly that these birds had been wing clipped.
Before we look at some examples of animals seeking human help, it seems a good idea to address the often heard myth that we as humans must not anthropomorphise animal behaviour. Although this is still a widespread believe, even amongst otherwise renowned scientists, it is simply wrong, based on the ever increasing anecdotal and scientific evidence. I have chosen four short excerpts taken from Marc Bekoff’s book “The Emotional Lives of Animals – A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter”, who addresses this misconception in his usual precise, ethical and scientific manor. 1
‘Careful and detailed behavioral studies have shown time and again that we can indeed differentiate and understand animal behavior, and how it differs in various social contexts.’
Being sentient means to have the capacity to have positive and negative experiences, such as feeling pain and pleasure. This applies at the very least to all animals with centralised nervous systems. Sentient beings have their very own unique personalities. We should refer to them as “he/she”, “them/they” or by species. The words “it” or “thing” should not be used to refer to an animal, and “who” is used rather than “that”. If you do not know the gender, then choose one: “he” or “she”. Even if your gender choice is wrong, it is more respectful than “it”. This is an important way of demonstrating the respect we ask others to afford all animals.
Editor’s note: This blog post has been updated on 12/04/2018.
Admission – 30/07/2017
Narziss and Goldmund are two premature house martin fledglings, who have been found on the ground being unable to fly. Their nest allegedly came down for unknown reasons. According to the finder, Narziss has been spotted in the morning being on the ground and unable to fly, but has been left there for reasons unknown. Only as Goldmund has been spotted in the afternoon, also being found on the ground, both birds have been collected by the finder and brought to us. The admission assessment did not reveal any external injuries. However, both house martins demonstrated very obvious signs of dehydration, starvation and exhaustion.
Many people have a naive and rosy view regarding the kind of lives animals are living in the wild. Some of those people strongly believe, and this includes even sometimes wildlife rescuers and rehabbers, conservationists and people, who think of themselves as nature or animal lovers, that non-human animals living in the wild live in some kind of paradise. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Animals living in the wild live lives that are far from idyllic, and most of them have to deal with the reality of constant threat of tremendous suffering. Although many people accept the fact that animals experience suffering, the willingness to help, to minimise or eliminate suffering, remains rather an exceptional act of kindness. Also, for reasons remaining mostly unclear, many people assume that wild animals do cope better with suffering than domestic animals or our beloved pets. However, there is no reason or scientific foundation for this assumption.1