Real Life Dr. Doolittle? At What Level Can Humans and Animals Communicate?

I have aspects of this on which I am skeptical. So, please don’t take this video as something I believe 100%. That said, it is quite impressive. To avoid any chance of spoiling the video, I will reserve any comments I have until at least some of my regular readers have viewed the video. I am very curious to hear your opinions.

6 Responses to Real Life Dr. Doolittle? At What Level Can Humans and Animals Communicate?

  1. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    I think there is more two way communication than the popular notions currently accept. Why not? Animals interact with their environment and humans/communications are part of that environment. A major confusing element though is that animals have their own agendas and limited perceptions. I’m thinking of the cat that mauled that Magician guy in Las Vegas. The animal was spooked by something and according to its loving surviving trainer was “only trying to protect” the guy that guy mauled. What cats do with/for one another is lethal when done to humans. All kinds of communication taking place there… but garbled and misapplied.

    another big example is a show I will watch when I channel surf across it: The Dog Whisperer. communicating/interacting/changing the behavior of dogs is demonstrated with every show.

    So, communication/training does exist. We use it all the time. I don’t expect any rhyming couplets coming from our wilder friends though. Its all about gradations, limitations, context. Communicate?===yes. Communicate just what exactly?===not much.

    Ha, ha. Reminds me of Holden Caulfield. On the road to learn from the wisdom of farmers. All they talked about/knew about was the weather and the price of beans. No rhyming couplets there either.

  2. ECA says:

    There is something strange to think about.
    remember as a child, with a mind NOT covered over with problems and concerns, that you SAW things? felt things, differently?

    For some reason we Overwhelm ourselves with THINGS to cloud our minds.

    then comes the fun part..TRYINg to open our minds..RELAXING the brain. let things FLOW into it.

  3. Rodnikov Magilovich says:

    I, too, have a great amount of skepticism on this one. A big part of what has happened with these large wild cats in captivity, is routine parading before an ignorant public, with some degree of callous treatment and even punitive treatment if the animal(s) do not perform as required for a show to make money for the owner/trainer! I think that there is a primitive dialogue that can happen, but it is not so much in words as it is in body language, mood, expression, even the tone of voice used around these animals makes a vast difference. Even in domestic pets which have been created from wild stock over generations, there is often expression of attitude, and response to actions and words! So, I come down as 65 to 85% in agreement with the premise expressed, BUT always realize that these wild cats can and will express anger, and dangerous reactions that can and will result in severe injury and or death! How do you know that an animal is starting to suffer from arthritic pain and may lash out viciously just like some humans do! We are both animals, not vegetables!

  4. OK, so here’s my more detailed opinion. I feel very confident in stating that humans and animals can communicate across the species barrier. Anyone who has a cat or dog and at least a quarter of a brain knows that.

    What is communicated?

    Mostly emotion. Dogs are especially good at picking up on the emotions of their humans. Cats can do it too, but to a lesser extent, not being slaves. Love comes across extremely easily. Is it scientifically quantifiable? Maybe not at present. But, denying it is a violation of Occam’s Razor. It’s the simplest explanation for our complex interactions with our pets and sometimes even with wildlife.

    You know that thing cats do with partially or completely closing their eyes for longer than a blink to show trust? It works with wild cats and sometimes even other animals as well. I’ve done it.

    Yes, animals also show “negative” emotions such as anger at times. But, that too is communication. One hopes that the communication is enough and that it doesn’t need to get as far as biting. But, ignore that communication at your own risk.

    That said, I’m extremely skeptical of the claim that Anna was able to communicate with the leopard on a level that let him say that he was concerned about the two leopard cubs. He may well have been. But, how he could communicate that? I have no clue. Where else might she have heard about the cubs? I have no clue.

    What about the name change? I have no doubt that it mattered to the leopard. But, I have a different explanation. When you call a leopard “Diabolo”, meaning devil, your own interactions are likely to be different than when you call that leopard “Spirit”. And your own emotional reactions to the two different words may show through in subtle but detectable ways to the leopard.

    When we speak in human language to each other, 70% of the communication is by body language. Speaking to animals in human language is natural for us and probably helps us ease into the natural body language one might use when saying, “you’re such a beautiful leopard”, thus getting the point across even though the English words are likely not understood as such. Though, with enough human contact, animals probably do pick up a word or two, especially their names.

    • RW says:

      I agree with this 100%. I am supremely skeptical of “animal communicators” on a telepathic level. I think they are just extremely adept at reading and expressing body language – whether they even consciously realize it or not. Everything she said in the beginning about the panther being accustomed to not being allowed to roam and therefore being conditioned to stay put and refusing to explore at the behest of his captors plays right into standard behaviour patterns and the somewhat agoraphobic feelings any creature will display when confined for long periods of time.

      The inquiry about the two cubs stumps me, and there always seems to be something like that in these communications that leaves people with goose bumps. But I would be willing to wager a significant amount of money that Anna did some research into this panther before coming, and I’m quite sure that his former zoo and neighbouring surroundings would not have been too difficult to discover.

      Her posture when “speaking” with the leopard is one of calmness, trust and complete absence of threat. She is sitting, looking at him, but likely not in the eyes. She is slightly hunched, yet relaxed, head down and turned slightly away from him (as she’s “listening”), and not addressing him as she speaks, but all of this conveys to the leopard “I’m not here to hurt you or bother you, I’ma just chill and we can chill together.” And I have no doubt that this has a very calming influence on an angry panther, whom I’m sure sees everyone through the cage while standing, looking down at him, facing him directly, looking in his eyes and speaking directly to him. This would be a very surprising, and probably pleasing change of events for the resentful and confused panther.

      Olsen is obviously good with animals, but with natural skill it is easy to be good with relatively well-adjusted and open animals. An abused and angry creature was probably new to him, and his conventional methods did not work. He is clearly used to be very physical and boisterous with his cats, and this would be very alarming and downright threatening to the panther. Olsen’s optimism clearly turned to caution, and he treated Spirit like the dangerous, angry panther that he expected him to be. Used to this kind of emotion and communication, even if he was no longer being physically abused, Spirit knew how to handle it in the exact same way he successfully had to survive in the past.

      So it all makes a lot of sense. I have no doubt that animal communicators can be excellent at what they do, but I seriously doubt there is much mysticism to it. I’m glad she was able to help, and I hope she continues to do such good work, and I guess if a little theatrical “magic” helps get the job done, I guess there’s no harm in it.

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