Sunday, 6 January 2019

The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben


One of my Christmas present last year was the delightful book, The Inner Life of Animals of a Hidden World by Peter Wohlleben. Having just completed it I thought I would give you a quick review.
The book is a charming collection of thoughts and musings on animal behaviour, much like this blog is. Over a series of 50 short chapters Peter explores the inner mind of animals. He tackles ideas on emotions animals feel, pain, loss. How intelligent species can be and what our relationship is with them,

He approaches our connection to nature in a pragmatic way acknowledging the use of some animals for food and others as being unsuitable. He questions certain assumptions and challenges anthropomorphism in a similar way that I do. He shows that animals have feelings and intellects as equally complex but it would be foolish to use our on experiences to judge theirs and in doing so believe we can understand their motivation. In fact if there is one single cohesive message in the book it is the analysis of the interplay between  instinct and choice, and I m unsure Peter actually reaches a conclusion on which is supreme.

The book is easy to read. The perfect size for picking up and dipping into but with enough charm and joy to keep you turning the pages for hour after hour if desired. What made the book enjoyable for me was the setting. Peter is a land owner and forester in Germany and so the wildlife he includes is more diverse than our own. In effect the range of animals he relates to our what would once what Great Britain would have been had. The species mix is familiar enough not to be jarring and exotic enough to be enticing. It allows the book to be a journey into a new physical world as well as an inner mental one.

Some people may wish for a more scientific analysis of the mind of animals. Peter does evidence his work with some studies but most points come from anecdotes and personal experiences. This does not devalue his work at all, he is a knowledgeable and engaging guide to the wild and only a fool would not listen to someone of such experience and there are plenty of books out there with neurological diagrams and statistically tested conclusions but none of them will be written with the charm that Peter does.