November 01, 2017

Peter Wohlleben

What is my parrot thinking about?
In his latest fascinating book, German forester Peter Wohlleben taps into animals’ emotions, feelings and their unique ways of navigating the world.
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German forester Peter Wohlleben is a card-carrying nature lover. In his previous book, The Hidden Life of Trees, he examined the unexpected world of trees: their lives, deaths, networks and how they communicate (yes, trees communicate!). In his latest fascinating book, The Inner Life of Animals, he taps into animals’ emotions, feelings and their unique ways of navigating the world.

Your new book is a natural follow up to your previous book, The Hidden Life of Trees. How did the writing and research compare? Was it any easier?
Writing and researching was similar, but much easier. Since I was a little child, I kept animals: Spiders in glasses, aquatic turtles in an aquarium, I brooded an egg on a heating pillow (so the chicken regarded me as its mother)—animals have always been around me.

It is obvious that you have an overwhelming love of nature. What inspired this passion?
I really don’t know. My father worked at the ministry of finance, my mother in a hospital. I was something like the green sheep of the family.

Was there a single “a-ha” moment that made you want to write about the emotions animals feel, or did this desire develop over time?
First I wanted to write one book about trees and animals. But soon I realized that the trees needed a book to themselves—so the animals had to wait for the second.

What is the one thing about animals that fascinates you the most?
We always say that people are working with their mind, animals on instincts. But what is the most important thing in our life? Love! And emotions like love are the language of instincts. So animals should share the most important things with us.

Your loathing for the practice of sport hunting is clear and understandable. How difficult was it to write about the fact that animals are hunted for sport?
Not nice—hunting is responsible for the shyness of many animals. Most people can’t enjoy wildlife because most big animals hide during the daytime. Without hunting, we would see many of them as they are seen on safaris or on the Galapagos Islands—wouldn’t that be great?

Many of your animal observations could also be translated to the way humans behave and feel. Did doing the research and writing for this book give you a better understanding of human behavior as well?
For sure! Horses, for example, can read your body language. If you are in a bad mood (even if you try to hide it) they realize this instantaneously and refuse to work with you. Shouldn’t a boss always be relaxed and fair?

Throughout the book, you compare and contrast wild and domesticated animals. What do you feel is the main difference between the two?
The main difference is that domesticated animals and humans have made evolutionary step toward each other. Dogs, for example, were long regarded as “stupid wolves”. We know today that they can read our mimic and gestures much better than wolves. Domestic animals are something like an intermediary between wild animals and us.

Pets are an important part of the lives of many people. Do you have any advice for the best way to communicate with them?
Love them! Love is an emotion very common among animals. The hormone responsible for the emotion of love, oxytocin, is found not just in mammals but also in some fish. So this strong emotion is the most powerful tool for making the animals we keep happy.

What is the one single message you’d like your readers to take away from reading this book?
Have fun with nature! Always think about the fact that if you are watching wild animals, you are also being watched. This is the first step of communication—and perhaps the beginning of a wonderful adventure.

Are you working on another book project? If so, what is the topic?
The last book of this trilogy is about the network of nature. It is so amazing how it all works. Earthworms control the population of wild boars, cranes affect the ham production in Spain, and trees dictate the quantity of rain. Every human attempt to regulate this network will cause unexpected results. Therefore it’s best just to enjoy nature without manipulating it.


Get the Book

The Inner Life of Animals

The Inner Life of Animals

By Peter Wohlleben
Greystone Books
ISBN 9781771643016

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