We all know that the real beauty of YouTube is the endless stream of adorable animal videos one can watch. All. Day. Long. My latest obsession is with the unusual pairings of interspecies best friends. It isn’t every day you spot a predator cozying up next to its potential prey and prepare to snuggle in for a nap. But these cases prove that theory wrong!
Bonding at Birth – Unlikely pairs
Marc Bekoff, a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Boulder witnessed interspecies bonding on a personal level when he brought home a fox for a temporary stay in his home. Bekoff’s young dog and the fox became best friends, playing and sleeping together. When Bekoff crated the houseguest, the fox gnawed through the crate in order to be close to his best friend. In a NY Times article, Bekoff stated that “young animals are really open doors.” While there are different ideas as to why various species bond, one school of thought suggests that exposure to different species at a young age could be a factor.
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1.) Koko’s Story: Empathy is universal (mostly)
Everyone knows the story of Koko, the gorilla, who adored babies of numerous species. For her 44th birthday Koko was given a kitten. While scientists are still studying the reasons why, this example is one indication that certain species are able to bond and inexplicably form friendships. When her kitten, All Ball, escaped and was hit by a car, Koko mourned the loss by wailing and bellowing, exhibiting the same emotions any human might.
2.) Amur’s Story: All you need is love
Image via Youtube
In some cases, interspecies bonding outweighs an animal’s instinct. When a Siberian tiger named Amur befriended Timur, the goat, scientists raised an eyebrow. Handlers originally left Timur (poor lil’ guy) in Amur’s enclosure as a meal. However, they soon discovered the two playing together. Normally not aggressive, Amur hissed at park staff whenever they approached Timur. Though the scientists still claim that there is an 80-85 percent chance that Amur will eat his best friend (not the best odds), a simple and universal explanation came to the fore: Amur was lonelier than he was hungry.
3.) Baloo, Leo + Shere Khan: Background matters
An infamous example of interspecies friendships is that of the three male predators at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary: a bear named Baloo, a lion named Leo and a tiger named Shere Khan, known as the ‘BLT’ trio. Discovered together by police during a drug raid, these three were inseparable. And just like any human interaction, when trust is formed and the need to find food is taken out of the equation, only nurturing, which is instinctual to many species, is left. Though not scientific, it would make sense that interspecies friendships are more easily formed when raised in captivity. Animals are able to form common languages, establishing rules like how to play with one another or when to cuddle.
No matter what the reason, interspecies friendships remind us that love and empathy are universal. The love and protection of a parent or friend can extend beyond species. On a daily basis I am grateful for animals. They remind us what’s important, what we are here to do regardless of our differences – simply love one another.