The Unexpected Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke – digested read
‘Penguins? A bunch of pathological narcissists. Pandas? Addicted to three-way sex. Toads? Complete bastards’
Sun 29 Oct ‘17 17.00 GMT
|Illustration by Matt Blease|
cientists have been misunderstanding animals for centuries. We viewthe animal kingdom through the prism of our own rather narrow existence. This has got to stop. It is driving many creatures into therapy. Bats are literally going bats. We need to open our minds – and let them tell their own stories.
Beaver My name is Beaver and I’m a beaver. If I hear one more story about how I like to chew off my own gonads and throw them at people, I’m going to shoot myself. My reproductive organs are just configured differently. I can’t help it if my balls smell so great that Givenchy use them in their perfumes. But do stop bigging up my achievements. Basically, we beavers are a bit thick. It’s pure luck we don’t get squashed by more trees. Play us the sound of running water and we’ll start building you a dam.
Sloth As president of the sloth appreciation society, I’ve spent many a thrilling hour watching sloths move, and I can confirm that their average cruising speed is a leisurely 0.3 kilometres an hour. But rather than thinking of sloths as slow, a characterisation imposed on them by French naturalist Le Comte de Buffon, we should see things from their point of view. Walking slowly and deliberately, like a tai chi master, enables them to silently sneak up on foliage unnoticed so they can pounce before it has a chance to escape. Also, why bother to walk any quicker when you only need to have one poo every eight days?
Frog They come in three sizes: small, medium and large. They are also among the fittest amphibians on the planet. Even when stuck at the bottom of Lake Titicaca, the Telmatobius culeus never misses a daily workout of 50 press-ups followed by three sets of 10 bench presses. What has mesmerised humans about the frog is its reproductive cycle. Aristotle was of the impression that frogs emerged spontaneously out of mud, but thanks to French scientist Réaumur, we now know that is not true. Réaumur attached a pair of underpants – fastened with braces to make sure they didn’t fall off – to a male frog then showed it lewd photographs of a female. Never confuse a frog with a toad. Toads are complete bastards.
Hippopotamus Since the days of the Roman empire, the hippo has been portrayed as a monstrous, fire-vomiting “river horse”. In fact, it is much more like a whale, apart from the fact that it has feet and doesn’t eat plankton. It was originally thought that the red liquid it expelled was blood, which led Pliny to advocate blood-letting as a medical cure, but research has now proved that it is in fact a sophisticated factor-50 suncream. Interesting fact: there are now cartels of coke-dealing hippos in Colombia after several broke out of Pablo Escobar’s zoo in the early 1990s.
Panda An endangered species, thanks to having targets on their eyes, pandas have undeservedly gained the reputation for being a bit shy and uptight about sex. Far from being retiring types who can have sex only with the lights off, pandas are among nature’s most enthusiastic shaggers. So much so that they can usuallyget aroused only if there is a threesome. Were Edinburgh zoo to get hold of another panda to spice things up for Tian Tian and Yang Guang, they might get the baby panda cub they so dearly want.
Penguin No animal has been more wilfully misrepresented. The thing you’ve got to remember about penguins is that they are a bunch of pathological narcissists. Stick David Attenborough in front of them, or sign them up for a March of the Penguins movie, and they’ll come over all cute and cuddly. Oh look at us! Aren’t we so noble because we band together against the cold? And no, I couldn’t possibly sleep with you because I’m already married. I’m monogamous, me. Take away the cameras, though, and it’s a scene of utter degradation. Worse than The Jeremy Kyle Show. Not only will you get penguins tripping one another up so they get eaten by whales, they will quite happily spend the afternoon lobbing stones at one another and shooting smack. And don’t get me started on sex! A penguin will quite literally shag anything. Male, female, children. Even a dead penguin. Disgusting. Take it from me. Penguins are evil.
Digested read, digested: We need to talk about Penguin.