These days, I usually see more animals than humans on the average day. As a result, I have had some interesting opportunities to watch them interact with one another. It is fascinating to see how different species behave towards members of their own species and also towards other animals. As a long time animal lover, I always used to laugh at my dogs as they sniffed each other’s behinds to say hi, and since the system clearly worked, they also sniffed people’s seats… Eric always used to say that it was just their way of “reading the newspaper” – to see who you are and where you have been. My cats used to sniff out information more discreetly – pretending to ignore me – just so that I knew I was nobody and not missed in the least!
To be honest, I have only seen wild animals sniff one another’s rear ends when they are interested in mating. Otherwise, they seem to rely predominantly on visual ways of identifying and sizing one another up. I would guess that they read body language and sniff “vibes” in the air and decide their next steps from there. Instead of sniffing one another’s physical business, they appear to have highly advanced “tracking” skills to read sensory clues left on trails, bushes and in the air. Rhinos have an interesting technique for publicising individual information in a neighbourhood. The dominant male starts a hole, known as a Midden, where he defecates. Other rhinos use the same Midden and add their own news. The Rhino public toilet then becomes an invaluable source of information for other Rhinos of who else is in the area and if they are open to dating. (Humans have a system like this too – a place to air all their proverbial dirt, and flirt – we just call it social media!)
Anyway, I digress! This apparent reliance on communicating with eye contact and sniffing from a distance, reminded me of the isiZulu word for hello – “Sawubona”. It translates to “I see you”. Wild animals are effectively acknowledging the presence of one another and then taking appropriate action based on that. Like the very memorable moment that the Leopard in the image read my soul in a split second near Satara! As humans, I suspect we are more prone to pretending we don’t see others, so that we can avoid determining a response – I mean if I don’t see you, I don’t have to do anything to/ with/ for/ about you – right? Animals keep it real because their survival ultimately depends on it. Just because they acknowledge seeing one another, they understand that there is no expectation on either party to like one another – just to SEE each other and determine a response for the way forward. How much simpler life could and would be if we adopted the same honest approach! However, this is only part of it… watch this space for part two tomorrow!-) In the meantime, given the choice, I am just going to say that I would rather see you than smell you (which is my fundamental problem with rugby – I mean WHO in their right mind willingly sticks their head up someone else’s sweaty behind for fun??!) Sorry – I digress again . SEE you tomorrow!