BOOKS: Raising The Peaceable Kingdom

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2005:

Raising The Peaceable Kingdom by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Ballantine Books (1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019), 2005. 170
pages, hardcover. $22.95.

As an experiment in animal sociology, former psychoanalyst
Jeffrey Masson acquired a variety of animals of differing species,
and then devoted time to observing their interaction. His book is a
charming and well-written inquiry about what animals can teach us
about the social origins of tolerance–and conflict.
To us, Masson found little in the way of novel revelation.
Most farmers and rural dwellers know how easily different species
live peacefully together, and it is scarcely surprising that a
motley collection of dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and rats should
find friendship with each other across species lines. So although we
read the book with particular interest, because of our own
experience in the Kalahari doing wildlife rehabilitation among many
different species, we were a little disappointed not to learn
anything new.

Masson writes on page 45 that he “would almost certainly not
succeed with this project with animals who were truly wild.”
However, our experience is that even wild animals can and do form
friendships outside their species, and indeed, we used this fact as
a tool in rehabilitation. ANIMAL PEOPLE recently published a
photograph [reprinted below] of our large, fierce Boerbull dog Shumba
snoozing while a meerkat friend sat upright on his body doing sentry
Catching quick young jackals to handle them was virtually
impossible in a large veld camp. But just bring Shumba in to their
camp, and the jackals would come running up to him, tails swishing
wildly, and prostrate themselves in front of him in submission.
From there it was easy to grab them and to remove thorns or ticks.
Seeing how easily the dogs, foxes, and jackals befriended each
other caused us to doubt Masson’s statement on page 61 that “No wolf
has ever made friends with an animal from another species –unlike
dogs, although they are of the same species.”
We found agreement with Masson on page 91, where he wrote,
“It was amazing to see how badly even a chicken wants to communicate
certain things.”
And how! Once, a small flock of guinea fowl woke us up early
one morning by fluttering against our bedroom window, cackling and
shrieking. They had never done this before. When we investigated,
we found that one of their chicks had fallen into the water trough.
We were able to rescue the avian swimmer, dry him off with a
hairdryer, and return him to his flock.
Masson states on page 119 that he would have liked to take
his rats for a walk with the cats. Indeed he could have. We have
video of our morning strolls through the Kalahari bush, a veritable
caravan led by ourselves and followed, always in the same order, by
the dogs, then the bat-eared foxes, a Springbok ewe, the meerkats
(not much bigger than rats but easily keeping up), and finally a
pair of ostriches.
Mori the Vervet monkey delighted in cross-species
relationships. She needed a companion and we could not find her one
of her own species. So we put a two-week old chick into her
enclosure. They adopted each other, slept and played together, and
became so interdependent that if we tried to remove the chicken,
Mori would attack us. If Mori sat up in the branches, the chick,
still too immature to fly, would try desperately to flutter up and
join her.
Later we had to rehab a young duiker antelope, and decided
that she would settle down better in animal company. So we put her
in with Mori and her chicken. Soon Mori was grooming the little
buck. She would curl up with him to snooze, while the chicken, now
fully grown, would cluck and peck around them. The three became

–Bev Pervan & Chris Mercer

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