Interspecies animal "friendships"

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Animal Environment and Health

Author: Nadil Silva; [2017]

Keywords: species; stress; animal bonds; play; behaviour;

Abstract: Even though conspecific close relationships are well documented, scientific studies done on interspecies close relationships are scarce. There is no agreement of using the word friendships without inverted commas when describing close relationships of animals. But here in this thesis, I would like to use the word friendships when describing close animal relationships without inverted commas. However, many such friendships have been reported all over the world. Therefore the aim of this master thesis was to investigate the nature of interspecies friendships and which factors that could affect the beginning and continuation of such friendship by using videos available at YouTube. Five research questions were asked during this thesis: (1) Did animals that have developed interspecies friendships experienced a stress event, (2) Does play facilitate to start and develop a friendship between two species, (3) Do young animals tend to engage in interspecies friendships more often than older animals, (4) Do interspecies friendships occur more often under human captivity than in nature and, (5) Are there any risks involved with having interspecies friendships. In this project hundred YouTube videos showing interspecies friendship that included 57 different animal species were behaviourally recorded and analysed using SAS 9.2 software. In addition, three selected videos out of the hundred videos were analysed in detail using behaviour sequences. This was done to identify in which order behaviours occur during some specific interspecies friendships. Four stress events that appeared to have facilitated the development of interspecies friendships were identified: being orphan, separation from the mother, unfavourable environment, and predator encounter. The first four most often recorded behaviours during interspecies friendships were social play, proximity to each other, social bonding and neutral behaviours. Most of the videos with interspecies friendships had been filmed in captivity and only few in the wild. The different major captive environments that these friendships had been filmed in were identified as: at private homes, in wildlife parks, orphanage, zoological gardens, and on farms. The films showed interactions between animals that in 91.4% were young (less than 12 months) and in 8.6% were adults (more than 12 months). Adult animals seemed to perform more social bonding and proximity whereas younger animals seemed to perform more play behaviour together. On films no injuries or risks to the animal welfare were observed. Interspecies friendships have been reported in the literature to involve some risks and they have been identified as: stress, anxiety, accidents, converting friendships into predator-prey relationship, increased vulnerability as a prey and sudden aggression. The conclusions from this study are that the filmed animals appeared to have experiences some sort of stress event prior to developing interspecies friendships. Play was a common behaviour during interspecies interactions on the films. The major part of the filmed animals were less than one year. Interspecies friendships were more often filmed in human captivity than in nature. Interspecies friendships are not always beneficial but involve risks.

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