A few days ago the picture of an orangutan extending its hand to a man it thought was in trouble in the muddy river running through a Borneo conservation forest went viral. Why? Because, the wild beast was moved by a spontaneous instinct to help a member of a different species. The man, a warden of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, was searching for snakes in order to make the place safe for the endangered apes. But the orangutan thought the man was in danger and needed help. What a heart-warming moment! Even a wild beast's heart also melts for man. Whether the beast could recognise the man or not, does hardly matter. Its instinctive offer of help is what really matters. From the posture, it can be realised that the ape had no mischievous plan. It is man, the most rational being, who can camouflage his ulterior motive to present a completely different behaviour -pretend to be what one is not. An orangutan appears to be the last animal to have mastered such a pretension.
It will never be known if the big ape was disappointed when the man refused his help. The man later disclosed to the amateur photographer who took the picture and posted on social media that he did not accept the hand lent to him because 'it's a wild animal, not one we are familiar with'. Perhaps he did the right thing because he was not in danger in the first place and second, he was doing his normal duty and rationality prevailed over emotion.
However in the animal world, bond between two animals of different species is not uncommon. The news of one such interspecies friendship comes from as far as Rochester, New York. It is a touching story of two handicapped creatures -a cihuahua puppy and a pigeon. The puppy is born with a defective spine and cannot move his hind legs and the pigeon has suffered a neurological damage that does not allow it to fly. Now a puppy belonging to the canine family and the avian creature were unlikely buddies by all means. However they have become bosom mates sharing with each other the warmth of their hearts, courtesy of the Mia Foundation, a rescue organisation in Rochester.
When the foundation's founder brought them together, it was magical to see the way they responded to each other. Looked like they were members of the same nest or litters! The two snuggled as if they were comforting each other and at the same time drawing strength for survival. Interspecies friendship or motherly affection transcends the world of rational arguments. It is a matter of heart -one that defies explanation and small, mundane considerations.
When a dog assumes the role of a foster mother to a cub of a leopard or a goat to a puppy, the usual notion of motherhood gets a jolt. But then one does not have difficulty to spot something of the order of a universal motherhood. Women of a tribe called Bishnoi in Rajasthan breastfeed orphaned or injured fawns in the same way they do their own offspring. To sophisticated urban people, this may smack of primitiveness but on consideration from universal motherhood, this assumes a significant meaning.
The fact is that the living world is more mysterious than the worldly people may imagine. Life of any form has something in common -elan vital - life force that is. It cannot be created by man. Whether it has been a product of the evolutionary process or created by a supreme being is still a matter of debate. But there is no doubt that the essential binding force between and among lives runs deep. Not everyone can appreciate this. But some people devote their entire life to unravel the mystery. It calls for respect for life. When we kill animals for foods we hardly care if we have a right to do so. Does it ever occur to us that we have no right to do away with something we cannot create?