“The Secret Language of Animals: A Guide to Remarkable Behavior” by Janine M. Benyus (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 512 pages, in stores)
If you observe animals in a zoo long enough, you’ll likely see some curious behavior — like preening birds, stalking lions and gorillas grooming each other.
Janine M. Benyus’ “The Secret Language of Animals,” which is an updated version of a 1998 book, seeks to demystify some of these behaviors that entertain and fascinate animal watchers.
The book features chapters on 20 different animals that break down what they do and why. The chapters are arranged by geographical region, taking readers on a journey all across the animal kingdom.
Benyus covers topics like communication, mating and parenting, and she does an excellent job of explaining these behaviors in a way that’s conversational and easy to understand. There are also helpful charts and plentiful illustrations that further simplify explanations of certain behavioral aspects.
“The Secret Language of Animals” also contains several chapters on zoos. Benyus talks of the changes many zoos have undergone to provide healthier, more stimulating environments for animals, and she discusses what makes for a good zoo — and how visitors can help a zoo become a great zoo.
At more than 500 pages, at first the book seems a bit daunting and textbook-like, but it’s broken down in a way that makes it easy to digest and allows for skipping around between chapters if some animals interest you more than others.
“The Secret Language of Animals” is a unique and engrossing book, and for animal lovers, it provides useful context and an increased understanding of the behaviors that you see in the zoo and out in the wild.