Book review: Unlikely friendships - odd couples

Book: Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom
Author: Jennifer S Holland
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
“Still, the attempt to pair the two species didn’t start out well. When first introduced, Themba [the elephant] chased Albert [the sheep] around the watering hole, flapping his ears and lifting his tail to look as large and threatening as possible. Albert fled, as sheep instinct demands, and hid for hours. Over three days of wary gestures and tentative touches, the pair finally accepted each other, and the result proved well worth the stressful beginning. …
Once the bond took hold, elephant and sheep were inseparable. They’d nap in tandem, horse around together, and Themba would rest his trunk on Albert’s woolly back as they explored their enclosure or went in search of snacks. Though keepers expected Themba to imitate the elder Albert, instead the sheep became the copycat, even learning to feed on Themba’s favorite leaves — from a thorny acacia plant not typically part of a sheep’s diet.”
National Geographic magazine writer Jennifer Holland compiles tales of interspecies companionships in Unlikely Friendships, a collection of heart-warming stories about different animals that have unexpectedly found a friend in each other.
A treat for animal lovers, the book shares touching stories and charming pictures of disparate creatures that were willing to accept and befriend each other; even a few that are natural enemies put aside their differences to give the world a fascinating spectacle. In some stories the animals are brought together by fate, in others by human intervention; some are reluctant, others spontaneous; some temporary, others lifelong; but all of them are touching and inspiring in their own ways.
There are tales of a stray cat that regularly visits and spends time with an Asiatic black bear at the Berlin zoo; a mare that protected a newborn fawn from predatory coyotes; a leopard’s nightly visits to a cow in a village in India; an iguana that gets along with housecats; the affectionate, albeit fleeting, bond between the macaque and the dove that grace the book’s cover; as well as stories of camaraderie between dogs and owls, cats and primates, and even a snake and a hamster, among many others. You can also see genealogical information in boxes along with each account, and get to learn a little about some of the species as you try to understand the connections between these unusual pairings.
The accounts of these relationships that seem to defy the laws of nature are uplifting, although at times heartbreak seeps into some of the episodes (like the lioness who adopted a baby oryx that was unfortunately snatched by another lion). On the whole, Unlikely Friendships is a charming collection of anomalous interspecies friendships, and it is inspiring to see these animals bond with each other, because if a cat and a rat can get along, then there is hope for the rest of us after all!


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