Author speaks on species’ communication


Victoria Miller

Anne Benvenuti lectures about animal habits at BC

Mason J. Rockfellow, Reporter

Anne Benvenuti visited Bakersfield College’s Norman Levan Center for the Humanities on Feb. 24 to talk about how she believes that human communication is not superior to other animals’ ways of communicating.

Benvenuti’s book “Spirit Unleashed: Reimagining Human-Animal Relations,” was nominated for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction and the 2014 Pen Literary Award.

“Humans are distinct from and superior than all other animals,” said Benvenuti, “That’s wrong…every species is different from every species.”

She explained how most humans are convinced that humans are superior and how that isn’t surprising. “We like our kind best, and that’s just natural.”

Benvenuti shared an excerpt from her book, in which she had picked up a bat that was laying on the ground because it had opened its wing when she walked by it. When she picked it up, the bat brought its hand to its mouth and touched its tongue.

Benvenuti figured that the bat was dehydrated and telling her that it needed water, so she took the bat down to the creek. She watched the bat gulp up the water, swim away from her and it got out on the other side of the creek and hung upside down and fell asleep.

Just because humans can’t have a conversation with animals doesn’t mean that they are without language, explained Benvenuti.

“The language is there, we just aren’t perceiving it,” said Benvenui.

Benvenuti has had encounters with many other animals and hopes to experience more.

“I have had lots of experiences with animals like the bat and I want more,” said Benvenuti.

Benvenuti showed a short clip of how prairie dogs communicate with each other. In fact, they are very precise in communicating with each other through alarm calls that vary depending on species, colors, size, and even shape. This means that animals are capable of abstracting, explained Benvenuti.

Another short clip shown was about the Cornell listening lab where scientists were studying the ways elephants communicate and what they found was that elephants make a sound that our human ear can’t hear. This sound we can’t hear can travel up to six miles. Elephants also have a cavity in there hooves that allow elephants to communicate over large distances.

“Elephants communicate seismically over 20 miles,” said Benvenuti.

Benvenuti also talked about how some animals and even insects have certain ways of communicating. Dogs talk to each other through chemical language and bees communicate through physical language explained Benvenuti.

According to Benvenuti, humans are not at the top of the brain chart. “Whale brains win the brain award,” said Benvenuti.

The thesis to Benvenuti’s book is “Animal life on Earth is a great living conversation and this fact is spiritually significant.”

“Even though this thesis statement sounds religious, but in fact it is very scientific,” said Benvenuti.

Benvenuti has many accomplishments outside of writing her book. She has a bachelor’s in theology from the University of San Francisco, a master’s in counseling psychology from University of California, Los Angeles, a doctorate in counseling psychology from UCLA, and was also a former professor for the Kern Community College District teaching philosophy and psychology.

Benvenuti will be one of 30 people who gets to have lunch with the Dalai Lama. When asked how she got this opportunity, Benvenuti said, “Hundreds and thousands of hours of volunteer work…I’m not usually paid.”

You can learn more about Anne Benvenuti at