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Becoming Wild

How Animals Learn to be Animals


Who are we? What do we value? How do we live here?

Guided by parents, carers, teachers and siblings, we learn to answer these questions as we grow up. But it’s not just us. Many animals must learn to answer them too.

In Becoming Wild, Carl Safina reveals that culture, long thought exclusive to humankind, is abundant in the animal kingdom. Sperm whales in the Caribbean communicate through a system of clicks akin to Morse code, announcing which clan they belong to, which family and who they are individually. Among chimpanzees the obsession with male status may guarantee violence, even war, but they also have many ways to quell tensions.

As Safina shows, the better we understand the animals with whom we share this planet, the less different from us they seem.

  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (April 9, 2020)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781786077257

‘A smorgasbord of compelling details . . . Becoming Wild could easily become a television series.’

– Fortean Times

'Carl Safina combines his passion for the natural world with absorbing, sometimes breathtaking prose, transporting us into the intimate, nuanced worlds of some of the planet’s most charismatic beings.'

– Jonathan Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows

'Eloquent. . . This revelatory work sheds as much light on what it means to be human as it does on the nature of other species.'

– Publishers Weekly

‘Dr. Safina is a terrific writer, majestic and puckish in equal measure.’

– New York Times

‘[Safina] is a font of research, his wonder contagious.’

– Elle

'Safina puts forward several eye-opening and previously-overlooked implications of animal culture… a pleasure to read… another jewel in the crown of Safina’s work that packs fascinating field studies, interesting theoretical ideas, soul-searching questions, and probing reflections on human and animal nature into a book that is as profound as it is moving.'

– Inquisitive Biologist

'Safina, the ecologist and author of many books about animal behavior, here delves into the world of chimpanzees, sperm whales and macaws to make a convincing argument that animals learn from one another and pass down culture in a way that will feel very familiar to us.'

– New York Times, 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2020