BECOMING A TIGER: How Baby Animals Learn to Live in the Wild

Susan McCarthy, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (418p) ISBN 978-0-06-620924-1

Although all animals come into the world with certain innate behaviors, such as sneezing, most life skills do need to be learned, says McCarthy, even things as simple as cramming fingers into one's mouth. Take Cody, an eight-week-old orangutan: "He wanted to put his fingers in his mouth and suck on them, but it was hard to get them to the right place," writes McCarthy, coauthor of the bestselling When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Life of Animals . After "waving his hand around, jamming it in his ear, [and] making expectant sucking noises with his mouth," he seemed confused. Baby animals like Cody, McCarthy explains, learn in a variety of ways, like trial and error, copying adults and conditioning. She divides the book into broad categories, such as finding food ("How to Make a Living"), avoiding predators ("How Not to Be Eaten") and communicating ("How to Get Your Point Across"), and then uses hundreds of examples gleaned from scientific journals, books and wildlife rehabilitators who care for orphaned animals to show how animals learn. McCarthy writes clearly and her penchant for humor (she explains early on that imprinting "will be discussed in scandalous detail later") makes the book an easy read, both for students of learning and those who can't get enough of television's Animal Planet . Agent, Stuart Krichevsky. (July)

Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
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Paperback - 418 pages - 978-0-06-093484-2
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