On the first Saturday of the Science Festival, I was lucky enough to attend a talk with scientist Lucy Cooke, author of The Unexpected Truth About Animals. Cooke was an engaging and enigmatic lecturer, both entertaining and educational.

Cooke opened by discussing one of my favourite animals – the sloth. Fittingly, it happened to be International Sloth Day – the perfect context for this fun and engaging lecture. ‘They hang like a happy, hairy hammock, really,’ Cooke said, after showing images of sloths alongside members of The Beatles. Their haircuts truly are very similar to that of the 60s band.

Cooke moved on to discussing bats, and as students you might be interested to learn that without bats we would have no tequila. They are the primary pollinator of the agave plants from which the drink is derived.

Cooke continued her talk by discussing a world-favourite bear – the panda. However, this story had less of a happy ending compared to that of the bat and the sloth, due to the mistakes humans have made when it comes to conservation.

Animals such as the panda suffer greatly because humans attempt to anthropomorphise them – caring for them like babies, when in fact they can survive just as well on their own.
‘I think we’ve forgotten our place as animals in the world,’ was the sentiment with which Cooke finished her talk. Personally, I left the lecture feeling like I understood a little more about three special animals in our world, and with the anticipatory bug of wanting to learn more.

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