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A dolphin looks at himself in a mirror.

Any pet owner knows their cat, dog or budgie has feelings.  But many scientists considered it absurd to entertain questions about how animals might feel or that they might be thinking.  It was unacceptable to ascribe experiences like delight, boredom or self-awareness to non-humans. Now scientists are exploring the complex mysteries of the animal consciousness.

In Mysteries of the Animal Mind we meet the researchers who are finding growing evidence of compassion, cooperation, altruism, empathy, intelligence and communication in all sorts of different species. Chimps who empathize; elephants who problem-solve; lemurs who count and lizard can solve problems just as well as many birds or mammals.  Are these animals acting on instinct? Is it simply trial and error?  Or is it something more?

At the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, our cameras catch an 'eureka' moment when a young elephant proves that he can interpret a puzzle and provide a solution.  We'll meet Diana Reiss of Hunter College who will take viewers underwater at the Baltimore Aquarium. There, her team witnesses the curious looks of the dolphins as they look into a mirror for the first time. She discovers that dolphins can recognize themselves - joining a select group known to have this ability.  Dr. Frans de Waal, one the world's most widely recognized primatologists, introduces viewers to a group of chimpanzees who show us that we're not the only species with a sense of fair play. At Duke University, Brian Hare introduces us to bonobos, a close relative of ours, who will happily share food, even with a stranger, and when it comes to empathy may out do even human beings.

Iguanas solve puzzles

Join us on amazing journey into the minds of animals. You may not be surprised to find out that chimps have similar thought and behavioral patterns as humans, but what about iguanas?  What happens when we get a little further away from our fellow mammals?  What other creatures out there have cognitive and emotive capabilities we have yet to discover? 

Mysteries of the Animal Mind is produced by CBC's the nature of things and directed by Daniel Zuckerbrot.  Senior Producer is Caroline Underwood. Executive Producer is Bob Culbert.

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