1) Chimpanzees and other animals prove that they’re not so different from humans, after all 

What do dolphins, elephants, chimpanzees, and humans all have in common? The answer is, well, a lot more than you may think. In fact, there is a wealth of knowledge today about the traits that humans and animals share, as well a fountain of information on animal social behavior and sentience. 

One part of a new BBCEarth series explores the idea that humans really aren’t as “unique” as they think they are when compared with their relatives in the animal kingdom. For example, when it comes to similarities between chimpanzees and humans, the evidence is astounding. Chimpanzees use tools, laugh, tickle, kiss, and can act altruistically. They make up after fighting, engage in complex social behaviors, pass along culture, and communicate through language. There’s even some evidence that chimpanzees could learn to cook (albeit, with a little help)! Chimpanzees also can recognize their own reflections in mirrors  Did you know?: chimpanzees and humans have as much as 98% of DNA in common. 

Chimpanzees, however, aren’t the only ones whose abilities and emotions overlap significantly with humans. Recent studies have found empathy in rats, left-handedness in kangaroos, intelligence in pigs, and even sentience in fish . There are also many animals that belong to family structures and have deep ties with those families . Additionally, a lawsuit to grant rights of personhood to two chimpanzees highlights just how far animal rights and animal advocacy have come. Captivity and cruelty alike are now being questioned. 

Indeed, in a recent Gallup poll, 32% of respondents said that they think animals and people should have the same rights, a 7% increase in just seven years. Moreover, 33% of Americans reported that they are “very”” concerned about animals in research.  In total, over two-thirds of Americans are either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about animals in research, as well as animals in sports and circuses, and over half are either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about animals in zoos and aquariums. 

All things considered, the treatment of animals in our society must ultimately change to reflect these insights and others that are continuing to emerge. Friends of Animals is at the forefront of the fight to recognize the intelligence and emotions of animals. FoA recently wrote a comment letter to the United Stated Department of Agriculture requesting that they consider the legal and ethical consequences of continuing the allow the use of primates and all animals in research. With advances in medical research and technology today, the use of animals in research is outdated and unnecessary, not to mention ineffective. FoA also operates the Primarily Primates sanctuary, where primates and other animals that have been held in captivity for the entertainment or research industries, or as pets, can finally retire.

2) Shopping bags, Surveys, and Sea Slugs: Out of the Oceans Comes Good and Bad News 

Recently, sharks have been a hot topic in the news, and FoA has set out to debunk some of the myths surrounding them. Thankfully, sharks and other marine life may soon be able to breathe a little easier. Hawaii recently made history by beginning its prohibition on grocery store plastic bags—the only state-wide ban of its kind in the US. 

This news comes as poaching, human development, and climate change continue to threaten global marine life. In fact, in the past year, around 1/8 of Earth’s corals have been bleached. 

Yet, hope remains as people turn their attention and resources towards understanding—and preserving—our amazing marine ecosystems.  In fact, a new hi-tech study aims to find out how many skates, rays, and sharks there are in Earth’s reefs, providing critical information for conservation initiatives moving forward.

Lastly, a few new members of the ocean family have recently been discovered. An expedition in the Philippines unearthed dozens of previously unknown marine species, including starfish, corals, and sea slugs.