New Animal Planet special explores animal communication

Can dogs detect cancer? The answer, explored in a new television special featuring Dr. Jane Goodall, reinforces the idea that dogs are “man’s best friend.” This is one of the many acts of communication between humans and animals featured in the new Animal Planet special, Jane Goodall’s When Animals Talk.

The two-hour special premiering Sunday, June 12, at 8 p.m. (ET) explores how animals can learn our language and spotlights unique human-animal partnerships. The special focuses on personal stories about animals and incorporates man-on-the-street interviews. It also explores the unique bond between people and their pets and the special language they develop together.

Dr. Goodall also explores the cues animals pick up on in place of the spoken word. She learns the secrets of elephant whisperers and how rats sniff out land mines in Mozambique. She learns whether animals can predict natural disasters, and about how dogs help rehabilitate youth offenders and improve reading skills.

Here is a sneak peak at some of the amazing stories:

Dogs that can detect cancer

There are 20 known cases of dogs alerting an individual that they have cancer. In laboratory tests, certain dogs identified cancer correctly 95 percent of the time. Gill Lacey’s dog Trudy sniffed at a mole on her leg for six months. Eventually Lacey decided to see a doctor. Trudy probably saved Lacey’s life because the mole was cancerous.

Dr. Goodall, a firm believer in the connection between humans and animals, was not surprised that dogs can detect cancer.

“I think that given the dog’s nose, his amazing sense of smell, it shouldn’t really surprise us that dogs can really sniff out a disease within a body,” Dr. Goodall said. “I’m sure there are many, many partnerships we can form if we just take the animals on their own terms — if we just watch them and think there’s a sense they have that we don’t have, and maybe, maybe they can use that sense to help us.”

Rats detecting land mines in Africa

There are 40 million unexploded land mines in Africa. On average, someone is injured or killed by a mine every week. In Tanzania, giant pouched rats — a larger, less aggressive and longer-living cousin of the common brown rat — have been trained to detect buried mines. Because they are so light, they don’t trigger an explosion.

Communicating with orcas

The 27 orcas in Patagonia are the only orcas on earth to catch sea lions by beaching themselves. Orcas, also known as killer whales, weigh up to five tons and are the largest member of the dolphin family. Roberto Bubas has spent the past 12 years letting the orcas get to know him. Eventually, Bubas entered the water with the orcas.

“They start to come together to push to each other and start to scream, to make sounds, and I, I was able to touch them,” Bubas said.

Bubas has made contact hundreds of times with orcas in Patagonia. No other wild orcas have tried to communicate with a human being.

Jane Goodall’s When Animals Talk marks the third special in a media partnership between Discovery Communications Inc., and the Jane Goodall Institute. Discovery’s broad array of media vehicles in the US and around the world provides a powerful platform to bring public attention to critical biodiversity issues affecting chimpanzees and all wildlife. Animal Planet currently reaches more than 85 million homes in the United States and 126 million homes in 70 other countries.


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