We’re a nation of animal lovers. Few things score as highly on the scale of “ahhhhhh” as a picture of an adorable puppy or a playful kitten.
YouTube is awash with hilarious videos of animals attacking their mirror images, chasing laser beams and getting themselves into tight squeezes.
And who hasn’t wasted an idle half hour giggling at one of the millions of cute cat compilations that invade our facebook timelines every day?
Social media is responsible for giving some animals celebrity status and that’s led to spin offs like books deals, movies and even a clothing line.
Yes, animals make us smile. But one of the reasons we love them so much is that they elicit a panorama of emotions in us – fear, disgust, awe, compassion, shock, joy, empathy . . .the list goes on.
One of the most circulated animal videos of recent years was the astonishing reunion between a pet lion and his owners a year after the animal had been released back into the wild.
Australian travellers Ace Bourke and John Rendall had bought Christian as a lion cub from Harrods in 1969. When he got too big for their home in The King’s Road, Chelsea, Christian was taken to Kenya to learn how to live in the wild.
The big cat’s story was made into a book and a documentary and, nearly forty years after the fact, the footage of Christian’s reunion with his human friends practically broke the internet.
The unforgettable film became a symbol of the potential that exists in human/animal relationships.
It seems animals are equally happy to help a stranger in need. There are countless examples of animals saving or protecting humans: the whale that saved a diver from drowning in a deep sea aquarium in China, the gorilla that protected an unconscious toddler who fell in to its zoo enclosure or the pod of dolphins that prevented a Great White Shark from attacking a group of life guards in New Zealand.
But animals don’t have to be cuddly or heroic to peak our interest.
We are just as fascinated by the bizarre, the grotesque and the downright weird.
Many of our freakiest freaks of nature make their home in the darkest depths of the ocean – the pacu fish with actual human teeth, the abominable wolf fish and the serpent-like oar fish to name but a few.
Funny, cute, gross or amazing, we can’t seem to get enough of animals. The internet is great for a quick fix over a cup of tea, but television still reigns supreme when it comes to quality animal documentaries.
David Attenborough used to have the monopoly, but these days you can choose from a vast televisual menu of animalistic treats.
Television even teaches our children to love animals by making them fall in love with incongruous characters like Peppa Pig and Raa Raa the Noisy Lion. If your child is snorting, roaring or barking before they can even talk, chances are you’ve got an animal lover on your hands.