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Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves

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NH53 / Flickr

The video of a 59-year-old chimpanzee on her death bed, embracing a researcher she has known for 40 years, brought viewers around the world to tears.

“It was a very touching moment," says primatologist Frans de Waal, who knew Mama for years as a researcher himself.

"The reason I took it as a starting point for my new book is because people were so surprised how human-like her behavior was – her facial expression, her sounds, how she embraced him, how she patted his back,” he says. “And I thought, ‘Well, we all know that the chimpanzee is our closest relative, so why be surprised that they express their emotions in very similar ways?’”

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with de Waal about his new book, "Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves," which explores the depth and breadth of those emotions and what we can learn about ourselves from studying the behavior of other species.

This program originally aired on April 1, 2019.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa