Animals are remarkably similar to humans in that they have to learn certain things from a very young age to assist them later in life. When they are young, animals are very playful and curious. They use their curiosity to learn and acquire the necessary skills for adulthood. If they do not learn these skills or are unable to learn certain behaviours, they will unfortunately not reach adulthood. Thus, being playful and curious is a necessity for animals. It not only develops crucial skills, but muscles as well as a fitness level, needed when they are fully grown.
Baby animals playing allows them to develop crucial motor skills, basically developing hand-eye coordination. young predators playing, for instance, allow them to develop hand-eye coordination and depth perception, allowing them to use their protractible claws. Often you will see baby animals sniffing and eating things that they find intriguing, trying to figure out if it is or has a good flavour and if it is a pleasant enough meal.
The above behaviours are ways of developing their skills that will serve them later in life.
When you see animals smiling, it is the male of any species analysing female scent to determine whether or not she is receptive to mating. The males will walk up to the urine of a female and breath the scent in.
After doing this, the male will lift his head and pull his lips up, exposing his teeth. This is known as “Flehmen grimace”. This allows the male to pull the female pheromones from the urine into his vomeral nasal organ. The organ then sends “messages” to the male’s brain, telling the male whether or not the female is receptive. The female may be receptive but not accepting of the male.
Story by: Southern Camp Ranger Lindi Taljaard