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the myth of sisyphus ... or castoridae

A beaver was admitted to the vet hospital last week after being shot in the face. The story I heard is that a local resident mistook it for a hare or other garden pest and opened fire before getting a proper identification. The beaver was brought in for treatment, diagnosed with severe brain damage and limited nerve responses, and put in the care of a few fourth-year students. Daily medication, exercise, and showers were prescribed by the hospital's exotic/wild animal specialist. One of the students, however, thought it would be a better idea to fill a tub for the beaver to get some practice swimming.

The student left for a few minutes to grab a few forms and found the beaver dead on her return. Given the delicate state of its nervous system there's a very strong chance that the beaver had been unable to hold its head above water and subsequently drowned. This particular student had other ideas. According to her, the beaver committed suicide instead. Personally, I'm more willing to believe the first explanation, but it does bring up an interesting question: are there animals with a sense of self so developed that they would attempt suicide? A fox will chew off its own foot to escape a trap, but that is a much different situation. I wonder if there are any studies on beached whales that discuss the possibility of suicide?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 17th, 2006 05:23 am (UTC)
What was that student thinking? Jeez.

I've heard that some horses/dogs commit suicide after its dies. My intuition tells me that's more poetic license than anything else, but who knows.

One of the bands I listen to has a new single coming out, and the video is based on the Myth of Sisyphus (rocks up the hill and the like). Should be good.
Sep. 17th, 2006 05:25 am (UTC)

after its MASTER dies...
Sep. 17th, 2006 05:38 am (UTC)
I think it was an easy way to prevent anyone from blaming her - but now they probably think that it's her fault and she isn't very bright. That's an interesting fact/theory about horses and dogs.

Albert Camus wrote an existentialist essay on suicide called Le Mythe de Sisyphe that introduces his concept of the Absurd and discusses how Sisyphus can be seen as a classical representation of the modern-day office or factory worker and their struggle against mundanity. That's where the first half of the entry title comes from, while the second is the genus name for beavers ... which might have been a little odd to include?
Sep. 17th, 2006 10:10 pm (UTC)
'suicide fish'
omg, that is so sad!

i had a friend who's fish committed suicide (or so i used to tease her).

Sep. 19th, 2006 03:52 am (UTC)
Re: 'suicide fish'
Was it always jumping out of its aquarium?
I swear there are some bettas that just look eternally depressed ...
Sep. 19th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC)
Re: 'suicide fish'
i think the fish just decided it was time.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )