Mama's Last Hug

Animal Emotions and What They Teach Us about Ourselves

Frans de Waal

Published: 14 March 2019
Hardback, Demy HB
138x216mm, 348 pages
ISBN: 9781783784103


Mama's Last Hug opens with the moving farewell between Mama, a dying chimpanzee matriarch, and her human friend, a professor who inspired the author's work. Their parting, the video of which has been watched by millions online, is not only a window into the deep bonds they shared, but into the remarkable emotional capacities of animals.

In this groundbreaking and entertaining book, primatologist Frans de Waal draws on his renowned studies of the social and emotional lives of chimpanzees, bonobos and other primates, and personal encounters with many other species, to illuminate new ideas and findings about animal emotions: joy, grief, shame, love, pain and happiness.

Exploring the facial expressions of animals, human and animal politics, and animal consciousness, de Waal illustrates how profoundly we have underestimated animals' emotional experiences. He argues that emotions occupy a far more significant place in the way we organise our societies than a more rationalist approach would advocate. His radical proposal is that emotions are like organs: humans haven't a single organ that other animals don't have, and the same can be said of our emotions.

About the author

Image of Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People. The author of Our Inner Ape(Granta, 2005) among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University's Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia. More about the author


‘[De Waal] makes an excellent case for the hypothesis that there is no emotion in our human psyche that we don't see in our closest relatives - and, in fact, in intelligent animals of all kinds, especially mammals and large-brained birds ... A convincing book, and De Waal [is] an excellent observer of primate behaviour [and] immensely knowledgeable... a window into chimps' lives, and a looking glass for our own’ Tom Chivers



A captivating and big-hearted book, full of compassion and brimming with insights about the lives of animals, including human onesYuval Noah Harari

Brilliant...the study of emotions is a new frontier in the science of animal behaviour’

Entertaining, convincing and moving

Fascinating. Frans De Waal makes us think long and hard about the true nature of animal emotions’ Desmond Morris

Hugely informative, engaging and readable...[de Waal's] book has much to teach us’

Scientifically enlightening... [de Waal's] writing and science are infectiously goodAdam Rutherford

This is an important book, wise and accessibleRobert M. Sapolsky

‘After you've read Mama's Last Hug it becomes obvious that animals have emotions. Learn how they resemble us in many ways’ Temple Grandin, author

‘Anyone reading this book will be changed forever. De Waal has spent so many decades watching intently and thinking deeply that he sees a planet that is deeper and more beautiful than almost anyone realizes. In these pages, you can acquire and share his beautiful, shockingly insightful view of life on Earth’ Carl Safina, author

‘De Waal is the ultimate zoological magician. His animals hold up mirrors and make you see yourself. Whether you find that terrifying or exhilarating is up to you. He is prescient, unnerving, politically explosive, and always downright entertaining. He can unmake and remake you, and you should let him’ Charles Foster, author,

‘Frans de Waal has spent most of his working life watching chimpanzees, and his findings have changed our understanding of the animal world’ John Carey

‘I doubt that I've ever read a book as good as Mama's Last Hug: Animal and Human Emotions, because it presents in irrefutable scientific detail the very important fact that animals do have these emotions as well as the other mental features we once attributed only to people. Not only is the book exceedingly important, it's also fun to read, a real page-turner. I can't say enough good things about it except that it's utterly splendid Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

‘In Mama's Last Hug, Frans de Waal marshals his wealth of knowledge and experience, toggling expertly between rigorous science and captivating anecdote to explain animal behavior-humans included. While doing so, he rebukes the common conceit that we are necessarily better, or smarter, than our closest relatives'’ Jonathan Balcombe, author

‘Superb... striking... remarkable... illuminating’ Mark Cocker

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