#Gaia Reading Challenge 2020 – Unlikely Friendships


The current Corona Virus pandemic has dominated the headlines recently, as it should, so the spotlight on climate change and the environment has dimmed somewhat. The rush for a vaccine or at least, viable treatment options, highlights the importance of scientific research in understanding the relationships that exist between our natural environment and us. The Gaia Reading Challenge, hosted by Sharon from Gums and Galaxies, offers the opportunity for nature and book lovers to also expand their knowledge about the natural world and our place in it.

I discovered Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S Holland in our local Toowoomba Library back in February  – before I started back into study and before the library was closed due to covid 19. It features 47 stories about unlikely friendships between differing species – relationships that you wouldn’t expect at all, and is accompanied by beautiful photos of animals together. Many of the photos are quite cute, including the one on the front cover.

Some of the stories are funny, some are quite touching and some, sadly, don’t have a happy ending. Many of these unlikely friendships take place in captivity, between animals that have been orphaned or injured. Once the struggle for survival is removed, there is a much greater opportunity for relationships based on empathy and emotional connection to both develop and thrive, even between the most unlikely of pairings.

You cannot share your life in any meaningful way with an animal and not realise they have different personalities. Are their capabilities and emotions similar to ours? Absolutely. (Jane Goodall)

Some of the unlikely friendships include…



I quite enjoyed reading this book. It was an easy read and food for thought. If  friendships can blossom between the most unlikely of animals, why is it so hard for us humans to get along? Perhaps if we addressed the inequality and inequity that exists in our society, removing the need to pit ourselves against each other in a battle for survival, could we not create a space in which empathy, compassion and genuine friendship could develop and flourish.

I believe people crave examples not just of cuteness, and not just of tolerance-but of true compassion and sharing. These stories help us get in touch with the best in ourselves. Barbara King (biologist and primate specialist) 

Jennifer S Holland is a science writer who has written for National Geographic. Unlikely Friendships is part of a series of books she has written about animal relationships.



2 thoughts on “#Gaia Reading Challenge 2020 – Unlikely Friendships

  1. I think people are getting so cut off from other living things they sometimes forget the similarities all living things have, that capacity for empathy is so important and we forget that sometimes animals have a lot to teach us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder whether we will see an increase in seeking more physical connection with others once the days of physical distancing and staying home are over. Perhaps we will have a new appreciation for living things, especially those we have not been cooped up with for weeks on end.


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