"To many, we spoke heresy. Skeptics are right to point out that it's easy to misunderstand animals, even those most like ourselves. Years ago, when I was visiting Birute Galdikas's research camp in Borneo, where ex-captive orangutans were learning to live in the wild, a new American volunteer, smitten with the shaggy orange apes, rushed up to an adult female to give her a hug. The female picked up the volunteer and slammed her against the ground. The woman didn't realize that the orangutan didn't feel like being grabbed by a stranger."
I'm not sure this story belongs in the context of "animal feelings are hard to understand/some people don't think they exist". This is more like a, don't be an idiot story. You can honestly have the exact same experience with a human as with that orangutan, if you go up and enthusiastically hug the wrong stranger at the wrong time.
The next paragraph is actually worse. After telling some story about an animal communicator (self-identified) who uses telepathy to talk to animals including an elephant: "After her telepathic conversation with the elephant, the communicator told the keeper, "Oh, that elephant really likes me. He wants to put his head in my lap." What was most interesting about this interaction was the part the communicator may have gotten right: Elephants do sometimes put their heads in the laps of people. They do this to kill them. They crush people with their foreheads like you would grind out a cigarette butt with your shoe."
Actually, elephants used to be used to kill in battle and as executioners. But they usually used their feet to crush. I'm still looking for an example of an elephant crushing anything with its forehead. The statement in the book is unsourced. *sigh* Look, feel free to make fun of the person who claims to be telepathic. I don't really care. But elephants crushing people by putting their (elephant) heads in the human person's lap? Sourcing, please!
Elephants crushing human heads using elephant feet. Just like you would _expect_ an elephant to go about the business. This head in lap theory just doesn't make a lot of sense. The elephant would get a completely unnecessary crick in its spine.
Also, for your enjoyment. An elephant snuggling in someone's lap:
Repeated, unsourced, in an excerpt in the Boston Globe:
Insert snotty remark about people from New Hampshire.
ETA: The stuff about the possible effects of octopus ink on pages 158-60 is really interesting.
Weird editing error on page 161: "(Tarantulas do this too -- if a leg is injured, they will break if off and eat it.)" The error is that the second "if" should be "it".
ETAYA: p 194 gratuitous error
"Says a cameraman for the Seattle NBC affiliate, KOMO."