Jonathan Balcombe
Author, scientist, and leading animal advocate

Animal behavior expert Jonathan Balcombe is a passionate advocate for animals and their living spaces. His highly acclaimed books What a Fish Knows, Pleasurable Kingdom, Second Nature, and The Exultant Ark present animals in a new light and presage a revolution in the human-animal relationship. A PhD scientist and vegan, Balcombe’s dynamic message resonates with timely issues that affect everyone, including climate change, biodiversity, and personal health.


He has given lectures and presentations on six continents (the penguins eagerly await his arrival in Antarctica). Born in England and raised in New Zealand and Canada, Balcombe studied biology in Canada before earning a PhD in ethology (animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee. He has written over 50 scientific papers and book chapters. In his spare time he enjoys biking, baking, birding, Bach, and trying to understand the squirrels on his balcony.


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Second NatureThe Inner Lives of Animals
St. Martin's Griffin

Do baboons have a sense of right and wrong? Do cats and dogs have their feelings hurt? Animal behavior expert Jonathan Balcombe makes the case that animals, once viewed only as mindless automatons, actually have rich sensory experiences and emotional complexity.

Pleasurable KingdomAnimals and the Nature of Feeling Good
St. Martin's Griffin

Pleasurable Kingdom presents new evidence that animals--like humans--enjoy themselves. From birds to baboons, insects to iguanas, animals feel good thanks to play, sex, touch, food, anticipation, comfort, aesthetics, and more. Combining rigorous evidence, elegant argument and amusing anecdotes, leading animal behavior researcher Jonathan Balcombe shows that the possibility of positive feelings in creatures other than humans has important ethical ramifications for both science and society.

What a Fish KnowsThe Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Do fishes think? Do they really have three-second memories? And can they recognize the humans who peer back at them from above the surface of the water? In What a Fish Knows, the myth-busting ethologist Jonathan Balcombe addresses these questions and more, taking us under the sea, through streams and estuaries, and to the other side of the aquarium glass to reveal the surprising capabilities of fishes.

Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals From optimistic starlings, to dogs who object to unfair treatment, animals lead lives of acute sensitivity, awareness, and virtue. Against this backdrop, our own behavior toward animals needs a major overhaul.
Beastly Bliss: Animal Pleasure and its Significance This lavishly illustrated presentation debunks the popular perception that life for animals is a continuous, grim struggle for survival. As pleasure-seekers, animals’ lust for play, sex, touch and food inspires a revolutionary new view of animals.
The Inner Lives of Fishes Balcombe combines science with story-telling to explore the colorful lives of the least understood (and most exploited) vertebrates on Earth. Balcombe’s latest book, What a Fish Knows, will blow your fishy biases clear out of the water.
Other topics Jonathan’s expertise on animal sentience and behavior appeals to diverse audiences. His presentations, which combine striking images and uplifting anecdotes, can be tailored to any age group and audience interest.

Check out an interview with Jonathan Balcombe on NPR.

Read reviews for What a Fish Knows.

Learn more about Jonathan Balcombe here.

Praise for Second Nature
"Balcombe builds a compelling case for blurring the line between animal and human perception...a passionate and persuasive argument for vegetarianism on both humanitarian and environmental grounds."
-Publishers Weekly

"Balcombe paints a new picture of the inner lives of animals that diverges from the struggle-or-perish image often presented in the popular media. He challenges traditional views of animals and spells out why the human-animal relationship needs a complete overhaul."
-Ellie Brecher, Crazy for Critters, blog of the Miami Herald

Praise for Pleasurable Kingdom
"Brisk, erudite and enormously excellent, approachable introduction to the basic issues in animal behavior."
-Publishers Weekly

"In Pleasurable Kingdom, Balcombe draws together an extraordinary amount of information to help us to appreciate that we are not the only species that can, if all goes well, live joyful lives."
-Peter Singer

Praise for What a Fish Knows
“An eye-opening tour . . . Popular science writing at its best.”
—Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat

What a Fish Knows will leave you humbled, thrilled, and floored. Jonathan Balcombe delivers a revelation on every page, presenting jaw-dropping studies and stories that should reshape our understanding of, and compassion for, some of the most diverse and successful animals who have ever lived . . . Bravo!”
—Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus, a National Book Award finalist

“With the vivacious energy of a cracking good storyteller, Balcombe draws deeply from scientific studies and his own experience with fish to introduce readers to them as sentient creatures that live full lives governed by cognition and perception.”
Publishers Weekly

“[A] sparkling exposition . . . A compelling pitch for greatly expanding fish conservation.”
—Ray Olson, Booklist

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