Heart-warming tales of human-animal collaboration
Lead image via Shutterstock
Despite the intractable fact that we are, in fact, animals, it often feels like humans vs the rest of the planet. Or as the Simpson’s once deftly illustrated, this is the food chain
Basically, unless a tiger has cornered you in a jungle, and it’s one-on-one wrestle time, the power balance is generally in our favour. And, as consequence, it’s basically animal genocide out there as 20+ species get snuffed out every day from the bumbling around of hominidae.
But what of the flip-side? What about things which are so restorative of your faith in human-animal-relations that you want to marry a duck? This for example:
Below, we explore some of the interesting, innovative, quirky, and sometimes creepy ways humans show love, tenderness or non-murdery association with other branches of that big ol’ taxonomic tree of life. If we’ve missed any, please post them in the comments.
Scientists and academic researchers dress as panda’s so as not to upset pandas
This is what prompted the article. Science does not get any cuter than people, who have spent many years in university, dressing up as pandas so as to not to confuse little cubs. But what of the confusion of the scientists? They study so hard to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical and they were shown only a world where they could be dependable, clinical, intellectual and cynical. I can just see them screaming inside, “I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am. Who I am!".
LOLs emerged thirty - sixty million years ago
Scientists have gone mad with power and are now tickling animals in order to understand laughter. This is no joke. They’ve discovered that apes laugh like humans, which means that we likely have a common ancestor that was partial to hysterics and gave us the giggle gene. What ever that creature was, it started a joke that set the whole world laughing. Before then, only sadness.
Dogs and Cats have lawyers
Animal law. It’s a thing. For some time now, dogged (sorry) lawyers, and local groups like Voiceless, have been addressing the legal kerfuffles animals can find themselves in. These stretch everything from housing issues, tethering of dogs, pet trusts, devocalization of pets, use of exotic animals for entertainment, animal experimentation and that vile practice of horse-drawn tourist carriages. You treat animals badly, they’ll see you in court.
Photographer uses rubber decoys to trick great white sharks into flying
Well sort of...Either way, this is an amazing photo.
Child with intense stutter finds voice through his love for jaguars
It’s the story that brought Colbert to tears. Alan Rabonwitz had an intense stutter, unable to utter a full sentence to anyone until his senior year of college. However, throughout his childhood he was always able to talk fluently when sitting in the dark with his pets. One of the best podcasts out there, Radiolab, featured his inspiring story about overcoming his disability to become the paramount researcher in the field of big cat conservation. A clear example of how animals can help us reach our human potential.
People milk snakes
It’s a job you don’t want to do hungover, but it’s vital for making antidotes and other snake venom related products. And here’s the clincher, you’ve got to do it bare handed – gloves messes up your dexterity. Antidotes means less snake fear, which means less snake genocide in the form of whacking days. The Swamp Brothers explain how it’s done:
No jetpacks at Kmart yet, but the future is kinda here and life is getting pretty roboty. Dog getting too hot? There’s an app for that.
How about sheep that can text ‘wolf’ when a hairy predator is approaching? . Or elephants that text when poachers are nearby? Something else that is great are ‘critter cams’: cameras attached to creatures to see where no-one has seen them go before - and in HD.
And then there’s smart collaring which reduces that awkward moment when human meets predator (often resulting in predators death) by tracking an animals every move - much like the way Sting romances his girlfriends. The greater understanding of behaviour assists in avoiding or managing conflict between man and wild. Less conflict means less murdering.
I was going to put this under the last heading, but thought there would like be some readers with prosthetic limbs who found it offensive to be called ‘cyborgs’ (even though I personally would love being called that). Animals are driving forward prosthetic technology for humans, and it’s win-win as they get to look totally bad-ass in the process. Want to see some of the best examples? Check out this amazing pictorial from Wired: Bottlenose dophins with new new tails, dogs with tennis ball feet, and Shetland ponies with legs replaced after attacks from pitbulls. And then there’s this cat:
Fences that make elephants beehive
Elephants like to raid farmers crops, so Kenyan farmers started poisoning the elephants. The Kenyan government, protecting the country's tourist drawcard, banned the poison. Innovative farmers and researchers came up with a brilliant solution: harness the power of bees to sting the elephants away. How? By building a fence out of beehives. This resulted in “86 per cent fewer successful crop raids by elephants and 150 per cent fewer raiding elephants”.
It also resulted in the worst pun you will read today in the form of the heading to this section.
John Ssebunnya was orphaned and then raised as a feral child by African green monkeys. He is now in the choir. Here is his story.
Living with animals
Similarly, some people voluntarily bunk down with our planetary companions. The subject of Werner Herzog’s documentary ‘Grizzly Man’, Timothy Treadwell spent 13 summers with them.
He often ran afoul of those managing the Alaskan parks who saw his behaviour as disruptive to the bears. Treadwell eventually ran afoul of the bears themselves and was eaten by a 450kg male. However, before this brutal final act, he cited his close relationship with bears (he used to read them poetry!) as pivotal in his overcoming alcoholism and drug addiction. His death may have been avoided if he had correctly identified the ‘leave me alone’ noise the bear was likely making, or if he had bear repellent spray (he objected to its use).
Dereck and Beverly Joubert are more successful. The filmmakers, and National Geographic “Explorers in Residence”, say they have spent more time with the giant cats than they ever spent with their parents - and so far they remain uneaten. They’ve come close though; here’s an inspiring CBS short documentary on them explaining how they do it. The section where a mother lion has to abandon her injured cub, whose broken spine means the little fellow has to drag its back legs, will punch you in the heart. If that doesn’t do it, then their documentation of a tiger adopting a baby baboon will (Just ignore the inconvenient detail that it had just killed the baboon’s mother).
Finally, there’s this English fellow, Shaun Ellis. He learnt how to speak wolf, became the Alpha Male in a wolfpack and reportedly eats carcasses with them. There’s a TV series about following his wolf-rearing called Living with Wolfman. He works on changing attitudes to this in intimidating animal which has been so demonised in our literature and mythologies.
Scientists have been getting finches drunk and it changes the way they sing.
When they hit .08 blood alcohol level, the finches songs became disorganised, they were less likely to be experimental and come up with new tunes, instead settling on a simple song. As they used their songs to attract mates, this means less bird booty. There’s a lesson in there for all of us.
Saving Lions by Killing Zebras
In what sounds like the zoological equivalent of the Hunger Games or Series 7, in 2010 thousands of wildebeest and zebras were herded up in Kenya and relocated to a lion’s habitat to be eaten. The idea being that the hungry lions would stop eating cattle belonging to herdsmen and who in turn would stop retaliating against the lions. Not sure how it worked out, but I picture an epic bloodbath. Not a good day for herbivores.
So, as much as we are the trolls of the living world, we still do cool things like save whales tangled in nets. And when we help them, sometimes the animals say thank you.
Have to stop writing now. Crying.