The world is a vast and diverse place, filled with countless species of animals, each with unique characteristics and behaviors. While we often admire animals for who they are, some for their beauty, abilities, or power, there are moments when they display extraordinary heroism and bravery that capture our hearts and make headlines around the globe. These remarkable stories serve as a testament to the incredible capabilities and personalities to be found within the animal kingdom.
Of course, as animal advocates, we know that no animal needs to display such heroism, or special abilities for us to respect who they are and keep advocating for their inherent rights, but it’s nice to remind ourselves that our cousins of other species can be amazing too – just like us!
Ten Amazing Animal Heroes
These are just ten of those instances where animals amazed the world by being absolute heroes.
1. Sandra, an Orangutan in Argentina
In 2014, Sandra was the first non-human animal to be granted habeas corpus – a right only previously reserved for humans. Pablo Buompadre, President of the Association of Officials and Attorneys for the Rights of Animals (AFADA) brought a writ of habeas corpus against the Government of the City of Buenos Aires and the City Zoological Garden of Buenos Aires on behalf Sandra, whose parents were each from different orangutan species.
Writes Animal Law: “AFADA sought the immediate release and relocation of Sandra to the primate sanctuary of Sorocaba, in the State of São Paulo in Brazil. AFADA argued that Sandra had been deprived illegitimately and arbitrarily of her freedom by the authorities of the zoo, and that her mental and physical health was at the time deeply deteriorated, with imminent risk of death.”
Sandra was not only an example for the entire world, making hundreds of headlines all over the globe, but she set a legal precedent that now can be used by any lawyer in the world to keep fighting for other animals held captive in zoos.
2. Hachiko, a Dog in Japan
Back in the 1920s, Hachiko, an Akita dog from Japan, demonstrated unwavering loyalty and dedication to his adoptive human father, Professor Ueno. Even after Ueno’s passing, Hachiko continued to wait for him at the Shibuya train station every day for nearly ten years, until his own death. His touching story serves as a symbol of the unbreakable bond between humans and the animals they rescue and care for. A statue of Hachiko was erected outside Shibuya station, and is one of the most visited statues in the world. Everybody wants a photo with him, including the writer of these lines. This story is cool enough to have Richard Gere starring in a blockbuster movie about Hachiko, called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.
If anyone told the author of this blog to doodle the concept of “unconditional love”, it would certainly have the shape of the first skinny, gorgeous, and kind black dog I ever rescued.
3. A Life-Saving Dolphin Pod, New Zealand
“Dolphins save swimmers from shark attack”, wrote the English newspaper The Guardian. Now, that’s a story we all might be interested in.
In 2004, off the coast of New Zealand, lifeguards Rob Howes and his daughter were swimming when they found themselves surrounded by a group of dolphins. It soon became clear why. These dolphins were acting as a protective shield, keeping a great white shark at bay until the humans could safely swim back to shore. This incredible act of heroism demonstrated the dolphins’ ability to sense danger and their desire to protect others.
There are many similar stories online – even whales have been known to save scientists from shark attacks – so the best way to pay them back is to save their oceans. There are so many ways we can help protect the oceans.
4. Kabang, a Dog in the Philippines
Kabang, a brave and loyal mixed-breed dog from the Philippines, jumped in front of a motorcycle back in 2012 to save the lives of two children. In doing so, she suffered severe facial injuries, but her selfless act ensured the children’s safety. Kabang’s story inspired people around the world, leading to a successful fundraising campaign for her medical treatment. She was eventually treated at UC Davis in the United States and lived to the great age of 13.
5. Tara, a Cat in the United States
In Bakersfield, California, a young boy was riding his bike in his front yard when he was attacked by a neighbor’s dog. Upon realizing the danger, Tara, the family’s cat, leaped to the boy’s defense, scaring the dog away. Tara’s heroic actions were caught on a home security camera, and she became a symbol of feline bravery. The video went viral and soon she even had offers to appear on magazine covers.
This directly challenges the oh-so-funny videos we all see on TikTok of cats being absolute rugs and waking up only to stretch or eat. Tara is 15 years old now and she rightfully has her own Wikipedia page.
6. Margarita and Carmen, Two Cows in Spain
The stories took place in different months of the same year, but what happened is so similar that the entire animal rights movement of Spain remembers their case. Both Margarita and Carmen were born on farms with the intention that they be exploited for
their milk and meat, like so many other animals around the world. First, Carmen was abandoned by the farmer. He failed to pay a living wage to his workers and he simply left everything behind. Amazingly, Carmen survived and Santuario Vegan took her in as a member of their huge family.
In the meantime, Sweet Margarita, as all the neighbors in Catalonia knew her, had a loving human family, but things started to look bleak. The Spanish government didn’t want her or Carmen to be considered companion animals and were seeking to destroy both of them. A campaign to save them swung into action.
Carmen was saved first, and this helped in Margarita’s case. She was eventually also saved by Santuario El Hogar, after making headlines all over the country. Almost 200k people had signed a petition supporting her right to live.
7. Perlie, a Parrot in the United States
In 2014, the network CBS reported: “Pet Parrot Saves Owner From House Fire.” Everyone was asleep at the family’s house in Fort Lauderdale when a fire broke out in the laundry room. Fires can be fatal in just a matter of minutes, not only because of the flames, but because of the smoke. Perlie, the parrot, started alerting the family as soon as she sensed the flames coming out of the room giving Laurajean Niesel, her fiancé, and children enough time to escape. The ironic thing about this is that everyone except for adoptive mum Laurajean, found Perlie “annoying.” If it wasn’t for her, being more brilliant than any fire alarm, the story could have turned out quite differently.
8. Inky, an Octopus in New Zealand
“The Great Escape: Inky the octopus legs it to freedom from aquarium,” wrote The Guardian. Don’t you just love a good old escape story where the hero has to overcome so many challenges? That’s exactly what Inky, the octopus, did in a New Zealand zoo in 2016. Octopuses are solitary animals – they are introverts one could say – but it’s one thing choosing a coral reef as a hiding place to have as many naps as you want in a vast, incredible ocean and quite another being held captive by humans who display you like some cake in a store window.
Alix Harvey, an aquarist at the Marine Biological Association in England says that octopuses are “fantastic escape artists” and that “they have a complex brain, excellent eyesight, and research suggests they have the ability to learn and form mental maps.”
If you live close to an aquarium, keep an eye on the pipes in your house; you might have to foster a brilliant fugitive one of these days…
9. Harambe, a Gorilla in the United States
The tragic incident involving Harambe, a silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, brought attention to the complex and caring nature of these magnificent creatures. When a young child fell into Harambe’s enclosure, he protected the child rather than showing aggression as some people might have assumed. Despite this, Harambe was shot by the zoo. But Harambe’s death was not in vain. It highlighted the immense potential for interspecies empathy and care that can be found within the animal kingdom.
We still don’t understand the decision to kill Harambe, the same way we don’t understand why zoos exist in the first place when conservation can be done in wild refuges, instead of cages.
10. Esther, the (Wonder) Pig in Canada
Esther is a personal favorite of GenV since her wonderful achievements are, well, just being her. She was rescued by two dads, Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter in 2012 who thought they were getting a tiny pig for their apartment. Long story short, Esther started growing…a lot. They soon realized she was one of the hundred of millions of pigs who are slaughtered for their meat, and that their apartment was not going to be enough. Thankfully, they decided to keep Esther, and knowing Esther as they did, they soon became vegan. After all, all animals trapped inside farms have amazing abilities and personalities, just like Esther.
Not long after that, the Esther Phenomena started stealing hearts all over the world and making headlines. Her dads started their own animal sanctuary to help many more animals. Esther has her own Insta account and she’s so cheeky and lively that I guarantee she will make you laugh too.
On occasions like these, we all know what Anatole France meant by: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
Animals Are Heroes
These ten remarkable stories of animal heroism remind us that the natural world is full of surprises and inspiring tales. But all animals, with their diverse personalities and agency, have the capacity to exhibit incredible bravery and compassion when faced with challenging situations. As we continue to coexist with them, these stories serve as a testament to the importance of respecting and appreciating all creatures who share our planet. Whether they’re a mama bear looking for food to feed her babies or a loving cat protecting his family, animals have proven time and again that they are true heroes in their own right.
If you want to keep reading what about makes animals so special, you can go and find out about their inner agency and power to display that voice of their own; or read about another eight stories of rescued animals who will absolute steal your heart; and finally, why these five species of animals are so vital to fight climate change here.