Man's best friends: 7 amazingly trained animals
Reports of killer dolphins on the loose sound kind of crazy, but it wouldn't be the first time we've trained animals to do incredible--or in this case, deadly--things. From fighting terrorists together to sniffing out air pollution, man and animal have a long and colorful history of helping each other out.
We're used to seeing eye dogs, but a miniature horse? Mona Ramouni of Williamston, Michigan is blind but sees through the eyes of her chestnut-brown miniature horse, Cali. Not only can they live to 50, horses are instinctive guides. If a horse within the herd becomes blind, another horse will automatically take responsibility for it. "People love Cali. It's like traveling with a rock star," Ramouni said. "She is a people magnet."
Homing pigeons have an incredible sense of direction. High concentrations of iron in their beak allow them to detect the Earth's magnetic field while a heightened sense of smell means they can orient themselves using the spatial distribution of atmospheric odors. As such, they've been used extensively as carrier pigeons. One homing pigeon, Cher Ami, was awarded the French Croix de guerre for his heroic service in delivering 12 important messages during World War I, despite having been very badly injured.
In the 1970s, the UK's intelligence agency, MI5, considered using a team of trained gerbils to help catch terrorists. Placing them at security checks, the idea was that they would press a lever if they sniffed out high levels of adrenalin. Unfortunately, they weren't able to discern between terrorists and passengers who were simply scared of flying and the project was canned.
But dolphins are some of the smartest animals around. They're also mammals. What about training a fish? That's exactly what Jackie Chan did in a YouTube video that originally appeared on the Rush Hour star's website. In the video, Chan calls the fish over and has it flip over so he can rub its belly.
German airports employ the help of bees to detect air pollution by monitoring their honey for toxins. Eight airports now use these "biodetectives."
With the ability to sniff out a rotting carcass from 3,000 feet in the air, the German police have sought the help of specially trained turkey vultures, which can cover more ground than dogs, to help them find corpses.
Like Ukraine, the U.S. Navy has dabbled with dolphins, too, recruiting 20 bottled nosed dolphins and California sea lions to serve as anti-terror officers, guarding the shore. They are better than anything we have ever made, said Mike Rothe, head of science for the Navy's marine mammal program.