A Year of Animal Oddities Around the World: 7 Reader Favorites

A Year of Animal Oddities Around the World: 7 Reader Favorites

The dog, Mali, was recognized for helping to sniff out Taliban militants and booby traps during a mission by Afghan and British Special Forces in 2012.

Working military dog, Mali, received the prestigious Dickin Medal in November. Video by PDSA

The Dickin Medal has been awarded 69 times since it was established in 1943. Its recipients include 32 pigeons — G.I. Joe among them — 32 dogs, four horses and one cat.

Snakes kept Bangkok’s fire department busy.

Snakes have always been a part of life in Bangkok. They lurk in toilets, swim in flooded streets and slither into people’s homes.

In 2017, the Bangkok Fire and Rescue Department, which is responsible for removing snakes from homes, was busier than ever. It received more than 31,800 calls for help, more than three times the number it got just five years earlier.


Firefighters with a python in Bangkok.

Amanda Mustard for The New York Times

As the sprawling city of more than 8.2 million people continues to expand into what was once wild land, snake encounters are likely to be frequent.

Syrian zoo animals were evacuated from a war zone.

Nine animals clinging to life at an abandoned zoo on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, were evacuated to a rehabilitation center in Turkey in July thanks to the help of an American journalist and businessman.


An ailing lion was given water while being transported from an abandoned zoo near Aleppo.

Four Paws International

The animals — three lions, two tigers, two bears and two hyenas — were relocated after months of uncertainty amid the country’s brutal civil war. The zoo’s owner had fled, leaving the animals caged and alone.

The American, Eric Margolis, financed the effort by local groups to move the animals after the monthslong siege of Aleppo finally ended.

Donkeys in India were jailed for four days.

In November, eight donkeys in India were jailed for four days for their expensive tastes.

Police officials in Uttar Pradesh accused the animals of eating several saplings that had been planted near a local jail as part of a cleanup campaign. The plants were worth almost $1,000, the authorities said.

Donkeys jailed for four days In Uttar Pradesh walk out of jail. Video by NDTV

Footage from local TV outlets showed the donkeys, in the town of Orai in Uttar Pradesh State, plodding out of a dingy jail in single file with their heads bowed, much like the classic police perp walk.

The death of a rare bison became an international incident.

In September, a rare wild bison wandered across from Poland into eastern Germany, where it was spotted near the town of Lebus.

On the order of a local official, a hunter shot and killed the animal, drawing international attention.


European bison near the town of Bad Berleburg, Germany, in 2013.

Marius Becker/Picture Alliance, via Associated Press

Conservationists, who have worked to protect the species, were outraged and the World Wide Fund for Nature in Germany filed a lawsuit against the local official, setting off a state investigation.

These elephants kept warm with giant blankets.

When unseasonably cold weather hit the Winga Baw camp for orphaned elephants in Myanmar in December, workers scrambled to protect the seven animals in their care. But with temperatures falling to a 40-year low, the usual technique of using straw to keep the animals warm would not suffice.

Temperatures fell to 46 degrees in some parts of the country. But the camp, in the Bago Region of Myanmar, had a secret weapon: giant knitted and crocheted blankets.


How do you keep a blanket on an elephant? Caretakers at a camp in Myanmar tied it firmly around the animal’s belly.

Save Elephant Foundation

They were donated by Blankets for Baby Rhinos, a wildlife conservation craft group made up of 1,500 knitters and crocheters across the world.

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