An elite gaggle of geese “police,” is now employed to ward off troublemakers in China’s rural Xinjiang province. But they're just the latest example of unexpected security animals hard at work around the world.
The geese are “extremely vigilant” and seem to be “better than dogs” at preventing crime, says Zhang Quansheng, a police chief in Xinjiang’s Shawan county.
Homeowner Awirut Nathip of Thailand has not been burglarized in 15 years, thanks to two crocodiles that have lived outside of his house for that same period. According to Sky News, the crocodiles never bother Nathip, who has named the crocs “Thong” and “Nguen.”
Honeybees can sniff out land mines from up to 3 miles away, according to Mateja Janes of the University of Zagreb. Using sugar syrup irresistible to the bees, mixed with the smell of explosives, Janes and his colleagues have trained the honeybees to look for hidden mines. Bees have very keen detection abilities, normally used to find flowers.
Ostriches run up to 40 miles per hour, possess keen vision and can kick with enough force to kill a person. It’s no wonder, then, that ostriches are trained -- while still chicks -- to guard flocks of sheep in Africa and other countries. Emus, the largest birds native to Australia, are performing similar duties in the land down under.
Since the 1960s, the U.S. Navy has been training dolphins to detect metal objects from a distance. Dolphins next learn how to search for underwater mines, leaving acoustic transponder devices in the area before they return. The device then allows Navy experts to precisely locate the mines for defusing. Sea lions are also employed for similar work.
A pride of lions reportedly protected a 12-year-old girl in Ethiopia after she had been abducted and beaten by men attempting to force her into an arranged marriage, according to AP and other media reports. Sgt. Wondimu Wedajo, a policeman from Bita Genet, Ethiopia, said that the lions “stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest.”
“Scratch and sniff” gains a whole new meaning when applied to bomb-detecting rats. Mine Detection Rats (MDRs), are specially trained by Apopo, a Belgian firm, according to the BBC. The rats are trained to sniff for mines, which they then scratch as a means to communicate location. Luckily, the scratching from these lightweights isn’t enough to set off the mines, such that human experts can later disarm the explosives.
Instinctively alert and protective, llamas are now popular guard animals, safeguarding sheep, alpacas, goats, hens and other livestock from coyotes and additional predators. An Iowa State University study found that average rates of loss to predators fell from 21 percent to 7 percent after the introduction of a guard llama. In other studies, llamas have been found to completely eliminate herd losses due to predation.
Guard donkeys are so popular in Canada that Alberta’s Agriculture and Rural Development division has actually issued instructions on how to best select, train and use them as guard animals. Donkeys “have exceptional hearing, a keen nose and excellent vision,” the agency notes. “They bray, bare their teeth, chase and attempt to kick and bite dogs and coyotes.” The donkeys will even chase deer, bears, “strange livestock,” humans and other intruders in similar fashion.
For centuries, golden eagles have been used to protect humans and safeguard their property. Famed founder of the Mongol empire, Genghis Kahn, used golden eagles to attack enemies in battle. Now, in places like Uzbekistan, golden eagles are trained to protect livestock. With a wingspan of up to 7 feet, the ability to dive at 120 miles per hour, and talons that can gouge out eyes, golden eagles deter many a would-be thief or predator.