In 1988, a team of rescuers managed to safely extricate three California Grey whales trapped in a treacherous ice flow off the coast of the North Pole. This real-life incident was the inspiration for Big Miracle, a motion picture starring Drew Barrymore that was released last year. Here are a few other true tales of rescued animals that would make excellent movie fodder.
African Mud Bath
Extracting a young animal from a muddy hole probably sounds like a simple task — unless it weighs 250-300 pounds. Last November, a pair of lodge owners discovered a 5-year-old elephant buried up to his neck in a mud-filled crater on the banks of southern Africa’s Zambezi River. The animal became trapped when the mud dried in the sun; when a rescue team arrived on the scene, they determined that the elephant had been stuck for at least 12 hours. Using more than 50 gallons of water shuttled from the river, rescuers were able to loosen the mud — as well as cool the elephant, which appeared to be suffering from heat exposure. Their efforts were successful, and the baby was freed without causing injury to its legs (a major concern throughout the rescue).
Wet Dog Smell
Very little is known about the canine that firefighters pulled out of the L.A. River last March. Rescuers could not determine the dog’s breed, whether or not it was a stray, or how it managed to fall into the then-raging river. Onlookers watched helplessly for more than an hour as the animal unsuccessfully attempted to climb up the sheer concrete sides until rescue crews arrived. When attempts to save the dog from the embankment failed, one of the firefighters was attached to a harness and dropped into the river via helicopter, where he grabbed the frightened dog and hoisted him out of harm’s way. Once rescued, the canine presumably showed its appreciation to the firefighter by shaking drops of water all over him.
You really have to hand it to firefighters — when they storm into burning buildings, there really is no telling what they’ll find. Last March, a British rescue crew responded to a sizable blaze in downtown Essex. They realized quickly that the building was a pet store — a reptile pet store, to be exact — and many of the exotic animals were trapped inside the burning walls. The firefighters managed to rescue 10 Nile crocodiles, 20 lizards, six giant tortoises and a Burmese python before the structure collapsed; only five creatures perished in the fire. “Firefighters were crawling around in the dark smoke, knowing there were potentially dangerous animals about,” remarked Steve King, the local station’s watch manager, “it was one of the strangest jobs we have ever attended.”
In December, rescue crews in Devon, U.K., managed to save hundreds of fish trapped in… water. Wait, what? As it happened, the Western Grand Canal collapsed during a heavy rainstorm, sending hundreds of pike, perch, bream, and other species of fish into a nearby field, where a large — but temporary — pool of water had formed. The larger fish were the main focus of the rescue, since many would ostensibly lay eggs in the spring and boost the local fishing industry. But all told, more than 400 fish were eventually rescued from what would have been certain death once the pool evaporated. One rescuer later remarked that the task was the “most difficult netting job” he had ever performed.
I Can Has PVC? Lolz!
Piper, like most kittens, was adorable and not very bright. By the time Myra Amado of Wareham, Mass., found the small animal in a drainage ditch near her yard, it was completely stuck in a section of PVC pipe from the neck down. She was relieved to find the kitten was still alive — meowing like hell, as it turned out — but Amado called firefighters when she could not remove it from the pipe. The rescue crew applied a generous amount of vegetable oil, thereby ruining what was arguably the cutest section of PVC pipe ever assembled — but also saving Piper’s life.
The Monkey Did It
According to ABC News, one room in a house can completely burn down in less than three minutes. How many rooms does the average house have? Six or seven? You get the idea — fires move quickly. Yet somehow, a husband-and-wife rescue team managed to save 22 dogs and a marmoset monkey when flames began to engulf their Phoenix residence. While it would be safe to assume that extracting the monkey was the most difficult task, it should be noted that the dogs included a “herd” of 16 chihuahuas that the couple was dog-sitting at the time of the fire. The house was gone, but no humans or animals were injured in the blaze.
This Turtle Needs Heimlich, Stat!
The dangers of eating alone were vividly illustrated early last year in the Florida Keys when some deep sea snorkelers spotted a loggerhead turtle gasping for air. The captain requested permission from local wildlife officials to approach the large reptile, and then hoisted it aboard the vessel. Upon examination, the captain discovered the culprit — a puffer fish that became lodged in the turtle’s airway. Crew members carefully extricated the troublesome morsel and shuttled the loggerhead to a nearby animal hospital, where it was treated and released back into the wild.
We’ll leave you with this video of a bear rescue that took place on the University of Colorado campus. What does the video prove? That animal rescues are sometimes hilarious — though for the record, the bear was fine.
By Brad Nehring