The relationship between humans and animals is a complicated one, and an old one. Peeps and animals go way back. Of course, we didn’t always have it as good we do today. Go back 100,000 years ago, and you and your buddies would have to worry (big-time) about a tiger coming around for dinner… if you know what we mean. These days, we’re at the top of the food chain, and we don’t have to worry too much about whether or not we are on someone’s menu.
One of the big questions popping up these days is: Can we be friends with wild animals? Is it a good idea? Or is it too dangerous? Well, of course, there will always be a little risk involved. But according to these fascinating pictures and stories, it seems like in some surprising cases, humans and wild animals can indeed be pals. Stick around and get ready to explore these crazy friendships, enjoy!
Capybaras Can Apparently Be Amazing Pals
Meet Melanie and Richard Typaldos. They are a sweet couple from Texas that like to enjoy life. The end. Just kidding, this story has a twist. Meet Gary – their best furry buddy and awesome roommate who happens to be a capybara. If you feel like we’re dancing around with semantics, you’re right. We feel that the word “pet” is a little outdated and therefore decided not to use it in this article. Anyway, let’s get to know the fam.
The Typaldos family adopted Gary from his previous family who felt they could no longer adequately care for this big cute galoot. Capybaras are the biggest member of the rodent family, and Gary weighs almost 120 lbs. In nature, capybaras spend most of their time in the water. Melanie and Richard installed a huge pool for him, and he loves it. By all accounts, Gary is happy. In general, a capybara bite can be serious, but Gary is always a darling.
Elephants Can Literally Be Life-Savers
This is Darrick Thomson. Originally from Toronto, Canada, he lives in Thailand and works on a nature reserve. At some point early in his career there, a young female elephant was brought to him in really bad shape. Her name is Kham Lha (one of the cuties seen below). He really took a special interest in her and worked really hard to nurse her back to full health. Today, they have an incredibly tight bond, and Kham Lha is thriving.
A few years ago, Darrick wanted to show some guests at the reserve that he indeed has a special connection with his long-trunked sweetheart. He crossed a little river while she was in sight and pretended to be in trouble. Then, adorably, Kham Lha came to his “rescue!” He said “…if you show warmth and kindness to them, they will treat you well, too.” Stories like this one give us some evidence that we can be friends with wild animals.
Some People Are Cat People
Some people like dogs, and some like big cats. Such is the case with animal enthusiast and veteran conservation volunteer Dolph C. Volker For years, he has volunteered at the Cheetah Experience Breeding Centre, in South Africa. There, he takes care of cheetahs and works on finding methods to improve their breeding rate and conditions. Over the years, he has cultivated a very special relationship with one cheetah in particular: Gabriel (below).
Not long ago, he was gone for a full year, and upon his return, Gabriel recognized him and came to give him kisses. Check out the footage, it’s awesome. Volker loves cheetahs, but he’s not oblivious to the risk: “People wonder if cheetahs are dangerous. Okay, they are a weapon from tongue to tail.” He urges people who work with them to be loving, but handle them with caution.
Wolves Can Be Vicious, They Can Also Be Our Buddies (But Don’t Try This At Home!)
After all, it’s not such a mystery why all over the world, in lots of different places and times, in lots of different cultures and societies, people have buddied up to wolves. Of course, they are the ancestors of what we call “dogs” (remember those cute friends?). According to experts, dogs started evolving from wolves around 30,000 years ago, when humans managed to domesticate a few. Good deal for both species.
Here, we see Zsofia Viranyi, a researcher at a university in Austria. She has befriended one of the K9 residents at the Wolf Center. Every time she goes into the center, she calls, and this guy comes runnin’. “If you take wolves and socialize them properly at a young age, and work with them on a daily basis, then yes, you can get them to be cooperative and attentive to humans,” said a fellow researcher of Zsofia’s.
When It Comes to Raising Gorillas, Some People Aren’t Monkeying Around
In this awesome picture, we see the inspiring man named Damian Aspinall chilling with some of his best friends (and pretty close cousins). Aspinall comes from an extremely wealthy family, and he has used some of his cash to set up a few rescue and rehabilitation projects in Gabon aimed at helping gorillas. How does he do it exactly? He purchases land, and then he uses it for a breeding ground and comfortable home for the apes.
In one famous video that went pretty viral, Aspinall was reunited with one gorilla who hadn’t seen him in a while. They were obviously thrilled to see each other and the reunion was heart-melting. Recent studies indicate that gorillas are rarely ever violent towards humans. And with Aspinall, this certainly seems to be substantiated. Honestly, they look super cuddly, and he makes us all a bit jealous.
One Thing Animals and Humans Have In Common Is Disregard for Personal Space
Deep in the heart of South Africa lies the artistic stomping grounds of the maverick daredevil photographer Shannon Benson. Here, we see her buddying up to a little big feline. If you check her out on her platforms, you’ll see that she takes amazing pictures with all sorts of animals, including snakes, elephants, cheetahs, and more.
She’s got some real courage (and talent). All of her pictures are captured in nature, so that means that all the animals she photographs are 100% wild. Wow. Since the animals have never been trained, if she makes the wrong move, it could be trouble. Well, we applaud her courage and her amazing skills, and we hope she stays safe!
Take a Dip With an Anaconda, Why Not? (No, Please, Actually Don’t)
This animal-lover is Mike Holston. He started his career as a zookeeper in Miami, and over the course of a few years, he developed close relationships with a lot of the wild animals there. At some point, he started to post the results on YouTube and Instagram. He then started to gain a major following, and he eventually became an internet sensation.
Now, he travels all over the world, makes friends with animals and spreads important messages of animal rights and conservationism. In the above photo, we see Holston taking a dip with one of his favorites: Boma the anaconda. This isn’t unique though. He also hangs out with tarantulas, chimpanzees, and tigers, to name a few. He says that if we (humans) are careful and respectful, it’s possible to be buddies with some animals.
Sometimes, Wolves and Humans Share a Passion for Music
After graduating from university in China, Luo Yong started working as a keeper in the wolf zone at Chongqing Yongchuan Safari Park. Much of his work at the park has been focused on trying to develop a relationship with the wolves that live there. He says one of his more successful methods is to simply try to imitate their howls. He reports that they have been quite responsive to that.
Also, from a young age, he plays guitar to the cubs. He notes that when he plays, the wolves will howl, and they seem to like it. He starts this process when they’re cubs, and when they grow to adulthood, the wolves will come around and listen and “talk” to him when they hear he’s playing. Yong acknowledges that wolves can be dangerous, but he forms deep bonds with them when they’re young, so he’s never had any problems. He’s a real pro.
Breaking Down Walls Between Men and Apes
First things first, the little chimpanzee in this photo is just too cute. The woman here that has the privilege of cuddling with him or her is Jane Goodhall. Much of what we know today about chimpanzees (the fact they use tools for instance) and their behavior can be attributed to her. She’s a real primatology rockstar. She’s like the John Lennon of chimp studies.
For over 55 years, she has been studying chimpanzees, their social structures, and their family interactions. She has also done extensive activism in the fields of environmentalism and conservationism. At times, she has been criticized for methodological concerns, for example, giving the chimps names instead of numbers. Of course, we’re not chimp experts, but we can’t blame her – the chimps are so human in so many ways.
Young Elephants Can Be Remarkably Similar to Young Humans
At the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, keeper Julius Latoya shares a sweet moment with Kinna, a young orphaned elephant. Over the course of a few years, Julius and Kinna have formed a special connection, and whenever he comes around, Kinna is thrilled to see him. Found in the wild in bad shape, the park staff nursed her back to full health, and now she’s doing great.
Elephants, in general, are pretty friendly creatures. For one, they don’t eat meat, so they really never have any reason to hurt a human under normal circumstances. Also, in some ways, they’re like us. For example, in the wild, elephant kids live with their moms until about 18 or 19 years old. And as we see in some awesome videos, when the kids start acting like brats (just like humans), the elephant moms get them into trouble. Check it out, it’s really cute.
Some Bonds Last a Lifetime
Meet Jim (human) and Jimbo (bear). Owners of the Orphaned Wildlife Center in Otisville, New York, Jim and Susan Kowalczik, are avid animal enthusiasts. They founded their organization with the goal of rehabilitating animals in need or distress. They do an amazing job, and countless animals have been saved as a result of the Kowalcziks’ love and hard work. One fella, in particular, is a real sweetheart.
In the above photo, we see Jim with his beloved friend Jimbo the Kodiak bear. Jimbo was brought to the Kowalcziks after he was found on the west coast injured with a broken leg. Kim and Susan nursed him back to life, and they became really good pals. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, Jimbo passed away from natural causes at the age of 24. Jim and Susan were sad, but they remember him lovingly.
Some Families Don’t Help Florida Stereotypes…
A few years ago, a woman from Florida, Mary Thorn (of course Florida, gators and all…) rejoiced when authorities confirmed she was allowed to keep her dear buddy Rambo, an alligator. The bond Mary and Rambo share is special. About 15 years ago, Mary stumbled across a plastic tub packed with little gators. She reports that they didn’t look like they were in good shape – they had been abandoned (after being trapped?).
She took them all in, but unfortunately, the others didn’t make it. Over the years, Mary has cared compassionately for Rambo, and it’s clear that they love each other. She has never had any trouble or been bitten by him. Also, she has five dogs, and they all get along great with Rambo. Gators are sometimes thought of as dangerous – after all, they do eat meat. But in this story of care and tenderness, Rambo is nothing but cute and loving.
Difficult Situations Require Compassion
In this touching photograph, we see keeper Zachariah Mutai attending to Fatu. Sadly, she is one of only a few northern white rhinos left in the world. They have seen a decline in recent years due to a few factors, including poaching and habitat damage. Thankfully, dedicated people like Zachariah are doing all they can to reverse the decline. At the conservatory in Kenya where he works, Zacharia applies love and tenderness to all the animals.
They also, of course, provide them with shelter, food, and protection. Their main goal is to protect the rhinos there in hope that they will reproduce and start repopulating. When Zachariah does his daily rounds, he goes to each animal and pats them, and tries to comfort them. They love it. We’re talking about wild animals here, so the fact that a rhino comes up to him expecting love and affection is special!
Lions Like Their Whisperers
“As we stood as best friends, as man and beast, the warm savannah winds gently caressed our hair…” We can just picture this photograph being described in evocative literary prose. So, what’s the deal? The deal is Kevin Richardson. This guy operates a wildlife sanctuary next to Johannesburg, South Africa. He has slept next to, fed, played with, and lived with all sorts of big cats.
Also, he does activism work that firmly opposes hunting in the area. Over the years, Kevin has formed deep bonds with felines, particularly with lions. He admits that he has been bitten, stabbed, and trampled (sounds fun right?), but he says this doesn’t stop him from hanging out with the kitties. He says “…I’ve weighed the pros and I’ve weighed the cons, and the pros far outweigh the cons.” Cool, but at home, we’ll stick to our house cats.
Loving Reunions and Inseparable Pals
The story of Joao Pereira de Souza and his best buddy, Dindim, has reached legendary status. It goes like this. A few years ago in Brazil, Joao saw Dindim in his backyard. Dimdim, a Magellanic penguin, was in bad shape after apparently being caught in an oil spill. Joao washed him off and nursed him back to health with sardines. Then, Joao took him to the coast where this kind of penguin lives.
He set him free, but then, to Joao’s surprise, he came back. Sometime after that, Dindim mysteriously disappeared for a few months and no one knows where he went. And then, suddenly, he came back again. People think it’s because penguins are really loyal to their pair and breeding. Anway, Joao was happy to see him come back, and Dindim has been with him, living happily ever since.
Psychologists Don’t Only Help Humans
Meet Andre Bauma, a wildlife expert, ranger, trail guide, and wildlife rescuer who has devoted much of his life to taking care of the mountain gorillas that live in the Virunga National Park in Congo. The region is a volatile one, rampant with war, militants, poverty, and poaching. Taking care of these gorillas is no small feat, Andre Says. They are deeply emotional creatures and many of them suffer from traumatic pasts.
Throughout his career, he’s worked hard and succeeded in rehabilitating many of them. He understands that they are sensitive animals and part of his rehabilitation efforts have been to spending time with them, being close, and showing them tenderness. So in some ways, he’s kind of a gorilla psychologist. He reports that he has never felt any danger and that when he comes around, the gorillas are thrilled to him.
Some Folks Adopt Kids, Others Adopt Cubs
Casey Anderson (human) is a naturalist, wildlife expert, TV host, writer, actor, and animal trainer – yes, the man is kind of a jack of all trades. In 2004, Anderson founded the Montana Grizzly Encounter Rescue and Educational Sanctuary, in Montana. A few years prior, he adopted Brutus, an orphaned grizzly bear cub. Brutus lived in overcrowded conditions in Yellowstone Bear World.
They have a really special bond, and Anderson reports that Brutus has never scared him or hurt him. Of course, people have gotten themselves into trouble with bears, such as “The Grizzly Man”, whose documentary ended in tragedy. But Anderson argues that if bears are raised by humans from a young age, then it should be ok. Still, if you’re considering adopting a puppy, maybe stick to that plan…
Cats, Apes, Whoever, Everyone Likes A Good Nap
True, tigers are fierce, dangerous, strong, quick felines whose bodies have developed over millions of years to do a few things really really well. One of them is catching prey. But when you see Janice Hailey from Florida cuddling and napping with these big cats, the effect is disarming. Hailey quit her day job about 25 years ago and got involved in taking care of exotic animals.
Besides the kitties having the physical ability to be able to harm people, there is some other controversy involved. People question what business someone has essentially keeping a tiger as a “pet.” There might some truth there, but Hailey argues that “It is not the ideal place for a tiger to be, in a cage. But at this point, in the wild, there isn’t a lot of hope out there for them [tigers] anymore…” And she might have a point.
Cute Visitors Are Always Welcome
When a young hippopotamus was in a bad situation because her mother was in bad shape, the Joubert family stepped in. Tonie has a background as a ranger, so he knew exactly what was needed. The Jouberts fed her, tended to her, and protected her. This paid off, because now the hippo, whom they named Jessica the Hippo, is in great shape. It’s important here to note that Jessica is not in captivity.
She’s free to go wherever and whenever she wants. Nonetheless, she knows her favorite spot, and she always comes back to the Jouberts, who have raised her as if she’s their child. Interestingly, hippos are considered the most dangerous animals in Africa, and a few years ago, Jessica actually misbehaved and gave some people a good scare. But nonetheless, as the Jouberts argue, if treated right, hippos can be our friends.
Even Kings Have a Soft Spot
The story of Zion and Frikkie Von Solms is a nice one. When Zion the Lion was just a little cute cub, he was sadly separated from his mother and left alone. And then along came Frikkie, who took him in and took great care of him. Sort of like humans, in the early periods of their lives, baby lions need tons of care and attention. Thankfully, Frikkie was there for Zion.
Besides taking care of Zion’s needs, like food and shelter, Frikkie also spent a great deal of time socializing with him and helping him get over the traumatic event of being abruptly separated from his mom. Fast forward 11 years and Frikkie and Zion are still best buds, and it’s super cute. Their relationship looks awesome, but still, we think we’ll stick with smaller kitties.
If You Love Something, Set It Free, You Know the Rest
The names of these two gentlemen are Poncho and Chito. Chito’s full name is actually Gilberto Shedden. Anyway, in 1989, Chico found Poncho in terrible health on the banks of a river in his home country Costa Rica. He felt he had no choice but to take him in and nurse him back to health, so this is exactly what went down. After Poncho returned to full health, Chico took him back to the river and released him.
The next day, when Chico woke up, he went to his porch and saw that Poncho had followed him home. Over the subsequent years, they formed a special bond, and Chico even taught Poncho how to respond and come when his name was called. They became best friends (Chico’s first wife allegedly even left him because he was spending too much time with Poncho). In 2011, Poncho passed away from natural causes at the ripe old croc age of 50 or 60 years old.
Redefining the Teddy Bear
Canadian daredevil Mike Dumas is apparently the only man ever to have this kind of bond with a polar bear. Mark adopted Agee when she was just a little cub at an Alaskan zoo. Her mother was too old to take care of her properly and Mark feared for her well-being. When asked about whether it’s dangerous, he said that Agee bit him only once, when she was really young. Since then, it’s been smooth sailing.
Mark explains that in the wild, the average lifespan of a polar bear is about 15 – 20 years, and with environmental issues, their lives are becoming increasingly hard. But living with Mark, Agee is seriously spoiled when it comes to food and affection. Mark notes that the longest living polar bear lived till 42, and he hopes to surpass that with Agee.
Despite Trouble, Friends Can Be Found “Sharing” Meals
In recent years there has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding the infamous “Tiger Temple” deep in the heart of Thailand. While it’s true that some individuals there certainly have had great relationships with the temple’s tigers, most reports indicate that overall, things aren’t good.
For example, the monk seen above (who has succeeded in remaining anonymous) spends a lot of time bonding with the big cats, and he’s always happy to hook them up with some grub. But the temple has come under fire for allegations that the tigers were simply displayed for commercial purposes. Years ago, authorities removed most of the tigers. We sincerely hope that if things weren’t good, all the big cute kitties are living better lives now.
The Man, the Icon
No article discussing relationships between humans and animals would do the topic justice if it didn’t mention the legend himself, Steve Irwin. In Queensland, his parents founded the Australia Zoo. And since he was little, he always took an interest in animals. This followed him through his teenage years and into adulthood, where he would eventually become the mastermind and star of the show Crocodile Hunter.
Despite the somewhat unsavory name, the series was a huge hit for many years. Irwin got up close and personal with tons of wild animals, and he used the platform to spread important messages of environmentalism and conservationism. Sadly, in 2006, Irwin had an encounter with a stingray that cut his life short. We remember him fondly for his awesome show, great personality, and critical messages.