“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.” -Alice Walker
Every once in a while, I’ll run across something in the natural world that wholeheartedly surprises me. I remember watching a nature documentary about lions, where I saw a wounded, pregnant lioness leave her pack to give birth. It was no surprise that once night fell, the hyenas began to arrive. The lioness held her ground for a little while, but once the third and fourth hyena showed up, the lioness had no choice but to abandon her cubs to their fate. But the shocking part came moments after her leaving, where a traveling group of leopards came upon the scene, and defended the cubs against the hyenas.
How remarkable, I thought, that a wild animal with no inherent stake in the outcome would interfere simply to protect and help another living creature. Well, it turns out that interspecies animal friendships are far more common than I’d realized. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve found.
In December 2004, a baby hippopotamus (Owen) orphaned by the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake was rescued and brought to Haller Park. There were no other hippos there, so Owen was placed with Mzee, the park’s 130-year-old Aldabra Giant Tortoise. In short order, the two became friends, eventually eating, sleeping, swimming and playing together. When Owen was deemed fit for it three years later, Mzee was removed and a female hippo, Cleo, was brought in.
At Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo in Thailand, a two-year-old Chimpanzee, Do Do, took an interest in a two month old Tiger cub named Aorn, and learned to bottle-feed it.
But it isn’t only in zoos that this type of unlikely animal friendship is found.
A natural wildlife reserve in China saw a white dove — believed to be part of a bird migration study — befriend an abandoned rhesus monkey! For two months, the monkey and the dove shared the same space together and ate the same food: wild corn. The monkey frequently hugged the dove, who — while she didn’t hug back — was content to let the monkey do so.
In Japan, mother cat Hiroko lost three kittens, leaving her childless. Nearby, a group of spot-billed ducks hatched, and she became their surrogate mom. As far as I know, they are still an adoptive family.
And in perhaps my favorite story of unlikely friendship, a dwarf hamster named Gohan (which means “cooked rice” in Japanese) was given to the three-foot-long rat snake, Aochan, as a live treat, after the snake refused to eat frozen mice. But for months now, they’ve instead become the best of friends, sharing a cage and everything. According to zookeeper Kazuya Yamamoto of the Tokyo Zoo,
“I’ve never seen anything like it. Gohan sometimes even climbs onto Aochan to take a nap on his back.”
Aochan has learned to eat frozen rodents, but appears to pose no danger to Gohan, and they continue to enjoy one another’s company.
Apparently, interspecies friendship (or cross-breed interaction) is much more common than I realized, and even though I may not know the story behind the rest of the images I found, I do still want to share them with you.
I imagine that these two have enough in common to look past their differences and simply enjoy one another’s company.
I don’t know the story behind these two, but I do know that this is not the first Great Ape / Bunny friendship I’ve read about.
And to come full-circle to big cats once again, why wouldn’t a cheetah make fun with a labrador retriever? (And check here for more interspecies friends pictures.)
Keep your mind open about where your next great friendship might come from; you’ll never know what joys might enter your life if you give it a shot!