Some wild animals have become iconic figures in history because they have captivated people’s hearts and imaginations on a global scale. Their tales continue to enthral and instruct, and they have come to represent conservation, wonder, and awe.
A mountain lion living by himself in Los Angeles and a tortoise that is over 200 years old are just two examples of the well-known wild creatures that have profoundly impacted our knowledge of the natural world and its value.
Jessica the Hippo
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Jessica is only a family member, but hippos are among the most hazardous creatures on the planet. Her friendship with Tony and Shirley Joubert, a South African couple who discovered her wounded and abandoned in 2000, helped her gain notoriety. She was restored to health by the pair, and she became close to them.
Even if she visits other hippos in the vicinity as a 23-year-old, she always returns to the Jouberts for food and refuge. Visitors are welcome to meet Jessica at their house and offer her her favourite beverage, rooibos tea.
Mount Harambe Gorilla
Western lowland gorilla Harambe arrived to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in 2014, having thrived for 15 years in a different zoo.
There, he didn’t stay long. When a child fell into his cage in 2016, Harambe descended to look at it. A video clearly captures him pulling the kid by the leg across a moat, despite the fact that some onlookers believed he was protecting the youngster. In order to preserve Harambe’s life, zookeepers believed they had no alternative but to shoot him.
As he and the zoo rose in popularity, Harbembe became the focus of several memes. In addition, his passing spurred arguments over zoo parent duty and how best to care for and conserve gorillas in captivity.
Ever then, the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo has been enclosed.
The killer whale Tilikum
Tilikum, for better or evil, raised awareness of the predicament facing killer whales kept in captivity.
The male orca became well-known because he was involved in many fatal events at marine parks. Though Tilikum had been engaged in two killings before the murder of trainer Dawn Brancheau, his most well-known event was in 2010 at SeaWorld Orlando.
The 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which focused on his life, showed the psychological and physical toll that being kept in captivity has on orcas, who may then exhibit aggressive and deadly behaviour.
2011 saw Tilikum return to the stage. He passed away in captivity in 2017 and was never allowed to return to the wild.
First hominid in space was Ham the Chimpanzee. As part of its mission to launch living things into orbit and examine the consequences of spaceflight on them, NASA trained him.
On January 31, 1961, Ham took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. His suborbital flight took place around sixteen minutes ago. He was observed by experts as he carried out basic duties within the spaceship throughout that period.
NASA learned during his brief mission that people could live and work in space. A few months after Ham’s trip, Alan Shepard successfully completed his own suborbital space mission.
Up until his death in 1983, Ham spent his whole life in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and then the North Carolina Zoo.
Although there are many copycats, Punxsutawney Phil is unique. The well-known groundhog “lives” in Gobbler’s Knob, a tree stump in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The community is well-known for its yearly Groundhog Day celebration, which draws thousands of people.
Phil comes out of his burrow on February 2nd of each year, and if he spots his shadow, it indicates that there will be six more weeks of winter. It will be an early spring if he doesn’t.
Every other day of the year, you can still see Phil even if you miss Groundhog Day. He resides in “Phil’s Burrow,” a climate-controlled terrarium integrated into the Punxsutawney library, for the remainder of his life.
The Tortoise Jonathan
The oldest land mammal still alive is Jonathan. He was born in the year 1832 and now resides in the British territory of Saint Helena, an island in the South Atlantic. He’s a huge tortoise from the Seychelles who’s lived for more than 190 years. Sailors carrying this species to Saint Helena from the Indian Ocean’s Aldabra Atoll did so for food.
Though history has forgotten how he avoided becoming a sailor’s dinner, Jonathan has been a well-liked tourist attraction on the island since the 1880s. Even though he can’t see very well, he’s normally in good condition and enjoys spending his days with the younger tortoises on the island or grazing on grass.
Ami Cher the Pigeon
During World War I, Cher Ami was one of 600 pigeons who served with the American Army Signal Corps in France. In October 2018, on his last mission, he was shot while carrying a message. The message he brought was still intact, even though he returned to base minus a leg.
The 77th Infantry Division’s “Lost Battalion” was discovered by the Army to be stranded behind enemy lines and in desperate need of assistance. Cher Ami’s courage saved the lives of over two thousand troops. For his bravery, the bird was subsequently awarded the French Croix de Guerre.
On June 13, 1919, Cher Ami passed away in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, from his wounds.
CECIL the Lion
Though he was well-known and adored for many years in his native Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, Cecil the Lion rose to popularity after his death. He was a favourite of travellers and photographers because of his eye-catching looks and kind disposition.
In 2015, Walter Palmer, an American dentist and trophy hunter, killed him via unlawful hunting. His death caused worldwide indignation, but it also spurred a conversation and brought trophy hunting and animal conservation back into the public eye.
The Mountain Lion, P-22
P-22 was first introduced to the outside world at the end of his life, but Los Angeles has always been his home. The well-known mountain lion in Griffith Park lived by himself in the heart of the city. Since he had to cross two major motorways to get there in order to claim land, he immediately attracted a lot of attention.
He subsisted on deer and other small animals for years. Occasionally, he would leave the park and enter residential neighbourhoods, where the residents would become excited when they saw him on video. But as he got older, his strength declined and his vision deteriorated. He was struck by a vehicle near his 12-year residence in December 2022, and wildlife authorities ultimately forced to put him to death.
P-22 raised awareness of the challenges faced by urban animals and had a lasting influence on his species, both in life and in death. His travels served as inspiration for the Wallis Annenberg Crossing, a bridge that would provide animals more freedom to wander and avoid the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills.
The incidents shown in the film “Cocaine Bear” were real. A black bear in Kentucky unintentionally consumed large quantities of cocaine that drug traffickers dropped from an aircraft in 1985.
But unlike the fictional bear, the actual bear did not embark on a drug-fueled, deadly rampage. This bear survived and ended up in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest, where his carcass was discovered.