The scenic route
An emperor penguin with a serious lack of direction ended up 3,000 km off course in New Zealand. After recovering from eating beach sand—mistaken for snow—Happy Feet was returned to the ocean 700 km south of New Zealand. “Once he hit the water,” vet Lisa Argilla said, “he spared no time in diving off away from the boat and all those ‘aliens’ who have been looking after him.”
A month after Knut died in a German zoo, the “adorable polar bear” title was awarded to a three-month-old found wandering alone by Alaskan oil workers. After gaining weight and a cute name—Qannik, which means “snowflake” in the local Inupiat language—the bear was flown to a zoo in Louisville, Ky., for a future of fish and photo ops.
Bennington, Vt., used to be a nice, quiet town until a rogue grey squirrel began attacking citizens. Kevin McDonald was shovelling snow when the rodent pounced on his back and started scratching him: “I was finally able to get him off, and as soon as I got him off, he just jumped right at me again.” The squirrel also bit a woman on the neck.
Beauty and the beast
After a photographer heard kids calling “ducky, ducky!” at the Bronx Zoo, he snapped a picture of a fearless little duckling sidling up to Fran, an amused 15-year-old western lowland gorilla, who even gently played with it using a stick. The bird was removed to safety by zookeepers. Tom Warren won a major award for his photo in September.
Cyclops of the sea
After commercial fishermen hauled in a pregnant dusky shark in the Gulf of California, they made a freaky discovery when they slit it open: its fetus had only one eye centred in the middle of its face. Though rumours of Photoshopping abounded, researchers say it was real and the eye was made of functional optical tissue.
When Swiss customs officers opened suspicious boxes off a flight from the Dominican Republic they were expecting drugs, not 261 mildly poisonous Mexican red-kneed tarantulas. Then they raided the house of the dealer who ordered them and found 665 more tarantulas, plus 72 flesh-eating centipedes.
A real saint
Hours after Lee and Elizabeth Littler rescued Hercules from an Ohio pound, the 60-kg St. Bernard did some rescuing of its own. Lee was taking the dog out for a walk when the lumbering canine began growling and ran after a man fleeing from the Littler basement. Police say the home’s phone and cable lines had been cut. The Littlers, who took the dog only to spare it from being euthanized, were looking for a permanent home. Turns out Hercules is a keeper.
Permanently up a tree
When Almond’s mother and siblings left their home in a maple tree in Wisconsin, the cat decided to stay behind. Could be it likes the view, or the food provided by the human who lives nearby. However, living in an aerie carries risks; in May, Almond took a tumble and broke a leg.
A star’s turn
Life hasn’t been easy for Winter. As a baby, the dolphin’s tail was amputated after it was caught in a crab trap. A Clearwater, Fla., aquarium fitted it with a prosthetic tail and taught it to swim again. Now the dolphin is a celebrity after Dolphin Tale, the movie based on its life and starring Morgan Freeman and Harry Connick Jr., hit the big screens this year.
Yvonne was determined not to end up in a slaughterhouse. So the German cow broke out by charging through the electric fence. For the next three months, Yvonne evaded authorities, who’d issued a shoot-to-kill order after it darted in front of a police car. After being nabbed, the escape artist got a well-earned reprieve: an animal sanctuary bought it for $950.
After a man went missing, everyone in the Agusan region of the Philippines suspected a huge seven-metre crocodile. Determined to capture it, and to keep its massive trap shut, locals used steel cables. After a three-week hunt, 100 men pulled it from a creek.
Porter is a Jack Russell with a talent for graceful skimboarding. The Vancouver pooch beat out around 150 canines to perform on a dog food float at the Rose Bowl Parade. In fact, the dog is so good that owner Justin Pang leaves it at home when he wants to hit the waves. Otherwise Porter will hop onto any board for a ride.