Rats, Maggots, & Manatees: Our Secret Heroes

Sonia Horon, exclusive to Global Animal
While you may be busy complaining about being back in the office after the long Labor Day weekend, some animals are busy putting in free work hours to help their cities flourish. From ferret electricians, to explosive-sniffing rats and life-saving maggots, check out these wonderful animal workers. 


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Rats have a great sense of smell and are often trained to sniff out explosives. Photo credit:

Many rats have been trained to sniff out explosives in different countries as land mines are still a big global problem. The UN reports, “Every year, landmines kill 15,000 to 20,000 people — most of them children, women and the elderly — and severely maim countless more. Scattered in some 78 countries, they are an ongoing reminder of conflicts which have been over for years or even decades.” But thankfully our rodent friends are taking care of the problem. Due to their great sense of smell they are able to sniff out the explosive, but because the animals are so light they don’t actually trigger it.



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Goats are perfect for cleaning away brush. Photo credit:

One-hundred goats were hired by the city of Los Angeles to munch away at the weeds by Angels Flight railway. The goats are not only affordable, but also popular with the local passerbys. CBS News writes, “The goats are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than humans with gas-powered machines. Agency head Cecilia Estolano says the South African Boer goats are being rented for $3,000. The goats are proving popular with office workers and commuters coming off the nearby Metro Red Line subway station, many of whom are stopping to snap pictures.”



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Manatees were used in Guyana to clear weeds from a canal system’s passageways. Photo credit:

Manatees might be slow but they’re mighty hard workers. A canal system in Guyana used the large animal to clear weeds from the passageways. Not only was the manatee service free of charge but it was also an eco-friendly solution to the problem. 



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Maggots can be used for medical purposes to eat necrotic tissue from wounds. Photo credit:

Maggots have long been used for medical purposes, and even though they’ve mostly been replaced with antibiotics, some doctors still use them when wounds become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Maggots eat the necrotic tissue but leave the healthy flesh alone. “Despite antibiotic treatment and other measures, many chronic ulcers do not heal. Infection and bacterial colonisation is one of the factors delaying wound healing. As a result, a revival of maggots in treatment of such wounds has been seen in the last decades, for maggots may produce unknown factors that promote wound healing. Maggot debridement therapy (MDT) has been used for centuries and in many different cultures,” according to J Altern Complement Med. 



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Sheep make the best gardeners. Photo credit:

Sheep are not very picky about their food choices, that’s why some vineyard owners thought it would be mutually beneficial to hire them as gardeners. This is another great green alternative to using machinery and herbicides. It’s a win-win situation as the sheep get a nice meal while the vineyard managers get top-of-the-line service.  



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Dolphins are naturally endowed with the most superior sonar known to man and can detect mines and other objects acoustically difficult to find underwater. Photo credit:

Did you know that some dolphins work for the U.S. military? Their job is to mark ocean mines as well as rescue lost naval swimmers. The animals have worked in the Vietnam War as well as in the Persian Gulf.



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Search and rescue dogs save lives with their keen sense of smell. Photo credit:

Search and rescue dogs are life savers during a disaster situation. Thanks to their keen sense of smell, they can quickly detect a human scent and help save lives. 



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Police dogs are just as important as police officers, and in many states, killing a police dog is a felony. Photo credit:

Police dogs, or K-9s, are used to help track down suspects, protect police officers, and locate evidence. These jobs are most often assigned to specific breeds like the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd, who are often praised for their courage and intelligence. Police dogs are considered just as important as police officers, and in many states, killing a police dog is considered a felony.



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Military dogs are employed in helping search for explosives, tracking down enemy forces, and saving soldiers’ lives. Photo credit:

Cairo, the Belgian Malinois seal team six dog who helped in the capture of Osama Bin Laden, is one of many military dogs currently employed to participate in secret security missions, searching for explosives, finding the enemy, and saving lives. 



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Because of a ferret’s ability to fit into tight spaces, they are often able to complete certain tasks faster than humans. Photo credit:

Freddie, a five-year-old ferret from Auckland, New Zealand, helped out as an electrician’s assistant in the 1940s. Due to the ferret’s ability to fit into tight spaces, Freddie quickly completed a job that would take far longer for a human. “The lithe predator would wriggle through tight spaces, dragging a wire behind him. Freddie’s owner would hold a dead rabbit at the other end of the pipe to encourage the ferret to stay on the job. In one morning, the ferret could complete a job that would take a month for a human,” according to Discovery.

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One Response to Rats, Maggots, & Manatees: Our Secret Heroes

  1. Daniel Ira September 7, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    Military Dogs and Guard Dogs be the best in your list.