Unsung Heroes: 10 Ways Animals Help Us

From the dog sitting on your couch to the near-mythical narwhal in the depths of the Arctic ocean, animals play a key role in environmental protection and human wellness. Let’s take a look at some of the miraculous ways animals help us.


 

1. Bees are powerful pollinators.

Did you know about one-third of the world’s food depends on pollination? Many of the earth’s plants—about 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of our wild plants—depend on these little heroes. As they buzz from plant to plant, bees are powerful pollinators and play a vital role in the ecosystem, so the next time you find a wildflower, you can thank a busy bee.

2. Beavers combat climate change.

These woodland creatures have proved incredibly adept at naturally regulating ecosystems. Their gnawing and damming reduce flooding and wildfire damage, preserve fish populations, and conserve freshwater reservoirs—key to combating the effects of climate change. So when it comes to much-needed river ecosystem regulation, leave it to the beavers.

3. Llamas patrol farms.

In addition to being a farm animal with a particularly low environmental impact and a sweet tooth for invasive weed species, llamas have also been found to be incredibly effective guard animals. Yes, guard llamas. These sociable creatures bond with herd animals, which makes them instinctively protective against predators and an invaluable asset to shepherds and ranchers.

4. Rats detect landmines.

Rats get a bad rap but with their keen sense of smell and trainability, they’ve been found to be exceptionally suited to work as landmine detectors. More efficient than metal detectors and cheaper than dogs, rats (nicknamed HeroRats) are being trained to sniff out landmines, allowing previously unusable land to once again be productive.

5. Squirrels help trees take root.

While you may know them as your neighborhood park dwellers, squirrels’ natural habitat is the forest where they play a major role as nature’s tree planters. These forgetful little creatures’ nut-gathering and storing have a big impact when their forgotten nut stashes take root and grow into the trees and forests that sustain our ecosystem.

6. Narwhals assist scientists.

Otherwise known as the “unicorns of the sea,” these deep divers are instrumental to NASA scientists’ tracking of temperature changes in Greenland’s arctic. Researchers have employed narwhals, fitted with radio transmitters, to collect data from the hard-to-reach depths of the Arctic on water salinity, temperature, and impact of the increasingly warm ocean water on Greenland’s glaciers.

7. Elephants create a source of water for other species.

Not only are they major tourist attractions for many countries who depend on this economic boost, the elephant is also one of the most intelligent animals on the planet and key to the biodiversity of its ecosystem. During dry seasons, elephants use their large tusks to dig for water—providing some much-needed relief from the heat for other animals.

8. Birds balance nature.

The ecological handyman, birds really do it all: from reforestation and seed pollination to pest control and soil fertilization. Whether in a forest, on a farm, or simply in a garden, these feathered friends play a vital role in keeping nature balanced and indicating when it’s not.

9. Octopi are avid recyclers.

An unlikely ally, octopi are resourceful creatures with a talent for recycling. They put their tentacles to work reusing and reducing waste through their creative use of glass containers, coconut shells, and other debris to create shelters. And while one man’s trash is an octopus’ treasure, we can all learn a little something about “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

10. Dogs do it all.

Dogs are considered by many to be humanity’s best friend for many reasons. From astute service dogs guiding those with visual impairments to loyal friends providing emotional support to search and rescue canines saving lives, this animal has broad positive effects on our world and well-being.

Animals do a lot for us. Repay the favor during the GlobalGiving Paws + Claws campaign on May 22. Your donation will be matched at 30% while funds last!

Donate + Get Matched

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Sources: CK-12, The Atlantic, Mom.Me, National Geographic, Save the Elephants

Featured Photo: Help Keep Belize Birds Up and Running by Belize Bird Rescue
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