(images via charliejb, eldiablosledge, and tambako the jaguar)
Animals have been domesticated and put to work for centuries. Some, like certain species of dog, have been bred with a specific task in mind. However, there are other species that retain some or all of their wildness while still performing tasks that benefit humans. These creatures – pest killers, food producers and cleaners – are simply being themselves. The benefit that people reap is no more than a happy side effect of these natural habits.
Barn Owls: Deadly Rodent Hunters
(images via Stevie-B, Seabamirum, and Richard.Fisher)
Some farms in Europe and North America have installed nesting areas in their barns for these nocturnal predators. That is because they are prolific hunters of rodents. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, the birds eat their fill and live in safety while the farm’s pest population is kept under control.
Spiders: Snagging Pests
(image via Benimoto)
Though they are often tagged as the most ugly and menacing creatures in the bug world, spiders actually catch and eat more harmful insects. Mosquitoes, termites and bees find their way into webs more often than they end up on the business end of a fly-swatter.
Bats, Cormorants, and Dragonflies
(images via mikebaird, Jessicajil, and _PaulS_)
Bats and dragon flies are two more animals whose diets consist of mosquitoes. Certain species of bats can consume hundreds of the disease-carrying insects per night. Though dragonflies are not as prolific, they can help control a mosquito population, especially during summer months.
In the past, cormorants have been used by fisherman to catch fish on China’s Lijiang River. Though the practice is less popular now, some birds can still be seen catching fish with great skill.
Striped Hyena: Canine Garbage Disposal
(image via Just chaos)
Unlike its more predatory kin, the spotted hyena, this subspecies does not often kill its own meat. Rather, it feasts on the decaying flesh of animals that have already been killed or died naturally. This helps prevent the spread of disease and disease carrying insects.
(image via apes_abroad)
Monkeys in Thailand and Malaysia are used to help farmers collect coconuts. The domesticated macaques are at home in the trees and can pick 10 times more coconuts than a human laborer – sometimes more than 1,000 per day.
King Snake: Farmer’s Slithering Helper
(images via tkksummers and Just chaos)
The King Snake is a constrictor, but its colorfully patterned body sometimes leads people to mistake it for a poisonous species. Because it is immune to many types of venom, this serpent is a natural predator of poisonous snakes. It also consumes rodents and other pests that sometimes harm farmers’ crops. In addition, King Snakes are quite sociable and make good pets when domesticated.
Civet Cat and Earthworm:
Sometimes, animals can be helpful by simply digesting. Earthworms are a welcome species in many organic gardens because the help aerate the soil and their waste is beneficial as a fertilizer.
Luwak coffee is considered a delicacy. The beans for this coffee are fermented in the digestive system of the civet cat. The beans are collected from the cat’s waste and sold for high prices.
Falcons and Passenger Pigeon
(images via Stevie-B and Ryan Somma)
Falconry is a traditional method of hunting that is not often used today, except as a sport. These naturally swift, sharp-eyed predators have been trained to take their kill back to their owner.
Another traditionally used bird is the passenger pigeon. Before the advent of more advanced communication devices, pigeons were used to send messages over long distances. Like falconry, this is mainly a hobby today.
Bacteria that Eat Garbage
(image via Next Nature)
Certain species of microscopic bacteria have been used in garbage dumps, compost sites and sewage treatment plants because of their ability to consume these types of waste and change them from harmful to harmless (or at least less harmful). Scientists are even studying ways that the bacteria’s waste can be used for energy.
Elephants: Muscle and Meat
(images via TheLizardQueen, belgianchocolate, and exfordy)
Elephants have been trained to do heavy lifting in Southeast and South Asia, as well as in some places in Africa. These creatures are the largest domesticated animal on earth. Unfortunately their wild kin are often being hunted in poorer parts of Africa, not for their ivory, but for their meat.
Algae: Oil Producer of the Future
(image via ArthurJohnPicton)
Algae cells have been found to produce extremely high amounts of oil. These tiny organisms may hold the key to a renewable energy revolution. Scientists and energy companies are studying this type of energy as a viable alternative to gas and diesel.