While it is rare, some humans have struck up close bonds with wild animals. Yep, you read that correctly.
In a world where humans find it hard to get along with each other, it makes it all the more special to hear of these unlikely friendships with animals. Here are 30 examples of humans who struck up unlikely bonds with animals.
1. Joao Pereira and his best friend, Dindim
Joao Pereira de Souza had spent most of his life working as a fisherman in Rio de Janeiro when an unlikely encounter would change his life. Noticing a moving object covered in oil, Souza came to the aid of an injured penguin. If he arrived any later, it is likely he would have died.
In time, Souza spent hours of his time nursing the penguin back to health, and in that time, they struck up an incredible bond, so it was almost of great sadness when the fisherman realized Dindim was well enough to be released back into the wild. However, the adorable penguin has traveled back to Joao for at least 8 months a year, proving how special their bond is.
2. Agee, the polar bear
America is home to many exotic pets, but we think Mark's polar bear certainly takes the owning of these wild animals to the next level! Not only does he devote his days feeding, caring, and playing with the polar bear, he also shares his pool and bed with it!
But this ashen giant of a fluffball is a gentle giant, hugging and playing all day and night with his human best friend.
3. A 5-year-old girl befriends a cute duck
It's every child's dream to own a cute pet. A hamster is usually a good introduction to the world of pet ownership. From there, parents might be willing to give in and gift their child a puppy. But when Kylie got a duck at 5, an enduring friendship was quickly formed.
In a story that looks like something straight out of a Disney movie, Kylie and her pet duck Snowflake quickly became inseparable, taking walks in the park, attending football games, and going to the local mall.
4. John Unger carries his dog into the lake so he can get a few hours of sleep
John Unger carried his 19 y.o. dog into the lake every night to give Schoep a few hours of sleep. Otherwise, Shoep couldn't not sleep because of arthritis. The veterinarians offered to give the dog a lethal injection but John could not do so with his four-legged friend who once saved him from suicide.
And so he сarried Shoep on the arms in the lake for several hours. Only in this way the dog fell asleep.
This heartwarming story of love and friendship between a man and dog went viral 6 years ago. Shoep passed away at the age of 20.
5. A zookeeper reunites with the gorilla he helped bring back to life
An extraordinary reunion involving an Australian zookeeper and a gorilla was caught on camera by Australia's 60 Minutes series 5 years after the gorilla was released back into the wild.
It was a beautiful sight, and one made more so by Kwibi's stunned reaction as his former friend and carer came rushing to greet him. Kwibi then spent the night with his human pal and also introduced Aspinall to his family.
6. John Rendall and Christian the lion
Believe it or not, John Rendall and his friend Anthony were just two Australian travelers enjoying the sights of London when they decided to purchase a lion cub from the famed London department store, Harrods. While the pet store has since shut its doors, the mythical department was one of the store's premier attractions. They subsequently raised the cub, which they called Christian.
Rendall made sure he treated Christian right and even allowed children to play with him in the street! Eventually, they returned Christian to the wild with the help of the Australian conservationist George Adamson, but the best friends returned to the mountains where their former pet was released to see if Christian still remembered them. Sure enough, he did and pounced on them with all the love and joy in the world. The two lionesses nearby also accepted John and Anthony in footage that has since been seen around the world.
7. Pig hearted
Why anyone would have a pet pig is a mystery to me but they are apparently very clever animals, and this was demonstrated by Lulu who rushed out of the house when her owner collapsed of a heart attack.
She then stopped traffic and ran back to her owner drawing the attention of a passer-by who called for help, proving that animal friendships with humans are possible if you strike up the right connection!
8. Derrick Thompson's magical elephant
Derrick Thompson has been instrumental in founding and running the Save Elephant Foundation. In his time there, he has helped rescue countless baby elephants and nursed them back to life before releasing them back to their natural habitat. However, one such elephant, who he called Kham Lha, demonstrated just how caring elephants can be when she rushed across a lake and offered its trunk in a bid to "save" Derrick.
Though he appeared to be drowning, Derrick was just fine, but it was Lha's offer of her trunk to hold on to that truly melted Thompson's heart.
9. Frikkie Von Solms and his best friend
69-year-old Frikkie Von Solms is like many in his country in that he is accustomed to seeing wild lions and other dangerous animals. However, Solms probably knows more about wild animals than anyone else. For the past 11 years, the lion caretaker has raised Zion and become best of friends with him.
While he has done this with 19 other lions, Zion's infectious energy and love quickly rubbed off on the seasoned caretaker after being separated from its mother and father at birth.
10. Kevin Richardson's career with wild animals
Known in many circles as "The Lion Whisperer" Kevin Richardson is another South African well versed in dealing with wild animals. However, unlike many in his profession, Richardson is a self-taught zookeeper who has raised some of the world's most dangerous wild animals, from lions to hyenas and leopards.
Despite being scratched, punctured and beaten, Richardson's Welgedacht Private Game Reserve near Pretoria continues to thrive.
11. Brutus the grizzly bear
Meet Brutus, an 800 pounds grizzly bear that soon became Casey Anderson's best friend. Casey, a naturalist, was there for Brutus when he was just 2 weeks old after coming to its aid in an overpopulated wildlife park.
Today, Brutus is living a life far removed from the hardships it faced at birth in a sanctuary that Casey built for all things-grizzly bears. While it may be shocking to casual observers, Brutus and Casey's friendship is entirely safe with Casey being able to predict Brutus's every move.
12. Got your goat
An elderly Australian farmer slipped and fell while out feeding his animals and broke a hip.
Unable to move he lay there for five days in hope someone would find him, in the meantime, his goat Mandy slept next to him to keep him warm and let him drink her milk for sustenance.
13. Water for Elephants
Eight-year-old Amber Mason loved riding on Ningnong the elephant whilst on holiday in Thailand with her family. One morning, when she was taking one of her many rides on the elephant's back, it charged up the beach to higher ground just before a tsunami hit the beach.
The knowing elephant had saved Amber's life and reunited her with her mother at the same time.
14. Not horsing around
Whilst tending to a baby calf, Fiona Boyd was attacked by the calf's thousand-pound mother who felt threatened and was defending her territory.
After being rolled over by the cow, Fiona's horse Kerry came to the rescue by galloping up and kicking the cow with its hind legs, after which Fiona escaped with minimal damage.
15. Jeff Longo and Biscuits
Jeff Longo was minding his own business when he was walking along a sun-dappled pavement before stumbling across a sick baby animal. In a case which appeared to suggest neglect, the helpless animal, who had been left in the boiling heat with no food or water, was soon taken under Jeff's care, despite having no experience dealing with injured animals.
After being in his care for over 3 months, Jeff decided to name the cutie Biscuits, and not long after, it miraculous recovery after all. How cute!
16. Botswana lion rescue
Every child craves love and affection and it is no different with animal babies. Sirga the lioness is one such child, only her parent isn’t a lion. Conservationist Valentin Gruener, 27, is the co‑founder of the Modisa Wildlife Project in the Kalahari, Botswana. Their aim is to save the lion population in Africa.
Sirga was born into a litter of three cubs. Two of her siblings died, so she was left behind by her pride. They found her near death on a farm in 2012 and immediately put her on a treatment to bring the tiny cub back to life.
Valentin, who is from Germany, and his partner Mikkel, from Denmark, have their hands full with the three-year-old lioness. She is now in her lion teenage years, and they are preparing her to live in the wild. She is perfectly able to hunt down her own food, but she lets her caretakers be close to her while she feeds, which is truly remarkable.
Such behaviors are incredibly rare, especially in wild animals. Still, the duo is convinced she is the most spoiled and well-fed lion in Botswana. Sirga is so close to Valentin; she keeps her claws sheathed during play sessions and lies with her head contentedly on Valentin's lap while he strokes her ears. Cuddling a 110lb lioness may not be everyone's idea of fun, but Sirga and Valentin have a unique bond!
17. Ron Bridges and his pet buffalo
Self-described rodeo enthusiast Ron Bridges gave his pet bison buffalo an unusual home in the form of his very own house! Intially, nurturing responsibilities were left to his son, but in time, Ron Bridges had lost sight in one eye and had to sell many of his valuables. But he decided to keep the buffalo and with time, gave him more freedoms.
And instead of running wild through their home and destroying their possessions like a bull in a china shop, the 2500 lbs buffalo, whom they named Wild Thing, defies stereotype and has been well behaved ever since he was first allowed in to their house.
Wild by name, domestic by nature.
18. Jessica the hippo
Jessica, like many domesticated wild animals, was found injured by South Africans Tonie and Shirley Joubert, who soon nursed her back to health. However, while Jessica now roams the nearby river with her fellow species, she still sees her rescuers.
When she steps foot on dry land, she can expect to be greeted with a bottle of her favorite tea, share the porch with the family dog and eat dinner in the kitchen. Not a bad life.
19. The Wolf Man
Shaun Ellis, 47, isn't your average middle-aged man. Instead, he's devoted his life to a pack of wolves, whom he eat, sleeps and plays with. Going native, he rarely washes, and even eats the same horse meat his wolf friends so savagely devour.
Ellis did this for some time, often sleeping in a similar muddy habitat to theirs until he met his wife Isla, 30 at a friend's house. Since marrying her, Isla has moved into his home and adopted his unusual but fascinating life with the wolves.
20. Lucky: the sister he never had
When this 5-year-old's father found a 1.3 meter python in their bathroom for the second time in a few days, he intially thought of destroying it. However, he was compelled to keep it and give it to his son. Mad, right? Well, this story gets even more bizarre.
Shortly after deciding to keep it, his son struck up a strong bond with the snake. Now measuring more than 5 meters, this reptile could easily swallow its owner whole, but instead lives off a diet of duck meat and chicken. The besotted owner said Lucky is the sister he never had.
That's one way of putting it!
21. Jimbo, the bear
Jim and Jimbo's story was documented on a popular YouTube video of Jim nursing back Jimbo to life. But upon recovery, Jimbo exhibited few signs of wanting to return to his natural home, and insisted on staying put!
Today, Jim has expanded his animal goodness to other bears by opening up his very own rehabilitation center for bears just like Jimbo.
22. Pouncing on trouble
While walking around her neighbourhood, Cherry Woods was attacked by two pit bulls. Her husband tried to help get the dogs off of her but was unsuccessful until their cat Lima pounced on the dogs with claws drawn and hissing wildly.
Distracting the dogs gave Cherry and her husband enough time to make a quick exit and call the authorities.
23. Snack saviour
When choking on an apple, Debbie Parkhurst tried to, unsuccessfully, perform the Heimlich maneuver on herself.
No one else was around except her golden retriever Toby. Seeing that Debbie was in distress, Toby knocked her off her feet, then proceeded to jump on her chest until she spat out the apple. What a clever pup.
24. Bird's the word
When two-year-old Hannah Kuusk started choking on a pop-tart, Willie the Parrot started shouting "Mamma, Baby!" to alert the babysitter who had stepped out of the room.
When she returned she instantly realized the problem and performed the Heimlich manoeuvre.
25. Orlando to the rescue
Service dog, Orlando, saved his owner who fainted and fell on train tracks.
Jumping down to him, the dog dragged him to the center of the tracks and lay over him in a miracle situation where the train went over both of them.
26. Taking a bullet
Pitbull Kilo was at the brunt of a vicious attack when a home invader tried to force his way into the house of his owner Becker.
Trying to force his way into the house, Kilo attacked the man only to be shot in the skull at close range. Fortunately, the attacker was scared off and Kilo received the medical attention that saved his life.
27. Janice's Bengal tiger sanctuary
Janice Hailey has become something of a saint in Orlando for her ability to nurse cub tigers back to health and give them a loving home. While in the confines of cages, Hailey spends hours of her day not only feeding them but also interacting with them and keeping them entertained.
Bengal tigers have been a mainstay fixture in Hailey's household for over 20 years.
28. Tippi's wild childhood
Tippi Hedren is the daughter of Sylvie Robert and Alain Degre, two French wildlife photographers who found themselves out in the wilds of Africa when she was born. Documenting the amazing wild animals of the continent, her parents would often capture these stunning creatures as they interacted with their child who, growing up around the beasts, was completely fearless.
Just take this stunning photo. Cheetahs aren't the biggest, strongest or most aggressive of big cats since they are mostly built for speed rather than strength but they do still have enough power to bring down an antelope and snap its neck so we're not so sure we'd be too cool with one giving us a taste, just in case. Tippi, however, does not care for our fear and is an absolute boss with her cat friend.
29. Nothing to see her... just a man and his best friend watching life go by
How cute is this? The poor pleican had found itself injured during a wild storm until a man spotted its plight and aided it back to health. Its savior Gefforey built up a unique bond with it during its recovery phase and they have hung out together ever since.
Often inseparable at times, these typically pack animals demonstrated that in rare cases, love and friendship knows no bounds.
30. One woman's unique bond with a group of lions
You may have already come across this fascinating story of one woman's unique bond with a group of lions in a South African reserve. If you haven't then you'll be shocked to know that Lazmi, a volunteer at the nature reserve, has bonded so well with these lions they treat her as one of their own.
Due to their strong bond, the lions treat her as an authoritative figure and acknowledges her as a constant dominating figure in their lives, so much so that she can get, as Animal Planet described it, " kissably close."
31. Gilberto and his crocodile
One fisherman on our list befriended a penguin, and another made an unlikely bond with a crocodile! Yes, Shedden, in a story similar to a Joao's, found a croc seriously injured on a riverbank so took great care of it, despite putting his own life at risk.
Naming the feared reptile Pocho, Gilberto released him into a river after nursing it back to health, but found him lurking at his veranda the very next day! From there, Pocho never left his rescuer's side.