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10 Times Wild Animals Saved Humans

by Oliver Taylor
fact checked by Jamie Frater

We’ve heard of pets saving their owners, but what about wild animals saving total strangers? Wild dolphins, porpoises, and deer have saved humans. As have lions, bears, and whales.

However, not all of the animals on this list saved humans on purpose. Some only became unwitting heroes, while the motivations of others remain in doubt. In one case, some believe the “rescuers” were actually planning to eat the person they saved.

10 Lions Save Girl From Kidnappers

Sometime in June 2005, a 12-year-old Ethiopian girl was walking home from school when she was abducted by four men. (Rural Ethiopia has seen many instances of men kidnapping women they intend to forcefully marry.) The girl remained with the men for a week while police searched for her. The police were trailing the abductors when the men abandoned the girl after they were approached by three lions.

The lions did not eat the girl, as many would have expected. They just remained with her and then quietly left when the police arrived. A wildlife expert suggested the lions didn’t kill the girl because she sounded like a lion cub while crying. However, not everyone thinks the lions were being superheroes. A game hunter suggested the big cats were about to eat the girl and were interrupted by the police.[1]

9 Sea Lion Saves Man From Drowning

Sometime in 2000, Kevin Hines decided he’d had enough of life. He was suffering from bipolar disorder and depression and chose to commit suicide by drowning. His location of choice was the famous Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco. However, he did not drown as expected because a sea lion kept him above the water.

Hines initially thought the sea lion was a shark. This freaked him out. While he planned to commit suicide, that didn’t include being killed by a shark. However, he soon realized that his unexpected companion was a sea lion. The sea lion kept bumping into him to keep him above the water and remained with him until a Coast Guard rescue boat arrived.

Besides keeping Hines afloat, the sea lion also helped the rescuers to find him easily. If the sea lion hadn’t kept him above water, the Coast Guard would have spent a much longer time searching for Kevin’s corpse underwater.[2]

8 Dolphins Save Lifeguards From Shark

On October 20, 2004, lifeguard Rob Howes and three teenage lifeguards including his daughter were swimming at Ocean Beach, near Whangarei, New Zealand, when they were suddenly surrounded by seven bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins started circling around them, keeping them together.

Howes and one of the swimmers drifted away from the rest, but a dolphin followed them and dived under the water around them. Howes went underwater to see what the dolphin was doing and found a great white shark swimming around him. That was the moment he realized what was happening: The dolphins were protecting them from the shark.

Howes never told the teenage lifeguards there was a shark in the water because he did not want to startle them. Another lifeguard, Matt Fleet, witnessed the incident from shore and took a boat to see what was happening. He saw the shark, too. The dolphins continued circling the lifeguards for 40 minutes until the shark left.

Dr. Rochelle Constantine of Auckland University School of Biological Sciences said the incident was not unheard-of, though it was rare. Dolphins have been observed protecting other animals from sharks. In New Zealand’s waters, sharks aren’t usually a major threat to bottlenose dolphins, though they will attack a shark if they feel they’re in danger.[3]

7 Deer Saves Woman From Unidentified Man

This is a tale of a wild animal unknowingly saving a human.

Sometime in February 2012, an unnamed woman was saved by a deer in Oxford, Ohio. She was attending a party that night, which she left at around 1:00 AM. A man grabbed her as she walked past a field. He hit her and tried snatching her purse before dragging her into the field.

A deer was sleeping in the field that night but was startled when it heard the sounds of the duo struggling. It jumped up and fled the scene. The man was also scared when he heard the sounds of the fleeing deer, so he fled, too, leaving the lady all alone. The woman returned to the party and called 911. Unfortunately, she could not describe the man to the police.[4]

6 Dolphins Save Surfer From Shark

On August 28, 2016, Todd Endris was surfing at Marina State Park, California, when he was attacked by a great white shark. The shark came at him three times. The first attack was unsuccessful, and the shark only hit him as he lay on his surfboard. However, that was enough to announce the shark’s presence.

The second attack would not be so forgiving. The shark bit into Todd’s torso and part of his surfboard. It did not rip him open but was able to peel skin off his back. The shark would have likely torn into Todd’s internal organs if his stomach hadn’t been pressed against the surfboard.

The shark returned for a third attack. This time, it targeted Todd’s right leg. The shark held Todd’s leg in its jaws and tried tearing it off. Todd fought back, kicking the shark in the head and snout with his left leg until it released him. Then, the dolphins arrived. They surrounded Todd, protecting him from further attacks as he swam back to shore.

Todd’s friend administered first aid before he was taken to the hospital. Todd lost half of his blood in the attack. Bone was visible on his right leg. Some lifeguards and a few of Todd’s friends had witnessed the attack from shore, and they thought he wouldn’t survive. He underwent surgery and returned to surfing six weeks later.[5]

5 Whale Saves Woman From Shark

Whale Protects Diver From Nearby Shark

In October 2017, Nan Hauser was swimming off the Cook Islands when a humpback whale suddenly appeared near her. The whale kept bumping into her with its head and belly. It attempted carrying her on its head, belly, and back. It also made several attempts to put her under its pectoral fin.

Hauser found this behavior weird. She was a marine biologist and had never seen a humpback whale act this way. She later realized what was happening after she left the water and returned to her research vessel. There was a 4.6-meter-long (15 ft) tiger shark swimming close to the whale. Obviously, the whale was protecting her from the shark.

This was not the first time a humpback whale had been observed protecting other animals from predators. In 2009, a humpback whale was photographed protecting a Weddell seal from killer whales. In 2017, some humpback whales stopped killer whales from attacking baby gray whales just off the coast of California. Humpback whales are believed to be protective of other animals because of their natural instinct to protect their own young from predators.[6]

4 Man Attacked By Mountain Lion, Saved By Bear

Robert Biggs was hiking in the woods in Whiskey Flats, California, on March 26, 2012, when he was attacked by a mountain lion. Before the attack, he had been watching a bear and her cub. He was about to leave when the mountain lion attacked. The big cat jumped on him from behind, pushing him to the ground. He unsuccessfully tried fighting the lion off until the bear arrived.

The lion and bear fought for some time until the lion fled. The bear returned to her cub, and Biggs left for home. He only suffered an injury to his arm. Biggs believed the mountain lion was planning to attack the bear’s cub before he arrived, but then it turned on him instead. It changed nothing, though, since mama bear fought back anyway.[7]

3 Fisherman Saved By Dolphins

In 2002, Grant Dickson was sailing in his trawler off the coast of Queensland, Australia, when it sank. Dickson was able to hold on to an upturned dinghy. However, he still remained in the water, bleeding, surrounded by some hungry sharks that had started circling around him, patiently waiting for the perfect time to attack.

One shark was clearly aggressive and kept swimming closer. But then some dolphins arrived and chased the sharks away. However, that would not be the end of Dickson’s problems. He remained in the water for 40 hours until he was rescued by a passing ship.

Dickson was the only survivor of the three men on the trawler. One of the two other crewmen had held onto the dinghy with him but left and tried swimming to land. He never made it. The search for the three crewmen involved 18 aircraft flying over 2,000 nautical miles.[8]

2 Shipwrecked Woman Saved By Dolphins

In the early 1970s, Yvonne Vladislavich was traveling on a boat off the coast of Mozambique when the engine stopped working. (Some accounts claim it exploded.) The boat remained adrift until it was sunk by a wave.

Yvonne was a very good swimmer and decided to try to swim to shore. However, some sharks had other plans for her. Six sharks started circling her and kept coming closer until dolphins arrived. The dolphins kept the sharks away and followed Yvonne as she swam/drifted 40 kilometers (25 mi) until she reached a buoy.

Yvonne would have drowned if she hadn’t been assisted by the dolphins. She frequently got tired during the journey and would have gone under if the dolphins hadn’t kept her above the water. She was the only survivor of the four people on the boat.[9]

1 Famous Actor Saved By Porpoises

In 2010, actor Dick Van Dyke revealed on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson that he was once saved by porpoises. Dyke made the revelation after Ferguson asked him if he ever surfed around his home in California. Dyke said he used to but stopped after he almost died.

Dyke claimed he was surfing one day when he feel asleep on his surfboard. He awoke to find himself far away from land. He also had some uninvited guests. He could not see them, but he could see their fins as they circled around him. He initially thought they were sharks, but they turned out to be porpoises. The porpoises pushed him until he returned to shore.[10]

fact checked by Jamie Frater