Work hard, play hard

5 Animals with Life-Saving Jobs

More than just a cute face!


Meet Magawa. This giant rat has helped locate 71 unexploded land mines in Cambodia.


After 5 years working for APOPO, a nonprofit based in Belgium, he retired in early June.

But Magawa is far from the only animal to do this kind of work.

For starters, APOPO works with a whole team of dogs and rats to sniff out buried explosives and tuberculosis in sick patients.

His story is also a testament to animals around the world that do important work to keep humans safe.

Here are 4 other animals with life-saving jobs:
4. Clams

They know when there’s something in the water.

Caitlin Craggs via Giphy


In Warsaw, Poland, clams monitor the city’s water supply for contaminants.

Whenever the highly sensitive clams detect large amounts of heavy metals flowing in from the Zegrze reservoir or Vistula river, they clam up.

Sensors attached to their shells stop the water from flowing.

Fat Kathy/Julia Pelka

The clams were featured in a 2019 documentary, Gruba Kaska, or Fat Kathy, the name of the water pump station where they reside.

3. Birds

More than just feathers and eye-catching colors.



Ever heard the phrase “canary in a coal mine?” There’s an important backstory to it:

Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

For a large part of the 1900s, miners would bring the birds on site to monitor for carbon monoxide.

Since they’re small and have high metabolisms, the canaries would succumb to toxic breathing conditions well before the miners.

This left the workers time to evacuate the mine to safety.

Fernando Trabanco Fotografía/Moment/Getty Images

Of course, the practice also led to a lot of dead canaries.

Coal-mine canaries were phased out in the late 1980s in favor of electronic carbon monoxide detectors.

Today, pigeons help in similar ways. Researchers have measured lead levels in the blood of city pigeons to gauge the amount of toxins in the atmosphere.

2. Dolphins

All brains here.



It’s no secret that dolphins are incredibly smart.


The U.S. military deploys these savvy mammals to the depths of the ocean to sniff out underwater bombs.

1. Dogs

Man’s best friend, and biggest helper.


whitebalance.oatt/E+/Getty Images

There seems to be no shortage of tasks our beloved furry companions can do.

They’ve been trained to sniff out weapons, explosives, drugs, and even illness.
State of Social via Giphy


Research suggests they might even be able to detect when people are infected with COVID-19.

clu/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

Dogs have also aided in rescue missions, such as the famous St. Bernards that for hundreds of years helped save people lost in avalanches.

And, of course, they’re sources of friendship and emotional support.


Read more stories about animals here.

Thanks for reading,
head home for more!