Animals Gone Wild

0 and blogwatch are committed to giving you the other side of the stories the big media conglomerates want to shove down your throats.

So far we’ve limited ourselves to politics, economics, climate change, arts, and culture — but no more. This week we tell you what’s really behind those "crazy animal stories" you get after the weather or running down the side bars of the "respectable" news sites.

The back story, of course, is that humans have mistreated animals for years, putting them in more cruel, bizarre and highly amusing situations than the creatures of this planet ever expected way back when they rejected the opposable thumb as being too ugly and sort of confusing.

After all this time, you’d think we’d have had our fun and move on, but it seems that flaunting our superiority over beasts is one gag that never gets old. Take what the MORETHANliving blog has reported about the experiments run by Dr Andrew Barron of Macquarie University’s Centre for the Integrative Study of Animal Behaviour, who gets his jollies giving bees cocaine and seeing what happens.

According to MORETHANliving’s countdown of 2008’s crazy animal stories, "bees which had been given a dose of cocaine threw themselves into unusually energetic dance routines" when reporting to the hive about the amount of pollen they had found, as if they were more excited and exaggerated the amount.

To add to the fun, when the bees were sufficiently addicted, Dr Barron thought he should deny them cocaine and discovered that the bees "even went ‘cold turkey’ when the drugs ran out". Shocking.

Bees may be dumb but they’re not stupid. They know that these experiments are publicly funded and that as such every taxpayer is complicit in this. The next time you get stung, think about it.

But it’s all harmless fun, right? The big news networks would have you believe that all the dogs dressed in sweaters, waterskiing squirrels and drug-addicted insects are just jokes. But animals are evolving in new and surprising ways to combat human intervention, and have already begun to fight back.

Courageously, Fairfax’s SMH online dared to run the prescient and disturbing story of Travis the Chimpanzee in a prominent position on their home page. "The chimpanzee was toilet trained, dressed himself, took his own bath, ate at the table and drank wine from a stemmed glass", say police of the chimp who had appeared in television shows and advertisements in the US. "He also brushed his teeth, logged onto the computer to look at pictures and watched television using the remote control."

But restricting Travis to crystal stemware would drive the fearsome ape to breaking point, and so it was that it "mauled a woman and later cornered a policeman in his vehicle". Even after being wounded with a butcher’s knife, the hirsute juggernaut went on to injure two police officers before being shot and killed.

Arguably Travis’s failing was that although he had learned many new ways, he was still unarmed and on foot. But elsewhere our furry enemies are apparently getting wise to the battlefield advantages of mechanisation. "Police in Nigeria are holding a goat handed to them by a vigilante group", according to a report on derrenbrownart, after (witnesses allege) it tried to steal a car.

"A police spokesman in Kwara State has been quoted as saying that the ‘armed robbery suspect’ would remain in custody until investigations were over." Finally, a police department that takes the animal threat seriously.

Animals are not only targeting our cars, but the human race’s most precious possessions: our celebrities. Susan Sarandon is one person who knows how real the danger is, as Gawker recounts.

"While [on a trip]with writer/LSD aficionado Timothy Leary in the 1970s, the Academy Award-winning actress was ‘nearly killed’ by a jealous female dolphin. The dreaded sea mammal took a bite out of her wrist and then "tower[ed]over me on its rear fins. She seemed to be 12 feet tall". (Though, as one commenter revealed, she seems able to give as good as she gets: "A 12 ft screeching Susan Sarandon attacked me on my last acid trip also.")

Human superiority in the air is also under threat. Animal prestige took a beating more than 100 years ago when humans finally found a way to conquer the skies, which had until then been their exclusive domain. Since then, they’ve been plotting continuously, but are only now able to attack our planes at will. Just in the last two months a dog grounded a Qantas jet and a cunning bird pair finally cracked a way to martyr themselves in both engines of an airliner, as the recent ditching of US Airways flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson River seems to suggest.

There are some brave journalists who are blowing the whistle on the coming inter-phylum battle for global supremacy. Peter Carlson of The Washington Post salutes one hero, John Jeremiah Sullivan of GQ magazine:

Sullivan interviewed Marcus Livengood, a zoologist who blows the whistle on the alarming worldwide increase in animals attacking humans: In India, leopards invaded Mumbai, killing 22 people! In Albania, a pack of 200 wild dogs rampaged through the town of Mamurras, attacking humans! In Sonoma County, Calif., chickens turned on local children! In North Carolina, hermit crabs besieged a jogger on a beachside boardwalk!

These animals are fighting back against human encroachment, says Livengood: "We are a threat to the animals. They’re just doing what nature designed them to do." Carlson then flagged a problem with this story, to be found in the last paragraph of John Jeremiah Sullivan’s piece, where you run across this little revelation: "Big parts of this piece I made up. I didn’t want to say that, but the editors are making me, because of certain scandals in the past with made-up stories."

Sullivan admits in the piece that he in fact concocted Marcus Livengood, who does not exist, but he swears that the animal attack stories he cited are really true. "All the facts are real," Jim Nelson, GQ‘s editor, told the Post in a phone interview. "All the bizarre animal attacks are real".

What a shame that there wasn’t a real-life scientist prepared to go on record and help get this terrifying story out there. Even our close cousins in New Zealand are under threat, with a recent "bat attack".

Lumberjacks Bob Dowling and Chris Harris were walking along Amohia Road in central Rotorua at around 3am when they say they were attacked [by hundreds of bats]… Scientist Stuart Parsons, who is a specialist in bats … says it is unusual for New Zealand bat species to venture into the city and even more out of character for them to attack people.

Which just shows you how far these normally gentle creatures have been pushed.

But what are the authorities doing to address this situation? Rounding up police horses and interning sniffer dogs? No. Not only are they apparently ignorant of the danger, the military are still busy palling around with some of the most dangerous soldiers in the animal army.

Only last year, "a penguin who was previously made a Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Army has been knighted at Edinburgh Zoo," informs us.

Over the years, he [Nils, the penguin] has been promoted through the ranks … During the ceremony … a sword [was waved]on each side of his head, where his shoulders should be, to confirm his regimental knighthood.

We can’t think of a worse example of animal exploitation leading to possibly catastrophic consequences. If untrained militias of animals are causing us trouble already, the dangers of a professional army are hard to quantify.

"Parasteve" on Military Veteran forum gives his analysis:

The increase in mountain lion attacks? Great White sharks moving closer to shore? Moose have been showing up in towns and stomping on people. A squirrel was in my living room last spring. Am I the only one that sees a pattern here? People, wise up! The other animals are against us. It doesn’t take a genius to see there’s an inter-species conspiracy to thwart the urban expansion of man.

The sceptical may ask why would these other species want to hurt us? Obviously, they hate us. They are jealous of our way of life. We swim in chlorinated, safe environment pools, then towel off and have an adult beverage. They are stuck eating sludge in the Mississippi, a river polluted by guess who: their mortal enemy man. And to top it all off we eat them.

(Parasteve’s comrade "Hollis" adds, "It has been commonly thought that bears hibernate during the winter. Actually they go underground and train.")

Anyone still in doubt that these animals have the gumption to take on humans directly need only remember the recent attack by a shark on a member of the Navy’s crack Clearance Diving Team in Sydney Harbour during a training exercise. On the Clearance Divers’ blog, one post noted the way animals are turning disabilities into strengths:

As for the shark attack, we all remember our training: "The Diving Manual states that sharks rarely attack divers. Unfortunately, sharks can’t read.

But rest assured this won’t end without a fight, as Parasteve vows:

If the U.N. wants to get involved, fine, if not we can do it alone. Of course the British will show up, they always do, but we will fight to protect our way of life. And if you don’t agree, you’re an unpatriotic idiot who hates America.

So it’s war, people — and as GW Bush would say, you’re either with us, or you’re with the animals.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.