Are we really the most intelligent species?
Judging by the way some people behave around animals, it's a wonder how humans have made it so long on this planet. From breaking into animal enclosures at zoos to thinking it's a good idea to hand-feed a shark, there are plenty of reasons to question the intelligence of Homo sapiens.
This list includes a few of our favorite stories of humans being idiots around animals in 2018. Fair warning: there's a lot of face palming and shaking your head required here.
The whale in the parking lot
When disposing of an enormous, stinky, dead whale, it's important to make sure that whatever you're putting it in is big enough to hold the massive beast — an unfortunate lesson for the city of Rye, New Hampshire.
In a video posted on Twitter by a local reporter, the giant carcass of a minke whale flops off a forklift and onto the pavement as it very clearly doesn't fit in the small dumpster the forklift driver was aiming for. City authorities had planned to put the giant marine mammal in the dumpster so they could then carry it to another location where the whale could be properly necropsied. They eventually moved the whale in a much bigger dumpster. [Read more about how to dispose of big, dead whale]
The time raptor eggs hatched in the airport
At the beginning of the summer, a man was arrested at Heathrow Airport in London for trying to smuggle 19 raptor eggs tucked into his waistband. It's absurd to try to carry that many illegal large eggs through an international airport, but what made this attempt stand out was that two of the eggs had just hatched, revealing fuzzy, white vulture chicks.
Vultures and birds of prey don't make good pets and are illegal to have, but they can fetch a pretty penny in pet markets in Thailand and places in the Middle East, according to Raptor Aid, an English charity dedicated to protecting birds of prey.
The man was arrested, and the case is under investigation by the National Crime Agency in the U.K. All eggs and chicks were safely handed over to specialists. [Read more about the rescued raptor eggs]
The shark stolen in a baby stroller
A 2-foot-long (0.6 meters) gray horn shark named Miss Helen was just cruising around in her warm tank in the San Antonio Aquarium one afternoon when a man reportedly yanked her out of the water by her tail, stuffed her into a bucket and rolled her out of there … in a baby stroller.
An aquarium employee spotted the team of indiscreet shark-nappers, two men and a woman, and called management, KSAT12 News reported. Jen Spellman, the aquarium's general manager, confronted the thieves in the parking lot, but they refused to let her look in their trunk.
Fortunately, police were able to track the car and they apprehended the criminals later that evening, after discovering Miss Helen and other marine animals at their home. Miss Helen was returned to the aquarium unharmed. [Read more about the ridiculous shark theft]
The hippo-butt slap
This summer, a man broke into the hippopotamus enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo and slapped one of the hippos on the butt, before running and jumping back out of the enclosure. Of course, the hippos noticed, but their reaction was mild considering they're 3,000-pound wild animals with teeth that are more than a foot long.
Hippos are considered the world's deadliest large land mammal, and harassing them (or any animal, really) is never a good idea. Remarkably, the foolish man escaped unscathed and, as far as we know, he's still on the run. [Watch the video of the hippo-butt slapper]
When squirrel monkeys fought back
While the hippos' reaction to their intruder was shockingly mild, squirrel monkeys at a New Zealand zoo weren't so chill when a man broke into their enclosure and tried to steal one (as a gift for his girlfriend, he said). The man escaped with a broken leg, sprained ankle, fractured teeth and no pet monkey.
The man's actions resulted in physical and psychological injuries for the monkeys, which were still showing signs of trauma months after the ordeal.
The man, who described himself as "high as a kite" during his attempted monkey heist, was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison for attempted burglary and other unrelated violent crimes. [Read more about the monkeys that fought their intruder]
When rhino poachers were killed by lions
In South Africa this summer, a pride of lions saved a herd of rhinos from poachers. The illegal hunters entered the Sibuya Game Reserve in the middle of the night and apparently hiked right into a group of six lions. The big cats mauled and killed at least two of the poachers, maybe three, as evidenced by the bloody human body parts found by field guides the next morning.
It was unclear if any of the poachers escaped, but local police opened a criminal investigation. Whether or not all the poachers survived, the event should give pause to any poachers looking to trespass a predator's territory in search of illegal bounty. [Read more about the rhinos saved by lions]
The woman bitten by a shark when she fed it by hand
A woman who decided to feed a shark with her bare hand was — surprise — bitten by the shark, and she's pretty lucky she still has her hand.
Melissa Brunning was on a holiday yacht cruise in Dugong Bay on Australia's coast, when she tried to feed a tawny nurse shark (Nebrius ferrugineus) by hand. As the shark snatched the food, its jaws closed on her finger, and it yanked her into the water — a terrifying moment that one of her friends captured on video.
Unlike several of the senseless humans on this list, Brunning adamantly affirmed that it was entirely her fault that the shark bit her, and said she realized how fortunate she was that her injury wasn't a lot worse. She also said her future interactions with marine wildlife would be at a much safer and respectful distance. [Read more about the predictable shark bite]
The trapper knocked out cold by a tied-up alligator
Also on the list of creatures-you-really-shouldn't-torment are alligators. With their sharp teeth and muscular tails, these living dinosaurs shouldn't be messed with — even when their arms, legs and jaws are tied down, as one trapper in Florida learned this year.
A video posted on Twitter shows the trapper and two police officers hoisting the enormous gator into a truck bed. But before the gator is all the way in, it whips its large head back and whacks the trapper in the head, knocking him out cold. One of the police officers also toppled over as the gator slapped him with its tail. The gator slithered off of the tail bed and back onto the ground, daring the men to try again, maybe a bit more carefully next time. [Watch the gator get revenge on the trapper]
The chicken costume scare
In October, headlines proclaimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had issued a warning against dressing up domestic chickens for Halloween. Here at Live Science, we wondered, first of all, are there really that many people who dress up their chickens? And second, why does the CDC not want them to?
We were sad and confused, but the warning was a false alarm. The CDC never issued such a statement, although they suggest, for anyone with such a proclivity, washing the chicken's costume and your hands thoroughly in order to avoid infection with Salmonella, a bacteria that chickens can carry. The agency also felt it was important to remind people to make sure the chicken can breathe and walk normally while wearing its costume. [Read more about dressing chickens up for Halloween]
When rotting fish exploded in an art gallery
Earlier this year, employees at an art gallery in London thought it was a good idea to display an art installation that consisted of rotting fish (yes, real rotting fish). Hours before the exhibit opened to the public, the exhibit blew up, spewing smelly fish guts and starting a fire that damaged part of the gallery.
The installation — a piece called "Majestic Splendor" by Lee Bul — consisted of dozens of small, transparent bags fixed to a wall, each containing a dead fish decorated with stitched-on sequins and beads. The work represents Bul's view on the fleeting nature of beauty for highly ornamented women.
Experts suspected that the explosion was caused by pressure buildup from trapped gases released by the rotting fish, similar to the effect that causes beached and bloated dead whales to explode. And, as fish decay, they produce amines — compounds of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen — which are not only distinctively "fishy" but are also potentially explosive.
So, while the art was certainly edgy and original, perhaps the artist will rethink including dead animals in her future designs. [Read more about the rotting fish explosion]
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Kimberly has a bachelor's degree in marine biology from Texas A&M University, a master's degree in biology from Southeastern Louisiana University and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a former reference editor for Live Science and Space.com. Her work has appeared in Inside Science, News from Science, the San Jose Mercury and others. Her favorite stories include those about animals and obscurities. A Texas native, Kim now lives in a California redwood forest.