5 More Life-Saving Animals: Filippo the Dolphin, Binti Jua the Gorilla, and More

A continuation of our story on 10 animals who've rescued their human friends.

Last week, we shared the stories of five animals who’ve saved the lives of humans—here are five more fascinating heroes from the animal kingdom you should know about.

Filippo (a dolphin) 

Davide Ceci, 14, fell out of his father’s boat in southeast Italy.  He couldn’t swim and was sinking to the bottom when dolphin Filippo came to his rescue.  Filippo had been a popular tourist attraction off Manfredonia in southeast Italy for two years before being released back into the wild so he was used to being around people.

While Ceci’s father was still unaware his son had fallen into the waves, Filippo was pushing him up out of the water. The dolphin got close enough for Ceci’s father to grab him.

Ceci’s mother said: “It is a hero, it seems impossible an animal could have done something like that, to feel the instinct to save a human life.”

Mila (a Beluga whale)

A similar story unfolded during a diving competition in China. The competition was held in a large pool filled with frigid water and Beluga whales. Competitors sank to the bottom of the pool where they held their breath as long as they could before surfacing.

Twenty-six year-old diver Yang Yun was fine until she tried to surface. The freezing water had paralyzed her legs and she was drowning. Mila, a Beluga whale, took one of Yang’s legs in her mouth and gently pushed her to the surface.

Binti Jua (Lowland Gorilla)

On August 16, 1996, in the Brookfield Zoo, a 3 year-old boy fell into a Gorilla enclosure and lost consciousness. Binti Jua, a female Lowland Gorilla, guarded the young boy from the other gorillas, cradled him in her arm (while her own 17-month old baby was on her back) and carried him 60 feet to an entrance where zookeepers could retrieve him.

Ten years before Binti Jua, on August 31 1986 at Jersey Zoo, a 5 year-old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure and lost consciousness, a large male gorilla named Jambo stood guard over the boy until an ambulance arrived to take him to safety.

Lulu (Vietnamese potbellied pig)

When Jo Ann Altsman suffered a life-threatening heart attack, her Vietnamese potbellied pig Lulu ran to a nearby road and waited for a car to come by. When she saw one, she threw herself down in the middle of the road trying to get it to stop. When it didn’t stop, she ran back to check on Jo Ann and then returned to the road. Forty-five minutes later, she was able to lead a driver to Jo Ann, and he called for help. Jo Ann was rushed to the hospital where she recovered.

Willie (South American Quaker parrot)

In 2008, 2 year-old Hannah Kuusk was eating her breakfast in the kitchen with Willie, the South American Quaker parrot. Her babysitter Megan Howard was in the next room when she heard Willie loudly flapping his wings.  Willie screamed: “Mama, Baby, Mama, Baby.” Howard ran into the kitchen to find Hannah choking on her food.  Howard performed the Heimlich maneuver and the child survived. 

Willie was awarded the Denver Red Cross chapter’s Animal Lifesaver Award in March 2009. He’s the first bird to receive this award—only dogs had gotten the award before Willie.


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