Just about every major city around the world has a zoo full of fun, fascinating animals. But once in a while, one of these creatures captures the hearts of people everywhere, whether by staging a dramatic escape or accurately predicting the outcomes of much-anticipated sporting events. Check out seven of the best-known animals in captivity in the world.
In December 2006, Knut the polar bear was born at the Berlin Zoo under life-threatening circumstances—his mother abandoned him, which often means a baby animal's unlikely survival. Raised and bottle-fed by zookeeper Thomas Dorflein, Knut was already being closely watched by the world, but when animal rights activists condemned his captivity, his popularity soared. Knut received much attention and care throughout his life; to help him develop social skills, zookeepers even brought in other polar bears for him to interact with. Sadly, in early 2011 Knut unexpectedly passed away after suffering convulsions and falling into a pool in front of hundreds of zoo visitors. Knut’s cause of death was linked to brain damage.
During spring 2011, everyone from local New York radio stations to The New York Times was abuzz over a venomous Egyptian cobra that went missing from the Bronx Zoo. During the weekend of March 25, the snake escaped its confined zoo quarters; it was finally discovered after several days, taking cover in the zoo’s reptile house. But for those few days that the snake—later named Mia for “Missing in Action”—was on the loose, he became a local celebrity, with everyone trying to guess where he was. One devotee even created and updated a faux Twitter account on behalf of the reptile, which garnered more than 200,000 followers!
Punxsutawney Phil is no stranger to the news, considering he’s been in the spotlight every year on February 2 (Groundhog Day) since 1887 to predict the upcoming spring weather. According to the officials of Punxsatawney, there has only been one Phil, and he’s lived so long because of a special elixir (wink, wink), but groundhogs' average lifespan is eight to nine years in captivity. When he’s not looking for his shadow, Phil lives in the Groundhog Zoo of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, located about 80 miles from Pittsburgh. Tourists can visit Phil at any time of day.
In July 1996, Dolly the sheep (named after Dolly Parton) became the first mammal in history to be successfully cloned from an adult cell. Scientists had long experimented with cloning to improve their understanding of things like development, genetics and medicine for farm animals. Dolly was created at Scotland’s Roslin Institute after a whopping 277 attempts by “reprogramming the udder cells to keep them alive and growing,” according to AnimalReseach.info. Dolly lived a pretty normal but glamorous life at The Roslin Institute. But in February 2003 she was diagnosed with progressive lung disease at the age of six and had to be euthanized.
This beloved tortoise lived until the ripe old age of 176, making her one of the oldest known creatures in the world.
Harriet was said to have been five years old in 1835, when she was taken from the Galapagos Islands by naturalist Charles Darwin. While there is no evidence proving these claims, Harriet was still a beloved tourist attraction as a resident of the Australia Zoo in Queensland, Australia (owned by The Crocodile Hunter star Steve Irwin) for the last 17 years of her life. In 2006, she suffered a heart attack and died, leaving her long and inspiring legacy behind.
Paul, the game-predicting octopus, correctly guessed the results of eight World Cup matches in 2010. Paul lived in the Sea Life Center of Oberhausen, Germany. Before each game, his caregivers presented him with two underwater boxes. Each box contained a different flag, representing one of the teams playing in the upcoming match. Every time, the box Paul swam to indicated the winner. In October 2010, the psychic octopus passed away peacefully in his tank. He lived to the age of 2 1/2 years, a typical lifespan for an octopus.
The fun-loving gorilla Koko, born in July 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo, is involved with The Gorilla Language Project, also known as “Project Koko.” Koko understands 1,000 words of American Sign Language and also understands 2,000 words of spoken English. According to Koko.org, Koko “has advanced further with language than any other nonhuman.” Koko first became famous because of her language skills, but was propelled to stardom when she started caring for pet cats, the first of which she called All Ball, who was featured in the 1985 book Koko's Kitten.