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From the Cellar Vault: Animal Spies

Last week, police in Iran apprehended a group of 14 squirrels on, get this, suspicion of spying. Apparently the rodents had been outfitted with eavesdropping equipment and were picked up on a tip from foreign intelligence services. Now, it's possible that this is all a stunt to show how tough Iranians are on crime, but if the squirrels really are enemy operative, they would join the historic ranks of cloak-and-dagger animals. Here's a look at some other non-human spies, illustrated with help from our friends at the Image of the Day archive at The Cellar.

Pigeons are noted for their delivery skills and the appeal was not lost on troops. They were used since the 19th Century to transmit messages in the field until the walkie-talkie took that over. In World War II, British officials even awarded 32 pigeons the Dickin Medal for animal valor. Plans were even in the works to use pigeons to drop bacteria on enemy troops, though they presumably never got off the ground. Here we see a war pigeon in it's natural environment- hunkered down in the trenches.

harrypigeon.jpg

During World War II, the US military would use dolphins to aid in naval missions. The creatures used sonar to detect underwater mines, carried explosives to enemy boats and retrieved objects from the sea floor. Even though the practice of using them has gone out of style, dolphins were recently used to clear away mines at ports in Iraq. Here the dolphins seemed poised for a grand-scale attack- those surfers better watch out!
dolphins.jpg

No human weapons inspectors were able to find the WMD's in Iraq, but that didn't stop American troops from using chickens to find chemical weapons in Kuwait. Operation Kuwait Field Chicken (KFC for short. Seriously.) employed 43 chickens to act like canaries and show signs of chemical infestation. The army warns that the oil-masked air in Kuwait can make some chemicals hard to detect, so using chickens as a warning system is the best low-tech method of keeping troops safe from dangerous fumes. Here's a chicken already incognito for his spying trip.

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Finally, Indian officials picked up a number of hawks in early 2000 carrying high-tech equipment and promptly apprehended them for being Pakistani spies. It was later revealed that the hawks were only being used for sport and had infiltrated India because "birds don't understand international borders," as the handler so astutely put it. The technology attached to the hawks wasn't surveillance equipment to steal military plans, but tracking equipment so they didn't get lost. Still, if that story has you thinking that hawks must all be good and tame, just look at this picture of one with its talons bared to remind you how dangerous they really are.

evictedhawks1.jpg

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Photographer's Amazing Snap of an Osprey Is Holding Two Big Surprises
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iStock

As a wildlife photographer, Doc Jon understands the importance of being in the right place at the right time. But it took getting home and really squinting at his own work to realize that he recently captured a “one-in-a-trillion shot” while taking a photo of an osprey in Madeira Beach, Florida. While demonstrating the power of his lens to a fellow beach-goer, Jon pointed his camera at an osprey flying about 400 feet above their heads, and snapped a quick photo.

“I started shooting and my settings were off,” Jon told Fstoppers. “I had no tripod. I was trying to hold it steady, but it was windy out," he said. "I could see the osprey had a fish, but it was far away. It wasn't until I got home, cropped in on it, lightened the shadows, and applied some sharpening that I suddenly saw. ‘Oh my god, that's a shark's tail.’ Then I saw the fish in its mouth and I knew it was going to go viral.”

Jon predicted correctly.

Photos courtesy of Doc Jon via Facebook

Jon’s photo, which has already been shared by thousands of people, features the osprey holding a shark, which is holding a fish—making it sort of like the photographic version of a turducken. News of Jon’s amazing photo spread after he posted it to his Facebook page and a local news station saw it. Since then, he told Fstoppers, he’s been receiving requests for interviews from as far away as Israel and India.

Of course, with all that exposure comes the inevitable question of authenticity. Fortunately, Jon is taking that part in stride.

"The fun part for me is some people are commenting that it's Photoshopped, and obviously, those people don't know the limitations of Photoshop," Jon told Fstoppers. "Then, other people are telling me I should have sold it instead of sharing it online. I'm laughing, because really, it's not a good photo. The photo itself kind of sucks. But it tells a great story and it's getting me a lot of recognition for my other work now."

[h/t: Fstoppers]

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Harry Trimble
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Design
Delightful Photo Series Celebrates Britain’s Municipal Trash Cans
Harry Trimble
Harry Trimble

Not all trash cans are alike. In the UK, few know this better than Harry Trimble, the brains behind #govbins, a photo project that aims to catalog all the trash can designs used by local governments across Britain.

Trimble, a 29-year-old designer based in South London, began the series in 2016, when he noticed the variation in trash can design across the cities he visited in the UK. While most bins are similar sizes and shapes, cities make trash cans their own with unique graphics and unusual colors. He started to photograph the cans he happened to see day-to-day, but the project soon morphed beyond that. Now, he tries to photograph at least one new bin a week.

A bright blue trash can reads ‘Knowsley Council: Recycle for Knowsley.’
Knowsley Village, England

“I got impatient,” Trimble says in an email to Mental Floss. “Now there’s increasingly more little detours and day trips” to track down new bin designs, he says, “which my friends, family and workmates patiently let me drag them on.” He has even pulled over on the road just to capture a new bin he spotted.

So far, he’s found cans that are blue, green, brown, black, gray, maroon, purple, and red. Some are only one color, while others feature lids of a different shade than the body of the can. Some look very modern, with minimalist logos and city website addresses, Trimble describes, “while others look all stately with coats of arms and crests of mythical creatures.”

A black trash can features an 'H' logo.
Hertsmere, England

A blue trash can reads ‘South Ribble Borough Council: Forward with South Ribble.’
South Ribble, England

A green trash can with a crest reads ‘Trafford Council: Food and Garden Waste Only.’
Trafford, Greater Manchester, England

Trimble began putting his images up online in 2017, and recently started an Instagram to show off his finds.

For now, he’s “more than managing” his one-can-a-week goal. See the whole series at govbins.uk.

All images by Harry Trimble

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