Advances in technology have been fast and amazing. Technology has improved our lives in a multitude of areas. Robotics and technology have replaced thousands of workers over the last decade, and more people will see their jobs eliminated by technology.

If being replaced by robots, software or artificial intelligence wasn't bad enough, some workers have found themselves replaced by sheep and monkeys.

The owner of Shannon Ridge Winery in California wasn't able to find enough farm workers to pull leaves from his grapevines. This pulling of leaves is necessary to clear cover crops, prevent mold and allow sun to get to the grapes.

Lacking workers, he improvised and used the farm's sheep to pull the leaves. Owner Shannon Clay says it worked out better with the sheep. "People have oils on their hands that affect the fruit. It's hard [for] even experienced workers to use shears without touching the berries. The sheep put that soft muzzle on the fruit. There is no damage. After all, it's sheepskin."

The sheep do not like the grapes, so they only eat the leaves and they drop natural fertilizer as they go.

The next time your boss says a monkey could do your job, he really means it. Palm tree climbers have given way to using animals as replacements. Monkeys are being trained in India to climb the palm trees and pick coconuts. The country's coconut industry is one of the largest in the world. As the younger generation sets its sights on better-paying jobs off the farm, coconut farm owners are scrambling to find a solution. India has even offered a 1-million-rupee prize to anyone who invents a coconut-picking machine. Until then, the monkeys are picking coconuts.

Gardening is a rather benign profession full of fresh air, the smell of cut grass and the ability to know which plants can co-exist. Instead of using humans to dredge waterways or spray harmful herbicides, Florida is using manatees to do the cleaning. An invasive water hyacinth is choking many waterways and manatees, which eat about 10-15% of their weight each day, love them. No humans are required to yank those weeds.

Spiders are giving consumers organically raised and pesticide-free fruit. No longer are gardeners needed to spray fruit trees, and no pickers are needed to find the bad apples. Now, spiders are cleaning the apples. As natural predators, spiders are becoming the favorite "pesticide" of organic farmers. They dump spiders into the fruit and let them munch on the invasive bugs. They are less costly then pesticides, environmentally friendly and they don't get tired of eating other bugs.

There are therapy dogs, seeing-eye dogs and ponies, and seizure dogs, but did you realize there were medicinal rats? Apopo is a charity organization that has trained rats to detect tuberculosis. Apopo's HeroRATS can "read" over 2,000 TB samples a day or 40 samples in seven minutes. They are non-invasive, and, unlike human lab techs, they work for cheese.

Even IT technicians and cyber-geeks have been replaced by critters. When installing all those computers, you must run a lot of wire and it has to fit in some very tight spots. When facing this problem, the U.S. Space Command didn't hire an electrician; rather it hired a ferret. The small mammal is known for burrowing into small places. All U.S. Space Command needed to do was attach the appropriate wires to the ferret and let it run through the pipes or conduit. These furry ferrets have been used for "pulling" wire on numerous projects.

Even criminals' jobs are being replaced by animals. No longer are "lookouts" needed on drug smuggling operations. Colombian drug gangs are now using parrots to warn them if police are nearby. These vivacious birds are smart, have a large vocabulary and are easy to train. The birds are trained to squawk: "Run, run the cat is going to get you," if they see police in uniforms. Colombian officials have confiscated over 1,700 "lookout" parrots.

You no longer need a human "mule" to smuggle illegal substances. All you need are pigeons. These cooing birds that are in abundance on every part of the planet are now being used to smuggle contraband into and out of prisons, smuggle drugs from buyer to seller and smuggle diamonds out of mines in Africa. If caught, they won't squawk on you and they serve no jail time.

The Bottom Line
The work environment is changing rapidly, and any worker can be replaced at any time. These worker animals save human lives every day. They rescue humans, help the environment and make us happy. Just remember that there might be a furry critter waiting to take your job.

Photo Courtesy of zigazou76

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