Created By: matsuiny2004November 30, 2011 Last Edited By: captainmarkleJanuary 29, 2016
Troped

Animal Espionage

Animals are used as spies.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
captainmarkle taking over draft


Spying on people is an activity carried out by humans, but it can also be carried out by animals. These animal can have implants allowing for communication, be sentient or not sentient, and maybe even have chips that allow you to record what they see. The animals can be trained, used as tools by the humans or could be doing it for their own purposes.

For Carrier Pigeons, see Instant Messenger Pigeon. Supertrope to Literal Surveillance Bug. If a character does this by using the eyes of the animal, it's Animal Eye Spy.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

Film
  • G Force has sentient guinea pigs that are spies.
  • Cats And Dogs uses this trope a lot, with the cats as villainous spies and the dogs as heroic secret agents.
  • In Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Belloq and the Nazis employ a monkey to try and spy on Indy. It doesn't entirely work, since the monkey eats a poison date, which in turn causes Sallah to stop Indy doing the same, thus saving his life.
  • In The Fifth Element, one of Zorg's minions uses a cockroach fitted with a hilariously conspicuous transmitter to spy on the president. The roach also seems to have a brain implant that allows him some rudimentary control over it. The president eventually notices the bug and squashes it, causing painful feedback for the listener. (Note that this is a parodical exaggeration. Despite the film being set a few centuries in the future, in real life the technology already exists to do this trick more effectively)
  • In the Lord Of The Rings films, the Fellowship takes cover from a massive flock of crows, thinking Saruman is using them as spies.
  • The Spy With A Cold Nose was a British film made in 1966 in which a dog with a radio transmitter in its collar was given as a gift to the Russian Premier.

Literature
  • The book A Sentient Animal involves dolphins being used and trained for espionage
  • Dean Koontz's 1987 novel Watchers deals with genetic engineering that uplifts a Golden Retriever named "Einstein" to near-human intelligence for the purpose of espionage.
  • In A Song Of Ice And Fire, ravens are the typical way to send letters. More extreme examples are wargs, who are basically people that can fall asleep at will and look out the eyes of an animal. It's usually a pet they're very close to, but very talented wargs can become any animal they'd like. Its television adaptation, Game Of Thrones, also shows them used for this purpose.
  • The dwarfs of Middle Earth in JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit find an old crow who once served Thorin's grandfather, as at that time, dwarfs could speak with various birds. Thorin is able to use the crow to get a thorough analysis of the Five Armies marching toward Lonely Mountain: which races, how many, which direction, and distance from target. Bilbo Baggins also hears this report, and it moves him to take remedial action.
  • In The Wheel Of Time series, ravens, crows and rats can be used as spies for the Dark One, and as such have bounties in the Borderlands and are generally killed on sight. Generally speaking, they have to report to some manner of shadowspawn, but some more powerful villains can take them over directly.
  • Harry Potter: Animagi can turn themselves into animals so as to go around without attracting suspicion as a human, though there's always an element to the disguise that identifies his/her human form. In Rita Skeeter's case, she turns into a literal surveillance bug (a beetle). This causes Bellatrix Lestrange to kill a fox at one point, as she believed it to be an auror... except in this case it genuinely was a fox.
  • Animorphs: Most of the team's non-combat morphs are for this purpose, and in time manage to get the hang of a morph's senses (especially insects) well enough to understand what's being said. The Yeerks grow Genre Savvy about this, and take great care to kill any insect or animal that enters their facilities.
  • Referred to in passing, and for comedy, during the Alex Rider series. Joe Byrne claims that the CIA tried installing a cat in the Korean embassy with a bugged collar, but the Koreans ate it. Byrne being Byrne, it's not clear if he was joking.
  • In Guards Guards, Patrician Vetinari somehow manages to make an arrangement with the rats after being imprisoned. In return for him helping them, they will bring him news as to what is happening, both in terms of papers and gossip. It's implied that they were a result of the Unseen University's experiments, which is how they are so useful.
  • This is the reason that Jabberjays were created in The Hunger Games. People figured this out, though, and began giving the birds Red Herrings to throw off President Snow.
  • In the Heralds Of Valdemar series, the creatively-named ability of Animal Mindspeech is frequently used this way, allowing its users to take advantage of an Animal Eye Spy and sometimes even direct the animals to the appropriate place first.
  • Andre Norton's Beast Master novels. Hosteen Storm has telepathic/empathic links with four animal companions - the meerkats Hing and Ho, the African Black Eagle Baku and the sand cat Surra. He regularly uses them as spies/observers.

Live Action TV
  • An inventor attaches surveillance equipment to animals, in order to identify the spies at the school in the MI High episode "Spy Animals".
  • In Terra Nova, a dragonfly is used like a carrier pigeon taking chips that contain information to spies in Taylor's Colony.
  • Mission Impossible: In "Chico", the IMF must rely on a trained terrier, named Chico, to retrieve a list of undercover agents from a drug lord's underground vault.

Tabletop Games
  • In the Star Wars RPG sourcebook, "Cracken's Rebel Operatives", Moff Jarnek's Cool Pet Daerlar is a Covallon. Because Covallon walk on all fours, it isn't widely known that they're a fully sentient race. Dearlar chooses to keep this fact secret from his "master" in order to spy on Jarnek's guests.

Video Games
  • In Starcraft, the Zerg can insert a parasite into any unit (including neutral animals) that allows them to see that unit through the Fog Of War. It's of limited use where critters are involved (since they wander around aimlessly), but it sometimes allows getting early warning of an attack.
  • Warcraft III: The Night Elf Huntress' Sentinel ability puts an owl spirit in a tree where it will continue to provide vision of the area until the tree is cut down. The Priestess of the Moon can summon an unkillable owl to fly around and spy on and detect enemies. The Beastmaster's Hawk summon serves the same purpose, except it can be attacked, eventually becomes invisible and can attack enemies.

Western Animation
  • Perry the platypus, from Phineas And Ferb, is secretly Agent P of the Organization Without a Cool Acronym. All other agents in the OWCA are also animals (and on at least one occasion, a potted plant).

Real Life
Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • December 1, 2011
    matsuiny2004
    bump
  • December 1, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Would these count?
    • In the Star Wars RPG Sourcebook, "Cracken's Rebel Operatives", Moff Jarnek's Cool Pet Daerlar is a Covallon. Because Covallon walk on all fours, it isn't widely known that they're a fully sentient race. Dearlar chooses to keep this fact secret from his "master" in order to spy on Jarnek's guests.

    anime and manga:
    • In Gall Force, the MME build a robot that looks like a fly for this purpose. As seen here.
    • In Zero No Tsukaima:
      • Dirty Old Man Osmand uses his familiar, Chuchu, a mouse, to determine what color underwear his secretary is wearing.
      • Malicorne uses his owl to deliver messages.
      • Guiche uses his mole for digging a hole in order to install a peephole in a basement wall.

    Real Life
  • December 1, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    Is this what you're getting at?

    Literature
    • In A Song Of Ice And Fire, ravens are the typical way to send letters. More extreme examples are wargs, who are basically people that can fall asleep at will and look out the eyes of an animal. It's usually a pet they're very close to, but very talented wargs can become any animal they'd like.
  • December 1, 2011
    matsuiny2004
    ^As long as its used for espionage and involves animals doing this or being used as tools to do this then it fits
  • December 1, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    How narrowly are we defining espionage? In That Darn Cat the FBI puts a bug on a cat that they hope will lead it to bank-robbers. That is more law enforcement than spying, but it is a similar idea.
  • December 1, 2011
    matsuiny2004
    ^I think in order for it to be espionage it has to be spying. Sorry.
  • December 1, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • December 1, 2011
    matsuiny2004
    ^that is only for pidgeons I am talking about in general.
  • December 2, 2011
    foxley
    An inventor attaches surveillance equipment to animals, in order to identify the spies at the school in the MI High episode "Spy Animals".
  • December 2, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^^I realize that. this would be a supertrope to that. I was responding more to Frodo's example.
  • December 2, 2011
    matsuiny2004
    ^oh sorry I guess I just misunderstood:-)
  • May 7, 2015
    captainmarkle
    • In Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Belloq and the Nazis employ a monkey to try and spy on Indy. It doesn't entirely work, since the monkey eats a poison date.

    Pardon my tampering with the article, but the formatting was off and the grammar needed a serious rewrite.
  • May 7, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Blue-linked the Film.G Force entry.
  • May 7, 2015
    Lord-Jaric
    Real Life
    • The CIA tried this with a cat once to listen in on some Soviet agents' conversation through a radio reciver in its tail. The cat however ran into traffic and got ran over.
  • May 8, 2015
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Namespaced work names.
      • Changed unnecessary double curly braces to Camel Case.
      • De-capitalized (Sourcebook).
  • May 8, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Literature
    • The dwarfs of Middle Earth in JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit find an old crow who once served Thorin's grandfather, as at that time, dwarfs could speak with various birds. Thorin is able to use the crow to get a thorough analysis of the Five Armies marching toward Lonely Mountain: which races, how many, which direction, and distance from target. Bilbo Baggins also hears this report, and it moves him to take remedial action.
  • May 8, 2015
    Generality
    Animal Eye Spy would be a subtrope.

    • In The Wheel Of Time series, ravens, crows and rats can be used as spies for the Dark One, and as such have bounties in the Borderlands and are generally killed on sight. Generally speaking, they have to report to some manner of shadowspawn, but some more powerful villains can take them over directly.

    • In The Fifth Element, one of Zorg's minions uses a cockroach fitted with a hilariously conspicuous transmitter to spy on the president. The roach also seems to have a brain implant that allows him some rudimentary control over it. The president eventually notices the bug and squashes it, causing painful feedback for the listener. (Note that this is a parodical exaggeration. Despite the film being set a few centuries in the future, in real life the technology already exists to do this trick more effectively)
  • May 9, 2015
    Arivne
    Seeing Through Anothers Eyes is sometimes used for this, e.g. seeing through the eyes of an animal that has been sent into or is in the enemy area.
  • May 9, 2015
    Chabal2
    • Harry Potter: Animagi can turn themselves into animals so as to go around without attracting suspicion as a human, though there's always an element to the disguise that identifies his/her human form. In Rita Skeeter's case, she turns into a literal surveillance bug (a beetle).
    • In Starcraft, the Zerg can insert a parasite into any unit (including neutral animals) that allows them to see that unit through the Fog Of War. It's of limited use where critters are involved (since they wander around aimlessly), but it sometimes allows getting early warning of an attack.
    • Animorphs: Most of the team's non-combat morphs are for this purpose, and in time manage to get the hang of a morph's senses (especially insects) well enough to understand what's being said. The Yeerks grow Genre Savvy about this, and take great care to kill any insect or animal that enters their facilities.
    • Warcraft III: The Night Elf Huntress' Sentinel ability puts an owl spirit in a tree where it will continue to provide vision of the area until the tree is cut down. The Priestess of the Moon can summon an unkillable owl to fly around and spy on and detect enemies. The Beastmaster's Hawk summon serves the same purpose, except it can be attacked, eventually becomes invisible and can attack enemies.
    • In the Lord Of The Rings films, the Fellowship takes cover from a massive flock of crows, thinking Saruman is using them as spies.

  • May 11, 2015
    captainmarkle
    • Referred to in passing, and for comedy, during the Alex Rider series. Joe Byrne claims that the CIA tried installing a cat in the Korean embassy with a bugged collar, but the Koreans ate it. Byrne being Byrne, it's not clear if he was joking.

    Real life example:

    Would like to also add to the Harry potter bit: Bellatrix Lestrange becomes Wrong Genre Savvy at one point and kills a fox, believing it to be a Ministry spy and animagus. It turns out they're wrong and that it's just a fox.
  • January 24, 2016
    captainmarkle
    Taking over this draft.
  • January 24, 2016
    DAN004
  • January 24, 2016
    marcoasalazarm
    Another Anime example: Fate Zero: Kiritsugu Emiya at a few points uses bat familiars with cameras rigged to their chests for recon, because the cameras (not being alive) can see through the illusion spell of other Mages.
  • January 25, 2016
    foxley
    Mission Impossible: In "Chico", the IMF must rely on a trained terrier, named Chico, to retrieve a list of undercover agents from a drug lord's underground vault.
  • January 25, 2016
    DAN004
    Again, add Animal Eye Spy
  • January 26, 2016
    captainmarkle
    ^ Sorry, added. Again, please be patient.
  • January 26, 2016
    TonyG
    Perry the platypus from Phineas And Ferb is secretly Agent P of the Organization Without a Cool Acronym. All other agents in the OWCA are also animals (and on at least one occasion, a potted plant).
  • January 26, 2016
    DAN004
    ^^ I'm just reminding you.
  • January 26, 2016
    JoeG
    • The Spy With A Cold Nose was a British film made in 1966 in which a dog with a radio transmitter in its collar was given as a gift to the Russian Premier.
  • January 27, 2016
    MegaMarioMan
    This is the reason that Jabberjays were created in The Hunger Games. People figured this out, though, and began giving the birds Red Herrings to throw off President Snow.
  • January 27, 2016
    NativeJovian
    • In the Heralds Of Valdemar series, the creatively-named ability of Animal Mindspeech is frequently used this way, allowing its users to take advantage of an Animal Eye Spy and sometimes even direct the animals to the appropriate place first.
  • January 28, 2016
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Andre Norton's Beast Master novels. Hosteen Storm has telepathic/empathic links with four animal companions - the meercats Hing and Ho, the African Black Eagle Baku and the sand cat Surra. He regularly uses them as spies/observers.
  • January 29, 2016
    captainmarkle
    I think this trope is nearly ready for launch.
  • January 29, 2016
    Berrenta
    It's got enough hats, and it looks to be good to go.

    I have no objections to having this launched.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable