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Animal Espionage

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If looks could kill, you'd be dead already.

"Carl, remind me again why all the agents are animals."
Major Monogram, Phineas and Ferb

Spying on people is an activity carried out by humans, but it can also be carried out by animals. These animals can have implants allowing for communication, be sapient or not sapient, 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 and Stealthy Cephalopod. If a character does this by using the eyes of the animal, it's Animal Eye Spy.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Uncle Sam, the trusty Canine Companion to Golden Eyes of "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill", can be counted among the ranks of animal spies. In the span of an evening he alerts American troops to the position of an American POW in a German camp, ferries secret messages between Golden Eyes and the American side, knocks out the German officer who threatened Golden Eyes, and makes sure that the intelligence Golden Eyes stole from the unconscious officer gets back to the allies. Good boy!
  • The Falcon sometimes uses Redwing, the falcon he's empathically bonded with, to discretely monitor people from a distance. Given Redwing's naturally excellent vision, this works extremely well.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • G-Force has sentient guinea pigs that are spies.
  • Cats & 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: The Fellowship of the Ring films, the Fellowship takes cover from a massive flock of crows, correctly surmising that 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.
  • The Field Guide to Evil: In "The Cobbler's Lot", Princess Boglarka sends her pet raven to spy on Tivadar on his quest to see if he succumbs to the temptations of the loosestrife pool.

  • 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 J. R. R. 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 catch on to 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 The 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.
  • The diamond turtle in The Voyage of Alice. Subverted, as it turns out to be a remote-controlled robot.
  • In Fairy Oak Tomelilla mentions it's quite probable that the emissaries of the Enemy transform themselves into animals to do this, cue a class on animal behavior and characteristics that Magicals can't imitate. The taste of cow milk is one of them, apparently.
  • In Search of Dorothy has a heroic example in Trisha the Good Witch of the South, who communicates with butterflies that warn her of any impending danger.
  • In The Immortals, Daine uses her animal magic primarily for this, since she can speak to animals, share their bodies, and later transform into one. She gets away with it in part because wild magic is assumed by most to be an old wives' tale, but as she becomes more famous her enemies wise up and start noticing things like squirrels reading maps or animals where they shouldn't be.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An inventor attaches surveillance equipment to animals, in order to identify the spies at the school in the M.I. 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 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • A wizard's familiar or a druid or ranger's animal companion will regularly be used for this purpose. Success can vary heavily, but if the game is run by a Killer Game Master, expect that the random group of bandits will instantly go to DEFCON 1 the moment they spot an owl sitting in a tree near their camp at night.
    • Illithids use cranium rats as spies, disseminating them in humanoid settlements and counting on the fact that humans don't generally pay much attention to rats to allow them to get anywhere and listen in to secret conversations.
  • Star Wars d6: In the Cracken's Rebel Operatives sourcebook, 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 
  • Pokémon Sword and Shield: The final evolution of the Water-type starter is Inteleon, a chameleon/basilisk lizard with the looks, personality and abilities of secret agents and spies. It can camouflage, shoot high pressure water jets out of its fingertips as if it's firing a gun, and use the membrane behind its back as a makeshift hang glider. It's native to Galar, which is based on the United Kingdom, the birth place of James Bond.
  • 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.
  • Total Annihilation: Kingdoms has the Spyhawk, Parrot, and Bat as the scouts for three of the major factions. They have a large field of view and can fly quickly, but they're somehow considered highly conspicuous and therefore auto-attacked.
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • Krosp from Girl Genius is an Uplifted Cat who was created specifically to bend ordinary cats to his will and make them serve as spies and saboteurs. The experiment succeeded in giving Krosp human-level intelligence and making other cats desire to obey him, but the project ultimately failed because ordinary cats couldn't understand complex commands, and they have terrible attention spans anyway (so if he could get them to understand what he'd wanted they'd set off intent on doing it... and then promptly get distracted by an interesting glint of light or similar and forget about it).
  • The Order of the Stick has the familiar scout out a bandit camp, which is detected by all the bandits in the wide camp and shot by arrows - basically mocking the same type of Killer Game Master that does the same, especially commenting about how many birds fly overhead each day.

    Web Original 

    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).
  • In Race to the Edge, Hiccup and the other Dragon Riders befriend a colony of Night Terrors, a swarm of little dragons that can band together to make themselves appear much larger. In return for sharing the island and helping to protect them, the Night Terrors act as sentries.

    Real Life 
  • During the Cold War the CIA launched Project Acoustic Kitty, in which they implanted microphones and radio transmitters into cats to spy on the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, they had difficulty training the cats to go where they wanted and the project was declared a failure.
  • It's known that The New Russia trains attack dolphins for military reconnaissance as well as naval combat. The United States had similar programs, but mainly for the detection of undersea mines.


Video Example(s):


The Cockroach

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)

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Example of:

Main / AnimalEspionage

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