2016's best news from the animal kingdom

2016 was a dramatic year for humankind - the shock election of Donald Trump, destructive earthquakes and the seemingly endless deaths of high-profile celebrities and politicians.

It was the same for the animal kingdom - but they probably don't crow about it as much.

There was the death of a much-loved police dog, a gorilla who found posthumous internet fame, daring escapes, infidelity - and who could forget those quake cows.

Newshub has brought together some of 2016's biggest, best and most bizarre news from the animal kingdom.

The police dog killed in action

police dog gazza josh robertson wellington
Const Josh Robertson and Gazza (Dog Squad / Facebook)

It seemed as if the country went into mourning over the death of police dog Gazza, shot and killed during an armed siege in Porirua in April.

It left the police grieving one of their own; Gazza was draped in a New Zealand flag, a police hat on top of him as he was farewelled. 

Handler Constable Josh Robertson remembered Gazza not only as a partner, but as a much-loved family member.

The bad news didn't end there for Gazza's family, with nephew Kazza - a Central District police puppy - succumbing to an illness

Const Josh Robertson and Orr (NZ Police)
Const Josh Robertson and Orr (NZ Police)

But all grey clouds have a silver lining - Gazza's son Orr is following in his dad's footprints as a police dog in training. 

The cows left stranded by a quake

kaikoura earthquake cows
The cows quickly became Kaikoura's most famous residents (Newshub.)

They became the most famous cows in the world - the two adults and a calf left stranded on a quake-made island following November's magnitude 7.8 quake.

The Kaikoura cows were first spotted by a Newshub camera operator flying over the damaged area. Their images were beamed across the world, and came to symbolise the destruction and desperation the early-morning shake left behind.

There were immediate concerns for their safety, but their owner managed to dig through the silt to create a path for them to get to more solid ground.

The gorilla more famous in death

harambe gorilla cincinatti zoo meme
Tributes flowed for Harambe (Getty)

It began as an innocent trip to Cincinnati Zoo, but ended in dramatic fashion more befitting a Hollywood movie shootout.

Silverback gorilla Harambe was shot dead in May after dragging around a three-year-old boy who fell into his enclosure.

The decision to kill the 17-year-old was controversial, with people questioning whether it was necessary.

As if that wasn't traumatising enough for staff, Harambe came back from the dead in the form of countless memes.

The octopus which made a daring escape

inky octopus napier aquarium
Inky the octopus bid farewell to his enclosure (Supplied)

You might not think octopuses are intelligent, but if anyone needed proof of how smart they are, look no further than Inky.

The common New Zealand octopus performed a very uncommon escape act from Napier's National Aquarium in April.

His daring escapade, which made international headlines, was made possible during a routine tank check by staff.

Inky squeezed through a gap in the top of the enclosure, travelling across a wet floor and down a drain which circulates seawater from the ocean.

Go well, our eight-legged friend.

The tortoise that saved his own kind

diego tortoise galapagos
Diego the Galapagos tortoise (File)

Saving critically endangered species from extinction is a major undertaking involving thousands of man-hours and bags of money.

But sometimes it is best to let nature take its course. Case in point - Diego the sex-mad Galapagos tortoise, touted as single-tortoisely saving his own species.

The centenarian has been credited with fathering more than 800 babies since he was released back to the islands from San Diego Zoo 50 years ago.

He's proof not all heroes wear capes.

The penguin which made a life-long friendship 

A Brazilian man struck up an unlikely friendship with a penguin he rescued from an oil slick.

Every year since Joao Pereira De Souza nursed DinDim back to health in 2011, the bird returns to see him.

If that isn't remarkable enough, it's an 8000km journey from DinDim's breeding colony off Antarctica to Mr De Souza's small beach near Rio de Janiero.

The cheating penguin which ruined a family

But love hasn't flourished for all penguins this year, with a bombshell revelation for one couple after a homewrecking bird entered the picture.

The dramatic video, captured by National Geographic, shows a male penguin arriving home only to find his partner had shacked up with another.

The ensuing fight got bloody and brutal, leaving the spurned lover battered and broken.

The cat turned into a purse

taxidermy christchurch cat handbag
The cat bag raised the ire of many (Supplied)

Taxidermy isn't everyone's cup of tea, but probably less so was a cat turned into a purse by a Christchurch woman.

The cat bag was listed on Trade Me and found international attention. It also found a buyer who paid $545 for it.

Taxidermist Claire Third defended the controversial accessory, saying it was about respecting animals.

The predators on notice by the Government

The Government announced its ambitious plan to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050 in July.

It was a plan welcomed by conservationists, but there were questions about the funding model where it would give $1 for every $2 from council or the private sector.

It is estimated introduced predators like stoats, rats and possums cost the economy $3.3 billion a year.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry compared the monumental project to landing on the moon.

The fish dumped illegally in masses

A Newshub investigation revealed widespread fish dumping in New Zealand's commercial industry.

No one was prosecuted, even though the illegal behaviour was documented on video and in official reports from 2013.

A subsequent investigation found the Ministry of Primary Industries' decision not to lay charges was "flawed".

It also led to the country's biggest recreational fishing group and Opposition politicians calling for a wider inquiry.  

Highly recommended:

  • The political disruptor: this fly which wouldn't leave Housing Minister Nick Smith's face alone.
  • The great escape: this lizard who managed to escape the jaws of a snake
  • The comeback: this injured penguin which had to pass swim school to be released into the wild.  
  • The warm embrace: this Tauranga dog and postie who broke the age-old animosity.