It may feel like a lifetime, but it wasn’t so long ago that environmental catastrophes started coming after many of us unsuspectingly emotional people, one after the next. Our own everyday lives seemed hard enough – but finding out the whole world is hurting was more than many people could take. The end result? A knee-jerk reaction whenever the phrase ‘endangered species’ pops up.
But this time, our news is good news.
This is a story of a species starting to crawl back from the brink, and the conservationists that didn’t give up on them even after decades of steady decline. Once again, there is hope for the Gharial crocodile of east Asia.
Gharials get their name from little bumps on their snout that resembles a pot used for traditional Indian cooking, called a ghara. With a population that numbered tens of thousands in the 1940s, they are listed as critically endangered today by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Scientists estimate there are only around 650 adults left, with their entire population limited to India and Nepal. Out of 14 populated habitats, only 5 have actually been breeding – one in Nepal. Until now. Just this summer, a research team went deep into the heavily forested Bardia National Park in southwest Nepal to check on a population that they believed had no longer been breeding for decades already.
The trip was treacherous, and hope was sparse. Low river levels in the dry season made rafting impossible; flash flooding ruled out 4-wheeling through the valley. But that didn’t deter these determined researchers, who saw no choice but to make the 5 hour, 50 kilometer (31 mile) journey on foot. Ashish Bashyal, one of Biodiversity Conservancy Nepal’s conservationists and ZSL EDGE fellow who helped create the Nepal Gharial Conservation Initiative, said the hike was brutally hot and humid at around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the four hours it took them. On top of that, they spotted tiger footprints about halfway through…
But they made it to the end they were hoping for. The team found 100 hatchlings in the forest population, which – several hours from any major settlements – should give the species a better chance at survival.
Since then, the summer monsoon rains that can put hatchlings’ lives at risk have come and gone – but a follow-up check found enough of them in the same location since then that Bashyal believes the Bardia breeding population could be there to stay.
“Something that was bugging me was that we had been working there for almost three years, had conducted more than three surveys, but we had never found hatchlings, baby gharials,” Bashyal said. “So they are out there, they have good habitat, there are adult males, adult females. So on the surface everything is in place for them to breed and reproduce… but we were not finding any babies.”
“Upcoming plans to divert nearby river systems—which would likely have an impact on the habitat and quality of the river for gharial—are currently underway.” Dams and other river modifications that altered their habitat were responsible for the decline in gharial populations throughout the last century, on top of damage from fighting nets and human hunting for their skins and eggs. For the last several years, hunting and egg collection have since been banned. Bashyal is insistent that protecting rivers from these types of activities will not only help gharials.
“Ecologically, I always like to emphasize the fact that they are like the tiger of the rivers.” But he says there’s no need to be afraid: “Gharial are very calm compared to other species. They have a longer snout that is developed for hunting fish, so while it is always important to have a first defense against these larger animals, I would say gharials pose no harm to humans.”
Awareness about why the animals matter to the ecosystem and why they aren’t necessarily a threat to humans will be key in allowing the species to thrive.
Some people have to travel the world to find something new and interesting while other people only need to venture out into their own backyard. Whether they found something that was historically monumental or just something that made their jaws drop, these instances definitely caught our interest and left us wondering if we should explore our own backyards.
Just a Woolly Mammoth
For most of prehistoric history, we have to rely on the discovery of fossils and similar signs to understand life on Earth during that era.
In 2010, a man from Iowa and his two sons were just out blackberry picking in the wooded part of their property when they noticed something odd. It was actually a bone sticking out of the ground and was only part of a find including foot bones, ribs, and a four-foot femur belonging to a woolly mammoth.
A Whole Graveyard
Finding a single creepy item in your backyard is enough to catch you off-guard but there’s something even more shocking than finding a singular item. How about a whole graveyard?
In New Orleans, Louisiana, one man was surprised but not shocked. He later said, “It’s all a part of New Orleans culture. I think they [neighbors] might even like it.” In total, he found a graveyard that included 13 caskets, making for quite the hidden cemetery find.
There’s Gold in This Yard
There’s nothing that many people want more than for a cache of money to come to them without much work or effort. It would make life so much easier!
That’s exactly what one couple experienced. They were walking their dog through what was once known as “Gold Country” but now just serves as their backyard when they noticed a bucket sticking slightly out of the ground. Upon further inspection, it held a stash of gold valued at about $10 million.
No One Knows
When the Kitchener sisters were digging for worms in their own backyard, they didn’t expect to find anything. They definitely didn’t expect to find an object no one could identify.
After they first saw it, they assumed it was a meteorite but that was quickly disproven due to the visible outer layer as well as its position in the soil. Later, Gary Winkler, a gem expert, said that it isn’t a known gem and didn’t know if it came from natural origins. For now, this find remains a mystery.
Stolen from the Church
There are certain things that we never expect to turn up stolen. Yet, the world seems to show time and time again that nothing is certain.
That’s one of the reasons that this person’s find in the Czech Republic was so intriguing. He noticed that there was a bit of metal sticking out of the ground. After he looked closer, he realized it was actually a pair of bells. As it turned out, the bells were 400 years old and stolen from a nearby church.
Finding a single grave in your backyard would be alarming enough but some people have the experience of finding a whole graveyard on their property as we’ll learn.
One example of this occurred in the UK when an amateur historian was exploring his own property. He found a burial plot that was shockingly old. In the end, historians estimated that the burial plots were old enough to date back to 2500 B.C.
Young family members Eric and Andrew were just playing in their backyard creek when they noticed something alarming. While building a dam, they saw a bone sticking out of the ground.
The two boys were immediately concerned that they had found a human bone and looked for help. As it turns out, this Detroit home had a much older discovery in their backyard. The bone was actually 13,000 years old and was a vertebra of a Mastadon.
According to legal papers, this ancient stone can be traced back to 1170, found by an amateur historian when he was studying the history of his own home although the area became a common area in the 1300s.
Even more interestingly, the stone disappeared even though it was considered a historical piece, perhaps a stone burial marker from the Bronze Age as old as 2,500 B.C. The last reference found of the stone was in 1636. With a little searching, Stephen Davis found it on the property.
A Whale of a Find
There are some things that you don’t expect to find in your life like ancient fossils. You probably expect even less that the find of a lifetime will be in your own backyard.
Gary Johnson found a large rock in his yard in 1978 and, as it turns out, it was actually a fossil – a piece of a whale skull to be exact. The paleontologist that examined it approximated that this skull was from a rare baleen whale and between 14 and 16 million years old.
Look Out for Wildlife
There are certain wildlife species you expect to see in your backyard such as raccoons or squirrels. Even in Florida, you’d probably be more than a little alarmed to see an alligator.
Sharon Bente was drawn out of her house by an odd sound in her backyard when she saw an eight-foot alligator swimming in her pool. She and her husband discovered the alligator had torn a hole in their patio screen and was now struggling to get out of the pool.
A High Yield
There are plenty of reasons someone might be digging deep in their backyard. For this man in Hyde Park, he had a plan to renovate a pond in his backyard.
As he worked, though, he noticed something odd – there was something sticking out of the ground! When he looked closer, he decided that he needed an expert to take a look. This revealed that he’d actually found a fossil, leading to an excavation. In all, they found 90 Mastadon bones.
Finding buried jewels truly seems like a fairytale or legend but, as it turns out, it actually happens in real life as well. It happened in 2007 to Andreas K from Austria.
While working in his backyard, his shovel actually hit a treasure that was nearly 650 years old. It was a cache of different treasures including antique jewelry including rings and brooches. The finder decided to remain semi-anonymous and now owns the treasure as a part of his property now.
A Terrifying Find
Yet another unlucky person found human remains where they weren’t expecting to when they were just trying to make the backyard of their dreams.
This person was just working to build an in-ground pool but all of the deep digging unearthed a bit of history. He found his yard was the final resting place for 13 different caskets, all with human remains inside. They dated back to the 1700s when they were further examined by experts.
A Buried Ferrari
In 1978, a group of children digging in their yard found something remarkably valuable: a Dino 246 GTS. The kids immediately found a police officer, not sure of what they found at first.
As it turned out, the car was bought in 1974 and actually stolen later that same year. As the car was buried wrapped in plastic, it seemed like an elaborate plan to come back for the car later but they never did. Even today, no one is quite sure who stole the car.
Digging Up Bones
There are certain things that you never want to find in your yard – like human remains. That’s exactly what this family found after they bought a new home in Yuba City, California.
When their dog was digging in the garden, they found a pot sticking out of the ground. Upon further inspection, they realized it was bones but luckily from a historical site rather than a more criminal find. The find also uncovered other parts of a burial site like weapons and coins.
Foxes on a Trampoline
When you step out into your backyard and find something that you weren’t expecting, sometimes it’s just as cute as it is surprising, even if you are a little concerned.
When this man woke up and stepped outside one morning, he saw something that was definitely out of the ordinary. On the trampoline in his backyard, there were pair of cute foxes bouncing around on the trampoline. Even unexpected, you can’t argue that this probably made for a cute picture.
A Golden Discovery
There’s nothing quite as fortunate as finding something valuable that you can rightfully claim. In 2011, one California man got to do just that.
When he was out with his metal detector, he discovered gold. In fact, he found a lump of gold that weighed in at an impressive 8.2 pounds. This is an extraordinarily large piece of gold that later sold at auction for $460,000. Plus, geologists later estimated that if the man wanted to keep searching, he’d definitely find more gold on his property.
It Pays to Notice
If you’re working in your garden, you probably don’t expect much out of it other than the vegetables you’ve grown unless you sell them.
In Illinois, a man was tending to his garden when he got a bigger pay off than a bushel of veggies. While he was digging in the dirt, he noticed a nylon sack sticking out of the ground. When he pulled it out and opened it, the bag contained a sum total of $150k!
In 2014, one man was just trying to work on a landscaping project in his backyard. He definitely wasn’t expecting to make a pretty big and probably fairly frightening find.
When he started to pay closer attention to what he found, he realized that the items looked a lot like human bones and he was right! There was a human skeleton in his yard and it was actually 1,000 years old and belonged to a Native American.
A Shocking Surprise
From the stories on this list, it seems alarmingly common that people find human bones on their property. In all likelihood, you won’t have to worry about this.
Ken Sauve did have to worry about this, though. When he was in his backyard, he noticed something that he thought was animal bones but when his wife prompted him to dig them up, he found that he had a human skeleton in front of him. The bones were later traced back to the 17th century.
This is an example of something that might not be valuable per se but it definitely probably sent chills up the spine of the homeowner.
This Reddit user’s father was digging in his yard to build a retaining wall. While he was doing that, he found an old newspaper buried in the yard which wasn’t incredibly rare on its own. The odd part was that the date on the newspaper was ten years old to the day of the day he dug it up.
Caught in a Crime
The last thing you expect when you walk out into your backyard is to find that your property can be linked to a crime, especially one that was so large in scale.
This was linked to a heist by two truck drivers who were arrested after stealing $1 million from a shipment to Bank of America. After their arrest, a homeowner in Fontana, California found part of the men’s haul in their own yard totaling to $600,000.
There are things that we see every day that we don’t think about. For example, an earthworm crawling around in the dirt is something most people pass by without a thought.
On the other hand, if that same earthworm was nearly two feet long, there’s no way you would just pass it by. Li Zhiwei, a Chinese worker, spotted this 20-inch earthworm in his yard one day. While everyone was startled, biologists were particularly surprised about how the animal had grown so long.
Historical items are buried all around the world. Whether you find a fossil or even a picture from a few decades ago, there are signs of the past all around.
Some people were digging in Israel when they found a historical discovery that made the record books. They found a total of 2,000 medieval coins – the most every found in a single dig – and the coins ranged in age from formation in the 10th and 11th centuries.
Not everyone who finds treasure in a backyard is the rightful owner of it. For instance, in this case, the people who found the loot weren’t actually the property owners.
Instead, the actual property owner had hired a group to do some renovations on his French property for him. While they were working, they came across and stole a treasure that was worth an estimated 900k Euros. That’s more than a million United States dollars!
Uncovering Their Stash
This Canadian man wasn’t looking to find anything historical or impressive. All he wanted to do was spend a morning in early 2014 cleaning out the area between his garage and fence.
Instead, though, he noticed something that wasn’t his – a pillowcase. When he opened it up, there were two items: one fully loaded weapon and a mobile phone to go with it. While it doesn’t seem like a particularly old find, it seems like a doomsday prepper may have been by.
There’s nothing quite as unexpected as finding explosives in your own yard, especially when you just wanted to get rid of a few tree stumps that were being an eyesore.
That’s what happened to a 39-year-old man in the Czech Republic, though. When he was removing the tree stumps in May of 2013, he noticed that there was something below them. One call to the authorities later, he learned that his yard was filled with explosives dating back to the Second World Tour.
The Star of Murfreesboro
The Star of Murfreesboro was discovered at John Pollock in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. It slightly breaks the rule of a backyard find because while it was someone’s backyard, it wasn’t Pollock’s.
The area it was found is now the Arkansas Diamond Mine and the diamond in question was discovered on March 1, 1964. The largest diamond found by a tourist, it’s an impressive 34.25 carats. At the time, it was valued at $15,000 but by 2006, this value was a modern $95,452.47.
Cold War Shelter
After the Zwick family found a mysterious metal door in their backyard, they didn’t jump at the chance to open it. In fact, they waited 10 years before they finally looked inside.
Luckily, it wasn’t anything nefarious that they had to worry about – just a piece of history! It was a war shelter, probably dating back to around the time of the Cold War. In recent years, though, the bunker had filled with water.
Emerald in the Rough
When you’re out tending to the corn in your farmlands, you probably only expect to find corn and maybe some wild animals or insects. You surely wouldn’t expect to find riches.
That’s exactly what happened to one farmer in North Carolina, though. He had just ventured out to take a look at his corn when he noticed something glinting in a pit on his property. It ended up being an emerald of monstrous proportions measured at 65 carats.
A Funny Find
While there are plenty of things you can find in your yard that are worth a great value whether that refers to money or historical worth.
That doesn’t mean that every find falls within those categories, though. Sometimes, the things that people find in their yards are just disturbing or, in another light, pretty funny if you aren’t too grossed out. Like this poor family that found false teeth in their garden in Buffalo, New York.
Ring for Service
Many people who have served in the military are proud of their service and highly value the awards and memorabilia that they earned during that time.
That’s what makes this find a little sad – someone lost something that probably meant quite a bit to them. When this family found the army service ring, they were determined to find out who it belonged to but to no avail. The ring remains ownerless and this person just has an interesting discovery to hold onto.
It’s always alarming to find a weapon or something from a weapon in your yard. Even if you know it’s old, you’re probably at least slightly caught off guard.
For this man, that meant finding a cannonball when he was just expecting to dig a hole for his new fish pond. Instead, he found a cannonball that was pretty old. It had been sitting in the yard, waiting to be found, after it had initially been launched in 1812 during the Battle of New Orleans.
That’s a Lot of Meteorites
Finding a single meteorite in your yard is surprising enough. It would be even more surprising to see several of these littering your yard.
In Bosnia, a man walked out into his yard and discovered that he’d had six total meteorites fall into his yard. This was particularly interesting because it’s not often that meteorites are spotted in yards. They usually stand out more in expanses like deserts or icy areas and not usually that many in a concentrated location.
In Case of Emergency
This family was looking around their California backyard and they found something that was more common once upon a time but looked a little out of place when they stumbled across it.
The door they found in their backyard actually led down into a bunker, like those more popularized during the Cold War. The shelter was estimated to have been constructed in 1961 and, even when the family found it decades later, was fully stocked in the case of an emergency.
Wedding Ring Carrot
There was a Canadian woman about 14 years ago that was saddened to realize that she had lost her wedding ring when she was gardening.
In 2015, she was surprised to find the ring again when she was out gardening. She later stated, “The carrot had grown straight through the ring, enabling it to be plucked out after many years hiding in the soil.” This is even something that had happened before to a Swedish woman in 2011.
Coins of the Past
You don’t always find massive items in your backyard to find something with value both economically and historically. That’s been proven in a variety of situations.
One woman was working in her backyard when she found a unique coin. It turned out to be more than just something that looked interesting too. It was actually a dollar coin from 1902. This is an incredibly rare find that served as a subtle once-in-a-lifetime experience for her and a great story to share.
Listen to Him
In the late 1970s, there was a little boy who noticed something sticking out of the ground outside of his home. At the time, the adults all brushed off as no big deal and it was ignored.
It wasn’t until 30 years later that scientists returned to the spot. It turned out to be the skull and jaw bone of a baleen whale dating back as far as 16 million years. It was an amazing discovery but we’d be a bit bitter if we were that boy.
Just a Cheetah
Again, there are certain animals you wouldn’t be surprised to see wandering around your yard. One that you probably would blanch at the sight of in your yard is a big cat like a cheetah.
In 2008, a nine-year-old boy ran into his backyard in Cambridgeshire to play when he saw a cheetah. Luckily, he ran to get his mom and he was unharmed by the animal. As it turns out, her name was Akea and she had escaped from the nearby zoo.
Cash Registers and Car Batteries
If you don’t know the details of a decade, some of the things that you find from bygone eras may seem a little nonsensical or confusing.
As an example, a man in the United States was working in his yard one day when he uncovered a cash register and a stash of car batteries nearby. These items actually went together too. The cash register was from the 1940s and, during the war, it wasn’t uncommon for car batteries for use running it.
A Roman Villa
Back in 2015, a rug designer in the UK was doing his usual jobs when he stumbled across a beautiful mosaic buried underneath his garden. He instantly realized that it must have been created a long time ago and immediately contacted local historians.
Eventually, he was informed that the mosaics dated back to medieval times and are believed to be the remains of one of the biggest Roman villas in the entire country. Other items that were found included coins, pottery, oyster shells, broaches and even the grave stone of a child.
A Bronze Eagle Statue
It’s not every day that one stumbles across a bronze statue in their backyard, let alone of a beautiful eagle. But that’s exactly what happened back in 2015. A person living in Wichita, Kansas found a bronze eagle statue buried beneath the ground of their backyard. They found out later on that the statue had once been stolen.
Moreover, it was believed to be worth a staggering $8000. It just goes to show that some backyards have so much history hiding beneath the surface.
A Safe Full of Money
The following backyard find was unearthed by a New York couple. Back in 2018, they were simply cleaning things up when they let the bushes grow to high. They were also planting some trees. At that moment, they ended up finding a safe that was extremely difficult to open up.
When they did though, they discovered wads of cash, gold and diamonds inside! In total, the treasure was believed to be worth about $52,000. They also learned that this stuff had been stolen from the next-door neighbor about a decade ago, which they kindly returned.
Not exactly the most valuable backyard find on this list, but still pretty cool! A woman in the UK was in the middle of a landscaping project and didn’t expect to come across anything out of the ordinary.
Then, she stumbled across this old stove, which she believed someone must have buried in order to fill up some land. That is pretty much all we know about the stove, but as you can see, it certainly hailed from another era.
A Chevy Trailblazer
Here is another car that ended up getting discovered in someone’s backyard. In 2017, a family who lives in Oklahoma was trying to building some motocross tracks and ramps in their backyard and so they were doing some intense digging. It was during this digging procedure that led them to this 2003 Chevy Trailblazer.
Amazingly, they ended up discovering that the rusty hunk of junk was originally stolen and was even part of an insurance scam. What a story!
Prehistoric Animal Shell
On Christmas Day in 2015, a passer-by stumbled across a stunning shell that was a meter-long in an Argentinian riverbank close to his home. It is believed that shell may have come from a glyptodont, which is a prehistoric ancestor of the armadillo. The man and his wife suspected that it may have been a dinosaur egg.
“My husband went out to the car and when he came back he said, ‘Hey, I just found an egg that looks like it came from a dinosaur,” the wife said.
Imagine finding an assortment of antique treasures hidden underneath your property? Well, in 2007, while living in Austria, a man named Andreas K. struck luck and had that very experience. He found rings, silver platters, and buckles dating back to centuries ago.
According to a jeweler, the treasure was 650 years old! The generous man decided to donate it all to his local museum. What a gem he is! See what we did there?
Roman Mosaic Remains
When a couple decided to convert their old barn into a table tennis room, what was discovered below the surface, was architecturally-interesting, to say the least. 46 centimeters below the flooring, electricians discovered archaic pieces of Mosaic.
Archaeologists determined that the mosaic was used AD 175-220 as the flooring of a grand villa. Later, more remains from this villa were found including, a Neolithic flint head, Bronze Age pottery, Roman pottery, and Iron Age pottery.
A Hidden Tunnel
A local in the village of El Haraneya, near the Giza Plateau in Egypt made a shocking discovery after digging around in his back yard. He found a hidden tunnel into the biggest and oldest of the pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Khufu.
According to archaeologist Yukinori Kawae, a National Geographic Explorer, “This is definitely the discovery of the century.” The discovery made news headlines as no one had imagined finding such a void there.
It looks like that California family weren’t the only group of people on this list to discover a bunker, or fallout shelter, in their backyard. It turns out that this Arizona man — John Sims — was digging in his backyard only to find a bomb shelter that was created during the Cold War.
When Sims finally discovered the shelter, he was more than relieved to find out that it wasn’t a septic tank.
Finding a snake in the garden isn’t necessarily an uncommon or shocking occurrence but that doesn’t stand for certain types of snakes or shockingly large ones.
When one family in Melbourne, Florida were spending time outside, they saw a snake that they didn’t expect to see. Rather than a common garden snake, they found themselves looking at an anaconda that was about nine or ten feet long. It definitely isn’t something we’d want to see in our own yard!
A Marble Collection
We’ve all found odd things here and there in our yards from the last homeowner. For instance, maybe you’ve found a buried dog toy or a children’s toy left out in the sun.
This Reddit user was in their backyard working when they noticed a marble. Thinking it was cool, they picked it up and kept going on. Then, later, they found an additional marble in another part of the yard. Repeating this process, they continued to uncover a massive marble collection over five years.
The Perfect Property
We’ve talked about a few things at this point that would be pretty scary to see in your own yard. This find might just take the cake for terrifying discoveries, though.
This was actually a slightly widespread find. A real estate developer in Florida decided to develop new homes on top of an old bombing range. This meant that there were plenty of people who were caught off guard when they went to work in their backyard and found weaponry.
1980s Time Capsule
There are some things that we find that were lost by accident or just happened to end up where they did. Other things were always meant to be found and were even buried for that exact purpose.
There was a man who found the prime example of something that’s meant to be found: a time capsule. The contents included primarily a stash of baseball cards from the 1980s, mostly including players on the New York Yankees. Sadly, their condition meant he couldn’t sell them.
16 Years Later
You would think that if you found a large bone in your yard, you’d do something about it right away. Apparently, it’s a little more forgettable than you might think.
One man found a large bone in his yard and put it in the shed to deal with later. While he eventually got around to it, the bone sat in his shed for 16 years first. Once it was finally examined, it was recognized as a Pliosaur bone that was around 250 million years old.