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The Weird Week in Review

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Suspect Identified in Evidence Vandalism

Police in Wichita, Kansas, held a press conference to release a sketch of the suspect in a case of evidence tampering at their property and evidence department building. They have determined that mice chewed into packages of marijuana. Lt. Doug Nolte said police followed protocol and photographed, weighed, and resealed the evidence. Exterminators have been called in to assist police in the case.

"We do have a sketch artist that came and did a rendering of who we believe is responsible for the marijuana heist, and so, we are currently looking for something that resembles a mouse like this," said Nolte.

The perpetrators have yet to be caught.

Chicken Wing Theft

Either they were taking advantage of the high price of chicken wings, or they planned a really big Super Bowl party. Dewayne Patterson and Renaldo Jackson were arrested after being seen loading a rental truck with ten pallets of frozen chicken wings, worth about $65,000. The theft took place the Nordic Distribution Center outside Atlanta, where both men worked. Patterson and Jackson now face felony theft charges. 

Student Project Helps Disabled Kitten

A nine-month-old cat named Flipper was born with a twisted spine. She's not paralyzed, but her back end doesn't walk on the same plane as her front end. Vets at the Aspen Park Vet Hospital in Conifer, Colorado, considered putting her down, but then decided to seek the help of the Blitz Robotic Club at Conifer High School. The club went to work and students designed a set of wheels that are powered by Flipper's sideways-turned back legs. The kitten learned quickly to use the contraption, and vets are hopeful that the support and exercise she gets from the device will allow her spine to straighten out on its own. 

Zimbabwe Has Only $217 Left in the Bank

The government of Zimbabwe paid civil servants' salaries last week, and discovered the balance of funds to be only $217, according to Finance Minister Tendai Biti. The nation has no money to hold elections and will have to appeal to other countries for the estimated $104 million needed for the elections and a constitutional referendum. No mention was made of paying workers' salaries in the future. Zimbabwe's financial structure has been in ruins for a decade, and hyperinflation has devalued its currency to ridiculous levels.

Woman Arrested for Falling Through Ceiling

A woman fell through the ceiling of the police station in Kihei, Hawaii, on Monday. Sheryl Vazquez was arrested on the spot for criminal trespass, criminal property damage, and disorderly conduct. It is believed that Vazquez gained entry to the crawl space above the ceiling from outside the building, but no motive for the stunt was suggested. Damage to the ceiling was evident in several rooms at the station. Vazquez was not injured in the incident, and was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Fresh Air in a Can

The legendary air pollution in China has been in the news because Beijing's air is worse than ever, causing sore throats and diverted airline flights. Multimillionaire businessman Chen Guangbiao saw an opportunity in the situation. On Wednesday, he handed out free cans of fresh air, supposedly from faraway areas of China with more pristine air quality. The cans normally sell for 5 yaun, or 80 cents, with proceeds going to charity. Chen considers the stunt "a way to awaken people to the importance of environmental protection."

Dreadlock Thieves Cut and Run

Hair stylists in South Africa are reporting an increase in incidents of dreadlock theft. Victims report that thieves cut the dreadlocks off to be resold. Natural dreadlocks sell for as much as 2500 rand ($279), and are rare enough that buyers often don't care where they came from. Police in Johannesburg say they have not received reports of theft, possibly because the victims are embarrassed. Durban police say they only had one reported theft.  

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To Curb Exploding Kangaroo Populations, Ecologists Urge Australians to Eat Kangaroo Meat
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Australians eat everything from Vegemite, a spread made from leftover brewer's yeast extract, to a snack called fairy bread, otherwise known as white bread smothered in butter and rainbow sprinkles. Now, they may need to add another unique national food to their diets. BBC News reports that ecologists and landholders Down Under are encouraging people to embrace kangaroo meat to curb the nation’s surging marsupial numbers.

In 2010, Australia was home to just 27 million kangaroos. But by 2016, this figure had skyrocketed to nearly 45 million—nearly double the nation’s human population— thanks to rainy weather conditions that supplied the grazing animals with an abundance of vegetation. That's not necessarily a good thing for the species in the long run. If a drought occurs, there’s a good chance that millions of kangaroos could starve to death.

Some experts in Australia think that hunting kangaroos would be the most humane and efficient way to keep their numbers in check. But it’s not so easy to convince people to eat them.

Kangaroo meat is lean and sustainable, with a taste that’s been likened to sweet filet mignon. It can be transformed into steaks, roasts, meatballs, sausages, and kebabs. Even so, many Australians tend to dismiss the meat's culinary potential, since kangaroos are the country’s national animal. The stigma against eating them means that when hunters do nab kangaroos, the meat often goes to waste.

Plus, kangaroo meat currently fetches such a low price that hunters have little incentive to pursue the animals for commercial reasons. That means they’re not obtaining the special licenses required to hunt the nationally protected species.

Professor David Paton of the University of Adelaide supports the notion that Australia should cull the nation’s kangaroo population with humane hunting methods, he told Australian news outlets. "It's not the kangaroos' fault they're overabundant," he said. "It's probably we've just been too reluctant to take a stick to them, remove them out of the system sooner, to actually prevent the damage being caused [by the animals]," Paton said. That damage includes losses to biodiversity as the marsupials overgraze vegetation and outcompete other animals [PDF].

But no matter where Australians stand on the controversial killing and eating of kangaroos, some admit that their overpopulation leads to broken fences, trampled crops, damaged local ecosystems, and plenty of car accidents. Animal lovers are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place—and unlike kangaroos, they can’t simply leap out of the crevice.

"Two or three weeks ago we had thousands [of kangaroos] on here, just moving through,” a farmer named Garry Hannigan, who lives in New South Wales, recently told the ABC. "They were here in droves, and the amount that are being hit by cars is amazing. They're just devouring anything we've got grass-wise, they're starting to cause erosion along fences. Any of the grass country is just being pulled up by the roots." In turn, we may have to devour them.

[h/t BBC News]

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Big Questions
Why Are Cats Afraid of Cucumbers?
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Thanks to the internet, felines around the globe seem to have found a new—and unlikely—foe: the seemingly harmless garden cucumber. You’ve likely seen viral video compilations of pet owners surprising their cats with the fruit (yes, a cucumber is technically a fruit), which include footage of frightened kitties jumping, running, or clawing at the mysterious green objects before them.

Are cats and cucumbers really mortal enemies? Did an early feline ancestor eat a bad salad, or find that cucumbers made terrible scratching posts? “No, I don’t think that cats are inherently afraid of cucumbers,” Mikel Delgado, a certified cat behavior consultant who studied animal behavior and human-pet relationships as a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, tells Mental Floss.

Cats are creatures of habit, and Delgado thinks the cats in those videos—who were often ambushed from behind while bent forward eating—were simply caught off-guard while engaging in a familiar activity.

“Their eyes face forward, much like ours do,” Delgado explains. “That’s a very common structure for a face in a predator—you’re looking forward, and you’re not as worried about seeing behind you. Personally, I think that a lot of people were inadvertently startling their cats when they were already distracted. They were putting a strange object behind the cat while it was eating, the cat can’t see the object, they’re focused [on their food], and then they turn around” and see a cucumber.

The cats’ fright could be likened to how we sometimes jump or scream after we turn around and see someone standing behind us. But even though we typically laugh these moments off once the adrenaline dies down, it’s not cool to subject your cat to the same unsettling experience—especially when it’s eating.

“You want cats to feel safe when they eat,” Delgado says. “If cats don’t eat, they can become sick quite fast, and develop what’s called fatty liver disease.”

Plus, “stress can have really serious health effects on cats,” Delgado adds. “There’s been research showing that something as trivial as changing their routine can cause cats to exhibit what we call sickness behaviors: vomiting, not using their litter box, diarrhea, changes in appetite. Cats are sensitive.”

This doesn’t mean that you can’t introduce new items (say, a couch in the spot where your cat typically likes to sleep) to your household. But when you do, let Fluffy check out these unfamiliar objects on his or her own terms.

“A lot of the time people try to show a cat that something they’re afraid of isn’t scary,” Delgado says. “They’re going to inadvertently make the cat more afraid, because they’re forcing it to interact with something they’re fearful of.”

As time passes, the object will start smelling familiar, and your favorite feline will gradually relax. In the meantime, though, save the cucumbers for your salad, and keep them far away from your kitty’s food dish.

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