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11 Amazing Animal Births Caught on Video

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Modern technology has given us plenty of gifts (and plenty of gifs), but few of them can compare to the awe-inspiring magic of watching wild animals give birth to their adorable offspring from the comfort of our very own homes. Warning: Some of these videos get a little ... gooey.

1. Panda

The National Zoo loves to set up live cameras when they know one of their animals is expecting, and “celebrity” giant panda Mei Xiang was no exception. Panda pregnancies are notoriously hard to diagnose (they’re also hard to make happen), but Mei Xiang demonstrated classic signs of an actual pregnancy for weeks, and she delivered in a big way with the birth of a tiny cub on August 23. While her butter-stick-sized baby was followed by a stillborn twin the next day, all signs point to a healthy first cub.

2. Gorilla

The Prague Zoo trained a live camera on their beloved gorilla mom Kijivu when she gave birth to a tiny baby boy last December. The sixth gorilla born at the zoo (and the fourth for Kijivu and her mate Richard) entered the world in textbook fashion, with his mom giving birth with jaw-dropping efficiency and attention. Baby gorillas typically weigh 3 to 4 pounds at birth—half the weight of human babies.

3. Polar bears

Speaking of efficiency and attention, just imagine giving birth to two squealing polar bear cubs without assistance. That’s just what mama bear Huggies, of the Dutch Zoo Ouwehands Dierenpark, did in 2011 with her little cubs Siku and Sesi. Sure, it sounds like the babies are screaming bloody murder, but that’s just them expressing happiness at finally joining the world (we think). Here's a fun fact about polar bear reproduction: Females are induced ovulators—it's intercourse that causes their ovaries to release an egg.

4. Elephant

The Prague Zoo broke out their live camera equipment again this February when it came time for elephant mama Donna to give birth to the zoo’s very first baby. A relatively “quick” delivery (around five hours) ended with the breathtaking birth of little Sita. Research shows that elephants stay pregnant for 680 days—the longest gestational period of any creature on earth—to allow babies' brains to develop enough that they can survive from birth.

5. Giraffe

Elephant births are impressive enough, but even they can’t compare to giraffe births—especially when they take place in full view of an entire zoo full of gawkers. The Memphis Zoo welcomed baby Kofi back in August of 2008, and his birth to mom Marilyn is one of the most amazing live births ever captured on video. In just four and a half minutes, it shows the entire thing, and while there are some very tense moments, it pays off big time. Fun fact: Pregnant giraffes often return to the calving ground where they were born to give birth themselves.

6. Tiger

If you’re ready to really get in there, Tiger Canyons offers up a long look at tigress Shadow as she gives birth to multiple cubs at some very close angles. (A typical tiger litter is two or three cubs, which weigh about 2 pounds each.) The brainchild of controversial conservationist John Varty, Tiger Canyons is a Bengal tiger “re-wilding” project started back in 2000. While his methods have been criticized, Varty's ability to capture stunning live birth video is unparalleled.

7. Black bear

Though you can’t see too much when it comes to Hope the black bear’s live birth from back in 2010, what the video lacks in clear visuals it more than makes up for with boggling veracity. Mom Lily didn’t give birth to baby Hope in a zoo or on a private reserve—she gave birth in her own den in Ely, Montana, one that was outfitted with a camera by the Wildlife Research Institute in order to continue their ongoing study of Lily and her clan. Born in winter, the cubs are blind and helpless at birth and stay in the den until spring. They'll stick with mom for two years before striking off on their own.

8. Hippo

The San Diego Zoo welcomed a river hippo calf back in January of 2011 in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it delivery. Much like the delivery of baby giraffe Kofi, hippo mom Funani gave birth to little Adhama in front of a large crowd of onlookers, none of which seemed to bother her or the bobbing calf in the slightest. Momma hippos can give birth in the water or on land, but if the baby is born in the water, the mother must push it to the surface to breathe—newborns can only hold their breath for about 40 seconds (which increases to 30 minutes as adults).

9. Dolphin

Hawaiian dolphin mom Keo gave birth to her very first calf back in September of last year in an environment she must have been quite comfortable with—she too was born and raised at Waikoloa Village’s Dolphin Quest. With trainers at the ready to help and record, the star steadily delivered baby Hali'a, the first second-generation dolphin born at the facility, and reportedly a star from the moment she first started swimming. Humans assisted this birth, but did you know that dolphins are also available to assist human births?

10. Lion

The Bristol Zoo had a very good Christmas Eve back in 2010, a holiday marked by the birth of two critically endangered Asiatic lion cubs. It was the first birth for mom Shiva, who gave the zoo its first lion cubs in over a decade when she delivered male Jayendra (“Jay” for short) and female Kalyana (“Kaly” for short). Two years later, she had yet another set of twins, males Kamran and Ketan. A lion's gestation period is 3.5 months, and litters are between one and six cubs. Sadly, in the wild, 60 to 70 percent of cubs die before they make it to a year.

11. Seahorse

Seahorses are an extreme rarity in the animal kingdom—they’re one of the very few species in which the male both incubates the eggs and then actually gives birth to their offspring. Their birthing is serious business: Each delivery can spawn up to 1800 babies. While we don’t know any particulars about this seahorse daddy, we do know he’s a champion.

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Animals
14 Fascinating Facts About Foxes
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Foxes live on every continent except Antarctica and thrive in cities, towns, and rural settings. But despite being all around us, they’re a bit of a mystery. Here’s more about this elusive animal.

1. Foxes Are Solitary.

Foxes are part of the Canidae family, which means they’re related to wolves, jackals, and dogs. They’re medium-sized, between 7 and 15 pounds, with pointy faces, lithe frames, and bushy tails. But unlike their relatives, foxes are not pack animals. When raising their young, they live in small families—called a “leash of foxes” or a “skulk of foxes”—in underground burrows. Otherwise, they hunt and sleep alone.

2. Foxes Have A Lot In Common With Cats.

Like the cat, the fox is most active after the sun goes down. In fact, it has vertically oriented pupils that allow it to see in dim light. It even hunts in a similar manner to a cat, by stalking and pouncing on its prey.

And that’s just the beginning of the similarities. Like the cat, the fox has sensitive whiskers and spines on its tongue. It walks on its toes, which accounts for its elegant, cat-like tread. And—get this—many foxes have retractable claws that allow them to climb rooftops or trees. Some foxes even sleep in trees—just like cats.

3. The Red Fox Is The Most Common Fox.

The red fox has the widest geographical range of any animal in the order Carnivora. While its natural habitat is a mixed landscape of scrub and woodland, its flexible diet allows it to adapt to many environments. As a result, its range is the entire Northern Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to North Africa to Central America to the Asiatic steppes. It’s also in Australia, where it’s considered an invasive species.

4. Foxes Use The Earth’s Magnetic Field.

Like a guided missile, the fox harnesses the earth’s magnetic field to hunt. Other animals, like birds, sharks, and turtles, have this “magnetic sense,” but the fox is the first one we’ve discovered that uses it to catch prey.

According to New Scientist, the fox can see the earth’s magnetic field as a “ring of shadow” on its eyes that darkens as it heads towards magnetic north. When the shadow and the sound the prey is making line up, it’s time to pounce. Here’s the fox in action:

5. Foxes Are Good Parents.

Foxes reproduce once a year. Litters range from one to 11 pups (the average is six), which are born blind and don’t open their eyes until nine days after birth. During that time, they stay with the vixen (female) in the den while the dog (male) brings them food. They live with their parents until they're seven months old. The vixen protects her pups with surprising loyalty. Recently, a fox pup was caught in a trap in England for two weeks, but survived because its mother brought it food every day.

6. The Smallest Fox Weighs Under 3 Pounds.

Roughly the size of a kitten, the fennec fox has elongated ears and a creamy coat. It lives in the Sahara Desert, where it sleeps during the day to protect it from the searing heat. Its ears not only allow it to hear prey, they also radiate body heat, which keeps the fox cool. Its paws are covered with fur so that the fox can walk on hot sand, like it’s wearing snowshoes.

7. Foxes Are Playful.

Foxes are known to be friendly and curious. They play among themselves as well as with other animals like cats and dogs. They love balls, which they frequently steal from golf courses.

Although foxes are wild animals, their relationship with humans goes way back. In 2011, researchers opened a grave in a 16,500-year-old cemetery in Jordan to find the remains of a man and his pet fox. This was 4000 years before the first-known human and dog were buried together.

8. You Can Buy A Pet Fox.

In the 1960s, a Soviet geneticist named Dmitry Belyaev bred thousands of foxes before achieving a domesticated fox. Unlike a tame fox, which has learned to tolerate humans, a domesticated fox is docile toward people from birth. Today, you can buy a pet fox for $9000, according to Fast Company. They’re reportedly curious and sweet-tempered, although inclined to dig in your furniture.

9. Arctic Foxes Don’t Shiver Until –70 degrees Celsius.

The arctic fox, which lives in the northernmost areas of the hemisphere, can handle cold better than most animals on earth. It doesn’t even get cold until –70 degrees Celsius. Its white coat also camouflages it against predators. As the seasons change, the coat changes too, turning brown or gray so the fox can blend in with the rocks and dirt of the tundra.

10. Fox Hunting Continues To Be Controversial.

Perhaps because of the fox’s ability to decimate a chicken coop, in the 16th century, fox hunting became a popular activity in Britain. In the 19th century, the upper classes turned fox hunting into a formalized sport where a pack of hounds and men on horseback chase a fox until it is killed. Today, whether to ban fox hunting continues to be a controversial subject in the UK. Currently, fox hunting with dogs is not allowed.

11. The Fox Appears Throughout Folklore.

Examples include: the nine-tail fox from various Asian cultures; the Reynard tales from medieval Europe; the sly trickster fox from Native American lore; and Aesop’s “The Fox and the Crow.” The Finnish believed a fox made the Northern Lights by running in the snow so that its tail swept sparks into the sky. From this, we get the phrase “fox fires.”

12. Bat-eared Foxes Listen For Insects.

The bat-eared fox is aptly named, not just because of its 5-inch ears, but because of what it uses those ears for—like the bat, it listens for insects. On a typical night, the fox walks along the African Savannah, listening, until it hears the scuttle of prey. Although the fox eats a variety of insects and lizards, most of its diet is made up of termites. In fact, the bat-eared fox often makes its home in termite mounds, which it usually cleans out of inhabitants before moving in.

13. Darwin Discovered A Fox Species.

During his voyage on the Beagle, Charles Darwin collected a fox that today is unimaginatively called Darwin’s Fox. This small gray fox is critically endangered and lives in just two spots in the world: One population is on Island of Chiloé in Chile, and the second is in a Chilean national park. The fox’s greatest threats are unleashed domestic dogs that carry diseases like rabies.

14. Foxes Sound Like This.

Foxes make 40 different sounds, some of which you can listen to here. The most startling is the scream:

Pleasant dreams!

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated.

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Love Scratching Furniture?
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Allergy suffering aside, cat ownership has proven health benefits. A feline friend can aid in the grieving process, reduce anxiety, and offer companionship.

The con in the cat column? They have no reservations about turning your furniture into shredded pleather. No matter how expensive your living room set, these furry troublemakers will treat it with the respect accorded to a college futon. Do cats do this out of some kind of spite? Are they conspiring with Raymour & Flanigan to get you to keep updating home decor?

Neither. According to cat behaviorists, cats gravitate toward scratching furniture mostly because that love seat is in a really conspicuous area [PDF]. As a result, cats want to send a message to any other animal that may happen by: namely, that this plush seating belongs to the cat who marked it. Scratching provides both visual evidence (claw marks) as well as a scent marker. Cat paws have scent glands that can leave smells that are detectable to other cats and animals.

But it’s not just territorial: Cats also scratch to remove sloughed-off nail tips, allowing fresh nail growth to occur. And they can work out their knotted back muscles—cramped from sleeping 16 hours a day, no doubt—by kneading the soft foam of a sectional.

If you want to dissuade your cat from such behavior, purchasing a scratching post is a good start. Make sure it’s non-carpeted—their nails can get caught on the fibers—and tall enough to allow for a good stretch. Most importantly, put it near furniture so cats can mark their hangout in high-traffic areas. A good post might be a little more expensive, but will likely result in fewer trips to Ethan Allen.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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