Why Conservationists Want People to Take Selfies With Quokkas

Paul Kane, Getty Images
Paul Kane, Getty Images

The quokka is famous for being one of the most photogenic animals on Earth. An Australian relative of kangaroos and wallabies, quokkas are tiny, fluffy, and always seem to have a smile on their face. They are also considered a vulnerable species. In order to raise awareness of their precarious status, conservationists are using the quokka's reputation for being "the happiest animal in the world" to their advantage.

As Great Big Story explains in its video below, Rottnest Island off the coast of Western Australia is a hot spot for quokka selfies. Tourists from around the world flock to the island to snap a picture with one of the 10,000 quokkas who live there, and as a result, the quokka has become a viral sensation.

The fact that the quokka is an internet celebrity means that conservationists have an easier time than ever getting regular people to care about their fate as a species. On Rottnest Island, the animals are isolated from predators, but on the mainland, quokka populations are under threat from cats, foxes, and human activities like logging. Every selfie shared helps raise awareness of the species.

But you do have to follow some rules before posing for a picture with a quokka on Rottnest Island. For instance, anyone who touches or feeds one of the animals is subject to a fine of 150 Australian dollars (around $110 in the U.S.)—and possibly the wrath of the quokkas, which have been known to attack people when threatened.

And don't be so flattered when it looks happy to see you: That smile isn't a smile at all. It's just the way its face looks.

[h/t Great Big Story]

100 Dachshunds Competed in Cincinnati’s Annual ‘Running of the Wieners’

NORRIE3699/iStock via Getty Images
NORRIE3699/iStock via Getty Images

Every year, to kick off Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, 100 dachshunds compete in heats to decide who the fastest dachshund in the Midwest is. This year marks the 43rd annual Oktoberfest—one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Germany (more than 500,000 people attend the three-day event).

On the afternoon of Thursday, September 19, 100 wiener dogs (and their owners and handlers) gathered in downtown Cincinnati for the 2019 "Running of the Wieners." The dogs, dressed in hot dog costumes, ran 10 heats, which lasted 75 feet or five seconds each. The winner of each heat advanced to the final round, where the top three finishers were decided.

Maple, a long-haired, one-year-old dachshund, ran his way into first place—and into our hearts.

Maple’s owner, Jake Sander, told WCPO that Maple is one of five dachshunds in the family, and that he learned to run fast by chasing his brother around. Leo and Bucky, two other doxies, placed second and third, respectively.

Besides the Running of the Wieners, Zinzinnati also hosts the World’s Largest Chicken Dance. However, the wiener dogs are more fun to watch.

Photographer Captures Polka-Dotted Zebra Foal in Kenya

Frank Liu
Frank Liu

Zebras are known for their eye-catching patterns, but this polka-dotted foal recently photographed in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve really stands out from the herd. As National Geographic reports, the zebra baby likely has pseudomelanism, a rare pigment condition that's been observed in the wild just a handful of times.

Nature photographer Frank Liu saw the zebra foal while looking for rhinos in the savannah wilderness preserve. After initially confusing the specimen for a different type of animal, he realized upon closer inspection that it was actually a plains zebra born with spots instead of stripes. The newborn foal was named Tira after the Maasai guide Antony Tira who first pointed him out.

Zebra foal with spots walking with mother.
Frank Liu

Zebra foal with spots.
Frank Liu

A typical zebra pattern is the result of pigment cells called melanocytes, which are responsible for the black base coat, and melanin, which gives the animal its white stripes. (So if you've ever wondered if zebras are white with black stripes or black with white stripes, the answer is the latter). In Tira and other zebras with pseudomelanism, the melanocytes are fully expressed, but a genetic mutation causes the melanin to appear as dots rather than unbroken stripes.


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Though rare, this isn't the only time a zebra with pseudomelanism has been documented in nature. Pseudomelanistic zebras have also been spotted in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, but Liu believes this could be the first time one was found in the Masai Mara preserve.

Zebra stripes aren't just for decoration. The distinct pattern may act as camouflage, bug repellant, and a built-in temperature regulation system. Without these evolutionary benefits, Tira has a lower chance of making it to adulthood: Pseudomelanistic zebra adults are rarely observed for this reason. But as Liu's photographs show, the foal has the protection and acceptance of his herd on his side.

[h/t National Geographic]

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