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Daughter#3, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

11 Tributes to Cecil the Lion

Daughter#3, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Cecil was a lion living in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. For seven years, he wore a tracking collar from Oxford University as a participant in a study of lions. Information from the collar was sent via satellite to researchers studying the lives of lions in order to aid conservation efforts. The lion was a park favorite, observed and photographed by many visitors to Hwange. Last month, 13-year-old Cecil was lured out of the park and killed in a trophy hunt by American dentist Walter Palmer. While some regulations appear to have been circumvented, lion hunting was not illegal in Zimbabwe at the time (lion, elephant, and leopard hunting have since been banned in the area surrounding the park). Regardless of which laws were broken, the world reacted with sadness and outrage. Dr. Palmer went into seclusion as his business was picketed, and Cecil became a symbol of threatened African wildlife. An outpouring of support had brought over £550,000 in donations to the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) for lion research. And quite a few artists and others were inspired to create tributes to the real-life Lion King.     

1. On-Site Painting

Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Minnesota artist Mark Balma was on hand at the protests in front of Walter Palmer’s dental office, staging his own kind of protest. He set up an easel in the parking lot, pulled out the paints, and painted Cecil’s portrait right then and there. Balma has received quite a few offers for the painting. When he sells it, probably by auction, proceeds will go to WildCRU. Signed prints will also be available.

2. Sand Sculpture

Sand sculptor Lee Stoops sculpted a tribute to Cecil in the sands of Delray Beach, Fla. “It really struck a cord with me,” Stoops told the Palm Beach Post. “We were just trying to reflect on what happened so it doesn’t happen again.”

That sentiment is echoed in the creation of many of these artistic tributes.

3. Street Art

Belgian street artist DZIA painted a few murals in Glasgow, Scotland, over the past week, and a couple of them featured Cecil the lion in all his majesty. See more Glasgow wildlife by DZIA at StreetArtNews. 

4. A Regal Portrait

Artist Aaron Blaise was an animator on the movie The Lion King. He was upset at the news about Cecil and was inspired to paint him in a manner reminiscent of Mufasa in the sky. You can see a time-lapse video of its creation at Blaise’s blog. 

5. Beanie Baby

Ty Warner has announced that Ty, Inc. will produce a Beanie Baby lion named Cecil as a tribute to the late Zimbabwean lion. All profits from the sale of the plush toy will go to WildCRU.

6. Selfies for Cecil

A Facebook community called Cecil the Lion sprung up to commemorate the cat’s life and memory. They recently launched a project called Selfies for Cecil, inviting supporters to send in selfies with the hashtag #CecilLives.

You are invited to submit selfies, showing a landmark or scene from your town. You need to hold a homemade creative sign INCLUDING BOTH the “#CecilLives” hash tag and your town/ country in your selfie.

The selfies will be incorporated into a video on the www.CecilTheLion.org website and Facebook page and will be sent to our media contacts in advance of WORLD LION DAY August 10, 2015. We want to show the world who you are. You are Cecil: You are his spirit.

Selfies must be submitted by August 6 to be included in the video.

7., 8., 9., and 10. More Art

The Cecil the Lion Facebook community has received artistic tributes to Cecil from all over the world.

From Joery in The Dominican Republic. 

From Daniel in Monterrey, Mexico.

From Lucy in Australia.

From Luccas in Sao Paulo, Brasil.

11. Empire State Building Light Show

KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

The Oceanic Preservation Society and the filmmakers of the documentary Racing Extinction collaborated to bring a light show to the Empire State Building on Saturday night. For three hours, images of 160 species of threatened animals were projected onto the building, including tigers, lemurs, manta rays, and Cecil himself. See pictures of the event at HuffPo.

Cecil has also been honored in editorial cartoons, video, and tears.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Gophers and Groundhogs?
Gopher or groundhog? (If you chose gopher, you're correct.)
Gopher or groundhog? (If you chose gopher, you're correct.)
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Gophers and groundhogs. Groundhogs and gophers. They're both deceptively cuddly woodland rodents that scurry through underground tunnels and chow down on plants. But whether you're a nature nerd, a Golden Gophers football fan, or planning a pre-spring trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, you might want to know the difference between groundhogs and gophers.

Despite their similar appearances and burrowing habits, groundhogs and gophers don't have a whole lot in common—they don't even belong to the same family. For example, gophers belong to the family Geomyidae, a group that includes pocket gophers (sometimes referred to as "true" gophers), kangaroo rats, and pocket mice.

Groundhogs, meanwhile, are members of the Sciuridae (meaning shadow-tail) family and belong to the genus Marmota. Marmots are diurnal ground squirrels, Daniel Blumstein, a UCLA biologist and marmot expert, tells Mental Floss. "There are 15 species of marmot, and groundhogs are one of them," he explains.

Science aside, there are plenty of other visible differences between the two animals. Gophers, for example, have hairless tails, protruding yellow or brownish teeth, and fur-lined cheek pockets for storing food—all traits that make them different from groundhogs. The feet of gophers are often pink, while groundhogs have brown or black feet. And while the tiny gopher tends to weigh around two or so pounds, groundhogs can grow to around 13 pounds.

While both types of rodent eat mostly vegetation, gophers prefer roots and tubers (much to the dismay of gardeners trying to plant new specimens), while groundhogs like vegetation and fruits. This means that the former animals rarely emerge from their burrows, while the latter are more commonly seen out and about.

Groundhogs "have burrows underground they use for safety, and they hibernate in their burrows," Blumstein says. "They're active during the day above ground, eating a variety of plants and running back to their burrows to safety. If it's too hot, they'll go back into their burrow. If the weather gets crappy, they'll go back into their burrow during the day as well."

But that doesn't necessarily mean that gophers are the more reclusive of the two, as groundhogs famously hibernate during the winter. Gophers, on the other hand, remain active—and wreck lawns—year-round.

"What's really interesting is if you go to a place where there's gophers, in the spring, what you'll see are what is called eskers," or winding mounds of soil, Blumstein says [PDF]. "Basically, they dig all winter long through the earth, but then they tunnel through snow, and they leave dirt in these snow tunnels."

If all this rodent talk has you now thinking about woodchucks and other woodland creatures, know that groundhogs have plenty of nicknames, including "whistle-pig" and "woodchuck," while the only nicknames for gophers appear to be bitter monikers coined by Wisconsin Badgers fans.

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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Animals
Watch Christmas Island’s Annual Crab Migration on Google Street View
Google
Google

Every year, the 45 million or so red crabs on the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island migrate en masse from their forest burrows down to the ocean to mate, and so the female crabs can release their eggs into the sea to hatch. The migration starts during the fall, and the number of crabs on the beach often peaks in December. This year, you don’t have to be on Christmas Island to witness the spectacular crustacean event, as New Atlas reports. You can see it on Google Street View.

Watching the sheer density of crabs scuttling across roads, boardwalks, and beaches is a rare visual treat. According to the Google blog, this year’s crabtacular finale is forecasted for December 16, and Parks Australia crab expert Alasdair Grigg will be there with the Street View Trekker to capture it. That is likely to be the day when crab populations on the beaches will be at their peak, giving you the best view of the action.

Crabs scuttle across the forest floor while a man with a Google Street View Trekker walks behind them.
Google

Google Street View is already a repository for a number of armchair travel experiences. You can digitally explore remote locations in Antarctica, recreations of ancient cities, and even the International Space Station. You can essentially see the whole world without ever logging off your computer.

Sadly, because Street View isn’t live, you won’t be able to see the migration as it happens. The image collection won’t be available until sometime in early 2018. But it’ll be worth the wait, we promise. For a sneak preview, watch Parks Australia’s video of the 2012 event here.

[h/t New Atlas]

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