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Orangutan Preschool Is (Not Surprisingly) Too Cute for Words

Our planet is home to a great many wonderful things. Some of those things are cute. Some of those things are making the world a better place. And right in the middle of that glorious Venn diagram are cute things that make the world a better place. Orangutan preschool is one of those things. 

The relationship between orangutan mothers and their babies is one of the closest in nature. Unlike many animals, orangutan babies stay close to their mothers for up to eight years, watching, practicing, and learning how to care for themselves. So the bond between mother and baby is not just sweet, it’s also a matter of life and death.

But those relationships are in jeopardy. There are two orangutan species, and both are endangered. The apes live almost exclusively in the treetops, a lifestyle that has become incredibly difficult with the logging boom in Indonesia. An orphaned orangutan is not an uncommon sight in the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra. Those babies are the future, but without their mothers they don’t stand much of a chance. 

Enter the International Animal Rescue (IAR), a nonprofit organization devoted to freeing, finding, and caring for endangered and abused animals. IAR recently opened its first-ever “forest schools,” where more than a hundred baby orangutans are studying the fine art of aping. 

In this video from Great Big Story, IAR program director and veterinarian Karmele Llano Sanchez explains the how and why of teaching some of the world’s cutest students. 

[Header image from Great Big Story]

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

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
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GettyImages

Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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