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NEW ZEALAND DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION

World's Rarest Parrot Born in New Zealand

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NEW ZEALAND DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION

Yesterday morning, a kakapo chick hatched on a small island in New Zealand. The newborn bird brings the world population of kakapo—a flightless parrot and one of the world's rarest birds—back to 125 following the death of an older male earlier this week.

Kakapo rangers discovered the chick on Anchor Island while monitoring its mother Tiwhiri’s nest camera. Tiwhiri, a 7-year-old first-time mother, is doing well, according to a statement from New Zealand's Department of Conservation.

Deidre Vercoe, the department's operations manager, believes more baby kakapos are likely on the way after a successful mating season during which 37 females found a partner.

"We're thrilled that the record level of breeding this season will enable us to continue our work to bring this very unique New Zealand species back from the brink of extinction,” she said.

The birth comes two days after Smoko, one of the conservation program's original male kakapos, was found dead on nearby Codfish Island. The Department of Conservation department speculates he died after a fight with another male, though the exact cause of death won't be known until the Auckland Zoo concludes its investigation.

But even with the death of Smoko, the future of the kakapo seems bright. Before the DOC's conservation efforts began in 1990, only 50 of the chubby (it's the world's heaviest parrot) birds remained; today, that number has nearly tripled, and will likely keep growing.

Below, for your enjoyment, is video of a grown male kakapo attempting to keep his species' numbers high by "shagging" a BBC camera man.

[h/t The Dodo]

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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iStock

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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