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Instagram / Juniperfoxx
Instagram / Juniperfoxx

11 Amazing Animal Instagrams You Should Follow Right Now

Instagram / Juniperfoxx
Instagram / Juniperfoxx

If you’re looking to expand your Instagram feed beyond Internet famous cats and dogs, try following these unusual animals.

1. PUMPKIN THE RACCOON

Pumpkin was rescued by Nassau, Bahamas resident Rosie Kemp after falling out of a tree when she was just a month old, leaving her with a broken leg. The Bahamas Humane Society couldn’t take Pumpkin, so Kemp and her daughter, Laura Young, decided to raise the raccoon themselves. Eventually, Pumpkin moved in with Young, her husband, and their two rescue dogs—and an adorable Instagram was born. "Pumpkin considers the dogs her moms," Young told TODAY. “She respects them when they have had enough rough play and she loves to cuddle next to them when she is tired.” You can follow Pumpkin, whose favorite food is watermelon, here.

2. JACK THE WALLABY

Nashville-based lawyer Alex Fasching adopted Jack, a wallaby, two years ago. A year in, he started an Instagram account for Jack, who he regularly dresses up in fun outfits and takes on walks around his neighborhood. (The wallaby also accompanies Fasching to his office.) Now, Jack has more than 20,000 followers. “Jack sleeps in a pouch,” Fasching told the Daily Mail. “He will come up to you and reach his little arms towards you when he wants a scratch or a treat or to be picked up and held. If he wants to go in his pouch and you are holding it, he will reach at it until you lower it down for him to somersault into.” Follow Jack here.

3. PENNY THE GOAT

When yoga instructor Rachel Brathen adopted a baby goat, she probably didn’t think her new pet would be as enthusiastic about downward dog and pigeon pose as she was. But Penny Lane took quickly to yoga. On her Instagram—which has 65,000 followers—you can see her participating in her mom’s yoga routines and doing other fun things, like napping. Follow her here.

4. JUNIPER THE FOX

“I'm not the hero who rescued an orphaned baby fox from the wild. This isn't that story,” Juniper’s owner, who bought the fox from a breeder, writes on her pet’s Instagram page. So in addition to posting adorable photos and videos of Juniper doing everything from pouncing on the bed to going on walks, the fox’s owner also gives some real talk about what it’s like having a fox as a pet.

“I want to use my Instagram to be an educational resource,” she writes. Juniper does not act just like a dog, she says: “She's still a fox, and acts like a fox. ... It takes much more time and patience to care for her than it would [a dog or cat].” Foxes, she says, bite, require a special diet, and are prone to destructive behavior. “They're skittish, they smell horrid, and they pee on everything,” she writes. I hope that my posts can at least inform of the actuality that is living with such a rambunctious little life and stop the misinformation that will ultimately lead to foxes being the novelty pet.” Follow Juniper here.

5. MR. BAGEL THE CHINCHILLA

This 7-year-old mosaic chinchilla hails from the Bay area; his owner, Steve Byun, adopted Mr. Bagel from an animal shelter. “Some of my friends were talking about these cute bunnies they follow on Instagram,” Byun told SmallAnimalChannel.com, “and I thought it would be a great idea to dedicate an account to Mr. Bagel so I can informally document his life.” Now, Mr. Bagel has more than 100,000 followers, and Byun uses the platform to spread the message that fur isn’t fashionable and to encourage adopting over shopping. (Byun donates a portion of proceeds from Mr. Bagel-themed gear to a local chinchilla rescue.) You can follow Mr. Bagel here.

6. LUDWIK THE GUINEA PIG

Life wasn’t always so good for Ludwik, a 1-year-old naked guinea pig who spends his days participating in glamorous photos shoots featuring his favorite foods for an Instagram account that has nearly 29,000 followers. When his owner, Agata Nowacka, a student living in Warsaw, found him in a “very bad” pet store, she told The Dodo, he had pneumonia and other illnesses. It took six months to fix him up, and now, he lives with two Yorkies and another nude guinea pig. He even seems to enjoy his food-themed photo shoots: “Sometimes he even falls asleep, so I think he feels very comfortable,” Nowacka told The Dodo. “What is funny about Ludwik is the fact that he can fall asleep even during his vet's appointment. He could sleep all the time. He could spend most of his day in his blue polar blanket on my lap." Follow Ludwik here.

7. WALLY THE RABBIT

There’s no antidote for a bad day like the videos you’ll find on Wally’s Instagram page. This English Angora rabbit, who lives in Natick, Massachusetts and will celebrate his second birthday this year, has amazingly fluffy ears and a joyful jump. Wally’s owner, Molly Prottas, adopted the bunny after her Flemish Giant died. “My life had a big hole in it,” Prottas told ABC News. “I actually considered getting a dog, but I've always been so drawn to rabbits.” She trims Wally’s coat because he’s sensitive to brushing, but leaves his ears alone. “I let those go,” she said. “And he looked so adorable, soft and cuddly, so I just decided that that's going to be his look.” You can follow Wally here.

8. ESTHER THE WONDER PIG

When Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter adopted a piglet from an old friend in 2012, they were told she was a micropig who would grow to be 70 pounds. They had no idea that the animal they had adopted would grow into a full-sized, 670-pound pig. “Our vet raised concerns the first time he met her. He noticed her cropped tail and said it was a clear sign she was actually a commercial pig, not a pet at all. We were terrified but we had already fallen in love with her,” Jenkins told the Huffington Post. “We decided to wait and see what happened. But the longer we had her, the more we loved her—and, unfortunately, the bigger she got.”

Rather than give her up, Jenkins and Walter moved to a farm with Esther and their two dogs and two cats. Now, Esther has 195,000 followers on Instagram. “Derek and I are Esther's voice and some days it is really challenging to come up with new quips and I will sit there staring at a picture until something comes to me,” Jenkins told the Daily Mail. “Other days it's as if I can read Esther's thoughts and I swear she can convey them with her eyes and her smile.” Follow Esther’s exploits here.

9. BIKKE THE CHIPMUNK

We don’t know much about this adorable chipmunk, who lives in Japan, besides the fact that she has as much trouble getting out of bed on a Monday as we do. Bikke has nearly 100,000 followers; you can follow her here.

10. HENRY THE TORTOISE

Henry, a 16-year-old sulcata tortoise, got major news coverage earlier this month when his mom, Amanda Green (who writes for mental_floss) posted an ad for a tortoise walker on Craigslist. Green adopted Henry two years ago; initially, she was just fostering, but “I ended up falling in love,” she told Refinery29. “I was like, ‘If he needs a forever home, I'll be that for him!’” (Henry’s previous owner had young children and couldn’t give the tortoise the attention he needed.) Green said that Henry “definitely has a personality … more than I anticipated. He’s really social, he’s curious. … He's never really in his shell. Henry will greet anyone who comes into the apartment.” You can see Henry taking baths, wearing costumes, and walking around Central Park here.

11. CALICO THE HEDGEHOG

In addition to donning costumes and celebrating every holiday, Calico—an African pygmy hedgehog—also posts her vacation photos on Instagram, where she has 88,000 followers. This well-traveled hedgehog has been to the White House, enjoyed the views in Glacier National Park, and posed next to Seattle’s Space Needle. You can follow Calico here.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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