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Take a Glimpse at South America's Last Surviving Native Bear Species

When envisioning the mountains and forests of Peru, you may picture bears of all ilk scampering around the wilds. However, there is only one surviving species endemic to the continent: the Andean bear.

Also known as the spectacled bear or Tremarctos ornatus, these ursines—known for the lighter hair around their eyes—are in trouble, and initiatives like the Inkaterra Andean Bear Sanctuary in Machu Picchu, Peru, are serving to help protect the species. In the National Geographic video above, biologist Carmen Soto says there are believed to be anywhere between 8000 and 16,000 Andean bears left, though (as you might be able to guess based on that huge range) the numbers are largely speculative.

Through conservation, workshops, and education, Soto, along with founder José Koechlin and others, is hoping to safeguard the bears. In doing so, they seek to preserve the forests as a whole, as the bears serve as important players in its ecosystems. As part of the effort, the team is also hoping to increase associations of the spectacled bear with Machu Picchu, the Incas, and the history and mythology surrounding them.

Banner image via Greg Hume, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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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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