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Get to Know the Malayan Tapir (Before It’s Too Late)

One of the things that makes Earth so great is its astonishing diversity of life forms. Our planet boasts stunning sea dragons, powerful viruses, and majestic sequoias, but it’s also home to humbler animals like Kruze, the Malayan tapir shown above—at least for now. 

Kruze and his kin, shy as they are, once threw a substantial wrench in scientific theory. The year was 1812, and zoologist Georges Cuvier had just declared that Earth was out of new large mammal species. If other species existed, he insisted, scientists would already know about them. Lo and behold, just a few years later, the Malayan tapir, Tapirus indicus, entered the official scientific record. Chinese people living near rainforests had long spoken of a white-backed, tapir-like creature, but bigoted Cuvier figured that since they weren’t Western scientists, their reports didn’t count, and the species didn’t really exist.

T. indicus is very, very real. These days, Malayan tapirs live in the rainforests of Thailand, Myanmar, and Sumatra, spending their days snarfing leaves off low trees and shrubs. For the most part, they’re quite peaceful creatures, preferring to run rather than fight, but scientists have noted their “vicious bite.” 

Like their cousins the rhinoceroses, Malayan tapirs love the water and will flee into the depths when threatened, using their mini-trunks as snorkels. And if you think Kruze is cute, you should see the babies. Tapir baby-making equipment is certainly effective, if alarming: males have prehensile penises that can grow longer than their legs. 

By now you could probably guess that these gentle weirdos are in danger. As rainforests decline, their habitats shrink, pushing them closer to human settlements. The tapirs’ bad-tasting flesh used to keep them relatively safe from hunters, but people are getting desperate as tastier species begin to vanish. 

Want to help? You can support T. indicus in style by picking up one of these tapir sweater knitting patterns, the proceeds of which go to conservation efforts.

Header image from YouTube // Great Big Story

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
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Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

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