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© Wildlife Conservation Society

See Vintage Pictures of the Opening of the Bronx Zoo's African Plains Exhibit

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© Wildlife Conservation Society

Nearly 75 years ago, on May 1, 1941, the Bronx Zoo opened its iconic African Plains Exhibit. The display set new standards for zoo habitats and was a huge success, drawing about 85,000 visitors in a single day even in its early days. In honor of the exhibit's anniversary, the Bronx Zoo recently released images of the opening.

The area—which showcases animals like zebras, elands, lions, warthogs, and several species of birds, among others—was built using money from an anonymous funder (who was later revealed to be department store owner Marshall Field). The whole thing cost about $110,000 and took around 18 months to complete, from planning to completion. Many of the featured species can still be seen there today.

Take a look at some of those pictures below, as well as an old video of some lions getting up close and personal with a CBS reporter (who, yes, is hiding in a box).

Before the '40s, zoos had different standard practices than they do today. Large animals like lions and bears were often housed in small cages with metal bars, completely ignoring how they would live in their natural habitats. When the Bronx Zoo opened their African Plains Exhibit, the organizers aimed to change the way animals were displayed. The design was created by the late Fairfield Osborn, the then-president of the New York Zoological Society (now Wildlife Conservation Society), who wanted to show visitors the importance of protecting both the wildlife and the places they called home.

The Plains exhibit was the first in the Bronx Zoo to organize the animals by geography instead of taxonomy. Predators and prey lived in a shared space, separated by hidden moats instead of iron bars. The naturalistic exhibit aimed to imitate the real plains of Africa from where the animals originated. According to a press release, the Bronx Zoo continues to use this design in their new exhibits, "focusing on the ecological relationships among animals and their natural environments."

All images © Wildlife Conservation Society

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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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