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Tiger Populations Are Rising for the First Time in 100 Years Thanks to Local Tribes

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In 2010, the World Wildlife Fund predicted that tigers would be gone from the wild within a generation. In April 2016, the cats were declared extinct in Cambodia. That same month, though, tiger conservationists announced some good news: though still small, tiger populations were growing for the first time in a century. And it’s due, in no small part, to the indigenous tribes that have learned to coexist peacefully with the predators, the BBC reports.

There are approximately 3890 tigers in the wild now, compared to about 3200 in 2010, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Survival International, a UK nonprofit devoted to indigenous rights, argues that tiger conservation works better when local tribes are involved. In India’s BRT Tiger Reserve, where tigers live alongside the Soliga people, the species' population is increasing at higher rates than elsewhere in India, where locals have been forced to move out of tiger reserves. BRT’s tiger population nearly doubled from 2010 to 2014, increasing from 35 tigers to 68.

In 2014, about 3000 people were evicted from the Kanha Tiger Reserve, the location that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. India’s Wildlife Protection Act created human-free reserves in certain forest areas, including those that tigers use to breed, but didn’t account for the locals who had lived there for generations. In 2006, the country—which is home to 70 percent of the world’s tigers—passed a law allowing indigenous peoples to remain in the forests, causing strife with conservationists determined to keep tigers from the harm inflicted by human society.

However, Survival International is not the only organization to dispute that suggestion. The BBC also turned up a 2016 study that found that in India’s Bor Tiger Reserve, local villagers “considered [tigers] a boon and beneficial to their livelihood, and almost all displayed environmental awareness and stressed the necessity to conserve tigers in order to ensure their own continued survival.”

The tiger also has religious significance, as it is the animal ridden by the goddess Durga in Hindu mythology. As such, locals are more interested in living peacefully alongside the animals than poaching them or encroaching on their hunting grounds.

“We worship tigers as gods,” as one man living in the BRT Tiger Reserve told Survivor International. “There hasn’t been a single incident of conflict with tigers and Soligas or hunting here."

[h/t BBC]

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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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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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