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MozamPete via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Zambian Government Resumes Cull of 2000 Hippos

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MozamPete via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

In June 2016, the government of Zambia called off its original plan to cull 2000 hippos from the country’s Luangwa River. A few weeks later, wildlife conservationists say, the government reversed its decision, and the trophy hunters employed to kill the hippos were back in business. Advocates for the animals say the government’s reasons for the slaughter plan are, at best, unsupported by science, and at worst, corrupt. 

Government officials had initially cited fears of anthrax, insufficient water, and overpopulation as evidence a cull was necessary. Yet Will Travers, president of the nonprofit Born Free Foundation, says there is no current anthrax threat in Zambia, and that the water levels are the highest they’ve been in years. “They are on thin ground scientifically,” he told New Scientist. 

Why, then, would a government choose to kill hundreds of animals a year for the next five years? It’s unclear. What is clear is that the government contract to execute the killings went to a trophy hunting outlet called Mabwe Adventures. Mabwe Adventures appears to have teamed up with a safari company called Theo De Marillac Safaris, which is reportedly marketing the hippo-hunting opportunity to tourists. 

According to Born Free, the safari company invited would-be cullers to “experience the rare and exciting opportunity of participating in a controlled hippo hunt” for upwards of $12,000. “This walk and stalk hunt over the flood plains means hippo are hunted on land, making this a very exciting, adrenalin-pumping safari,” the company promised. 

News of the contract was met with public outrage, which initially inspired the government to call off the hunt. After a brief meeting with stakeholders, the decision was reversed, and the cull resumed. 

“There’s a relentless effort to press ahead,” Travers said. “But at the moment, I can’t see how they can justify what’s going on.”

[h/t New Scientist]

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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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