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15 Fabulous and Famous Internet Pigs

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Today (March 1) is National Pig Day, which makes it a great day to meet some of the internet's most popular pigs.

1. AND 2. PRISCILLA AND POPPLETON

From the time they were piglets, Priscilla and her younger brother Poppleton have dressed in a variety of adorable costumes and posed for pictures, which you can see on their Instagram. The Florida-based siblings are so popular (they've got more than 660,000 followers) that they have their own line of plush toys, and are now teaching fellow pigs Posey and Pink to walk in their hoofsteps.

3. PADDINGTON THE PIG

Scottsdale, Arizona-based mini pig Paddington is a beloved house pig who also has a day job: he works as a Thera-Pig, helping his human's special needs students.

4. HAMLET THE PIGGY

Despite the name, Hamlet—a.k.a. Hammy—is a female micro pig who lives in Los Angeles, and will happily pose in wigs and costumes. You can see more of Hamlet and her human, Melanie, on their YouTube channel.

5. ESTHER THE WONDER PIG

In 2012, Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter adopted Esther the Wonder Pig when she was just a piglet. They were told she was a micro pig, but quickly realized that wasn't true. The 650-pound pig—who has more than 332,000 Instagram followers—inspired Jenkins and Walter to found the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary in Ontario, a home for abandoned and abused farm animals.

6. JAMON

In 2013, Andrea Mendes received a very special Valentine's Day gift from her husband: a precious little pig she named Jamon. Thanks to Jamon's willingness to dress up in costumes, the São Paulo, Brazil resident became a Facebook and Instagram celebrity—and even inspired a cartoon series.

7. KAMA THE SURFING PIG

A few years ago, Kai Holt was camping with his family at Hawaii's Bellows Beach Park when a stray piglet made its way into their cabana; he hasn't left Holt's side since. In addition to becoming a cherished member of the family, the pig—named Kamapua'a, or Kama for short—is also Holt's surfing buddy. While he's pretty good at balancing on a surfboard, he doesn't mind the occasional wipeout, as he loves the water and is an excellent swimmer.

Since Holt adopted him, Kama has produced a son, Kama 2, who also surfs. You can see Kama 2 surfing with Holt's son in this video and keep up with Kama and his family at Facebook and Instagram, too.

8. CHRIS P. BACON

Chris P. Bacon was born with malformed, nonfunctional rear legs. He was taken to veterinarian Len Lucero to be put down, but the doctor decided to adopt him instead. As a piglet, he learned to balance on his front legs, but that solution wouldn't work for a heavy, full-grown pig, so Lucero fitted him with a set of wheels, and now he gets around his Florida home like a champ. Chris's story was even turned into a children's book.

9. WILBUR THE TRAVELING PIG

There are few things cuter than an interspecies friendship, and Wilbur the Traveling Pig has got two of them: He lives with two Bengal cats, Suki and Sashimi, and their friendship is one of mutual benefit. The cats consider Wilbur a pillow, and he considers them back scratchers. Wilbur accompanies his humans on road trips and has become quite a well-traveled pig.

10. BACON THE PIGLET

Like the aforementioned Esther the Wonder Pig, Fort Worth, Texas's Bacon the Piglet is a mini pig that turned out to be anything but. Bacon may be big, but he's not too big to be lifted (yet). Watch him grow up in his Instagram gallery, where you'll find videos of Bacon in his apartment complex swimming pool. Bacon is in no danger of becoming bacon, but strangely, he is calmed by being stroked with a fork

11. AND 12. LEO AND OLIVE

Mini pigs Leo and Olive live together with their family in North Carolina. According to their Facebook page, they like "Cheerios, Raisins, Rooting, Cuddles, Grazing. Fort Building. [And] planning missions to acquire more treats." According to the photo above, they also enjoy a dip in the backyard pond.

13. BITSY THE MINI PIG

Bitsy is a small pig growing up in Washington State. She takes walks on a leash and loves Cheerios, being around people, and occasionally dressing up in a tutu (much to her more than 13,000 Instagram followers' amusement).

14. LILY PIG

Lily is a Vietnamese potbelly pig who is an ambassador for Tucson, Arizona's Ironwood Pig Sanctuary. They take in abandoned or rescued Vietnamese potbelly pigs and give them a chance to either be adopted or live out their lives there in peace.

15. LORD HAMILTON

Lord Hamilton (Hammy for short) is only a year and a half old, but he's already the director of emotional support for HEAL (the Happily Ever After League) in Scottsdale, Arizona. The organization, founded by Hammy's human mom, Lauren, provides support for women going through cancer treatment.

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Penn Vet Working Dog Center
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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