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There’s a Zoo for Sale on Craigslist (Animals Included)

If you’re an animal lover who has ever fantasized about owning a zoo—or a fan of Cameron Crowe movies with a 66 percent Rotten Tomatoes score—we’ve got good news: your wildest dream could be about to come true. The Ocala Star Banner reports that the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park, a private zoo in Crestview, Florida, is looking to sell its property, including its nearly 100 exotic animals. The strange part? They’re selling it via Craigslist.

Scroll past the $10 pair of artificial trees and a $75 hat commemorating the Atlanta Braves’s '95 World Series championship and you’ll see that, for $350,000, you can become the proud owner of a “ten acre, well maintained USDA Compliant Zoo … with over 90 happy and healthy animals including White Tiger, Bengal Tiger, African Lion, Patas monkeys, bob cats, baboons, wolves, otters, black bear, Fennec foxes, sloth, lemurs, llamas and more.” Haven’t a clue what Fennec foxes eat, or even what one looks like? No worries—the property’s current staff of zookeepers is coming along for the ride (though one assumes that their salaries won’t come out of the $350K you just forked over).

There’s also a gift shop (with inventory), a Stuff-a-Plush machine, a commissary, storage barns, and a half-acre of undeveloped property, in case you want to expand the animals’ current living quarters or even build your own home right in the zoo.

While the ad notes that this is a “Great business opportunity for someone who loves animals with a professional staff in place to care for them,” it’s worth noting that the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge only took over the property in 2013.

Bill Andersen, president and chairman of the Refuge’s board of directors, explained that they took over the property because it had fallen into a state of disrepair. The group has spent the past four years making massive improvements to the grounds and outbuildings. “While rescuing the animals initially was in keeping with their mission,” writes the Ocala Star Banner, “continuing to run a zoo is not.”

“We’ve spent an awful lot of time getting those critters happy and healthy, updating habitats, and providing them with a quality place to live,” Andersen said. “I think our zoo is in the best shape it’s ever been.”

Though Andersen has hopes that the City of Crestview and Okaloosa County might be interested in taking over the zoo, he believes the next best option would be a passionate animal lover who has the desire, and financial means, to keep the zoo running and the animals happy.

“It’s got to be a buyer who shares our concern for the welfare of these critters,” Andersen said.

Are you listening, Matt Damon?

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NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
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technology
Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

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iStock
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science
There May Be an Ancient Reason Why Your Dog Eats Poop
iStock
iStock

Dogs aren't known for their picky taste in food, but some pups go beyond the normal trash hunting and start rooting around in poop, whether it be their own or a friend's. Just why dogs exhibit this behavior is a scientific mystery. Only some dogs do it, and researchers aren't quite sure where the impulse comes from. But if your dog is a poop eater, it's nearly impossible to steer them away from their favorite feces.

A new study in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, spotted by The Washington Post, presents a new theory for what scientists call "canine conspecific coprophagy," or dogs eating dog poop.

In online surveys about domestic dogs' poop-eating habits completed by thousands of pet owners, the researchers found no link between eating poop and a dog's sex, house training, compulsive behavior, or the style of mothering they received as puppies. However, they did find one common link between the poop eaters. Most tended to eat only poop that was less than two days old. According to their data, 85 percent of poop-eaters only go for the fresh stuff.

That timeline is important because it tracks with the lifespan of parasites. And this led the researchers to the following hypothesis: that eating poop is a holdover behavior from domestic dogs' ancestors, who may have had a decent reason to tuck into their friends' poop.

Since their poop has a high chance of containing intestinal parasites, wolves poop far from their dens. But if a sick wolf doesn't quite make it out of the den in time, they might do their business too close to home. A healthier wolf might eat this poop, but the parasite eggs wouldn't have hatched within the first day or two of the feces being dropped. Thus, the healthy wolf would carry the risk of infection away from the den, depositing the eggs they had consumed away in their own, subsequent bowel movements at an appropriate distance before the eggs had the chance to hatch into larvae and transmit the parasite to the pack.

Domestic dogs may just be enacting this behavior instinctively—only for them, there isn't as much danger of them picking up a parasite at home. However, the theory isn't foolproof. The surveys also found that so-called "greedy eaters" were more likely to eat feces than dogs who aren't quite so intense about food. So yes, it could still be about a poop-loving palate.

But really, it's much more pleasant to think about the behavior as a parasite-protection measure than our best pals foraging for a delicious fecal snack. 

[h/t The Washington Post]

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