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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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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Honey Bees Can Understand the Concept of Zero
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The concept of zero—less than one, nothing, nada—is deceptively complex. The first placeholder zero dates back to around 300 BCE, and the notion didn’t make its way to Western Europe until the 12th century. It takes children until preschool to wrap their brains around the concept. But scientists in Australia recently discovered a new animal capable of understanding zero: the honey bee. According to Vox, a new study finds that the insects can be taught the concept of nothing.

A few other animals can understand zero, according to current research. Dolphins, parrots, and monkeys can all understand the difference between something and nothing, but honey bees are the first insects proven to be able to do it.

The new study, published in the journal Science, finds that honey bees can rank quantities based on “greater than” and “less than,” and can understand that nothing is less than one.

Left: A photo of a bee choosing between images with black dots on them. Right: an illustration of a bee choosing the image with fewer dots
© Scarlett Howard & Aurore Avarguès-Weber

The researchers trained bees to identify images in the lab that showed the fewest number of elements (in this case, dots). If they chose the image with the fewest circles from a set, they received sweetened water, whereas if they chose another image, they received bitter quinine.

Once the insects got that concept down, the researchers introduced another challenge: The bees had to choose between a blank image and one with dots on it. More than 60 percent of the time, the insects were successfully able to extrapolate that if they needed to choose the fewest dots between an image with a few dots and an image with no dots at all, no dots was the correct answer. They could grasp the concept that nothing can still be a numerical quantity.

It’s not entirely surprising that bees are capable of such feats of intelligence. We already know that they can count, teach each other skills, communicate via the “waggle dance,” and think abstractly. This is just more evidence that bees are strikingly intelligent creatures, despite the fact that their insect brains look nothing like our own.

Considering how far apart bees and primates are on the evolutionary tree, and how different their brains are from ours—they have fewer than 1 million neurons, while we have about 86 billion—this finding raises a lot of new questions about the neural basis of understanding numbers, and will no doubt lead to further research on how the brain processes concepts like zero.

[h/t Vox]

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