How Your Used Mascara Wand Could Help Save the Lives of Wild Animals

A baby opossum wrapped in a blanket.
A baby opossum wrapped in a blanket.

Tubes of mascara aren’t just good for giving you long, Elizabeth Taylor-esque eyelashes. They’re also good for wildlife. As Popular Science reports, a nonprofit wildlife center in western North Carolina uses recycled mascara wands to help rehabilitate small animals that have been injured or orphaned.

Appalachian Wildlife Refuge runs an “emergency room” of sorts where animals can receive urgent care from trained professionals. One of the tools they typically have on hand is a mascara brush, because it’s surprisingly effective at cleaning animals. “It works miracles,” wildlife rehabber Janice Burleson tells Popular Science, adding that it’s more efficient than a lice or flea comb.

The bristles of a mascara wand are not only soft, but they’re also positioned in such a way that fly eggs, larvae, and mites can be easily plucked from a small animal’s fur. The center has received more than 50,000 used mascara brushes, and they’ve been used to treat everything from turtles to squirrels to baby opossums. For squirrels in particular, the grooming process seems to calm and soothe them.

The refuge center is still accepting used (and washed) mascara brushes, but it said there's a much greater need for monetary donations and other supplies. “With so many wands coming in, we are asking people to please provide support through a donation or purchase of food and supplies from the wishlist,” the organization writes on its website. Staff are now working on setting up partnerships with other rehabilitation centers in order to redistribute the wands to other areas where they're needed. Some have been sent to Massachusetts, while others have even ended up in Zimbabwe.

[h/t Popular Science]

100 Dachshunds Competed in Cincinnati’s Annual ‘Running of the Wieners’

NORRIE3699/iStock via Getty Images
NORRIE3699/iStock via Getty Images

Every year, to kick off Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, 100 dachshunds compete in heats to decide who the fastest dachshund in the Midwest is. This year marks the 43rd annual Oktoberfest—one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Germany (more than 500,000 people attend the three-day event).

On the afternoon of Thursday, September 19, 100 wiener dogs (and their owners and handlers) gathered in downtown Cincinnati for the 2019 "Running of the Wieners." The dogs, dressed in hot dog costumes, ran 10 heats, which lasted 75 feet or five seconds each. The winner of each heat advanced to the final round, where the top three finishers were decided.

Maple, a long-haired, one-year-old dachshund, ran his way into first place—and into our hearts.

Maple’s owner, Jake Sander, told WCPO that Maple is one of five dachshunds in the family, and that he learned to run fast by chasing his brother around. Leo and Bucky, two other doxies, placed second and third, respectively.

Besides the Running of the Wieners, Zinzinnati also hosts the World’s Largest Chicken Dance. However, the wiener dogs are more fun to watch.

Photographer Captures Polka-Dotted Zebra Foal in Kenya

Frank Liu
Frank Liu

Zebras are known for their eye-catching patterns, but this polka-dotted foal recently photographed in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve really stands out from the herd. As National Geographic reports, the zebra baby likely has pseudomelanism, a rare pigment condition that's been observed in the wild just a handful of times.

Nature photographer Frank Liu saw the zebra foal while looking for rhinos in the savannah wilderness preserve. After initially confusing the specimen for a different type of animal, he realized upon closer inspection that it was actually a plains zebra born with spots instead of stripes. The newborn foal was named Tira after the Maasai guide Antony Tira who first pointed him out.

Zebra foal with spots walking with mother.
Frank Liu

Zebra foal with spots.
Frank Liu

A typical zebra pattern is the result of pigment cells called melanocytes, which are responsible for the black base coat, and melanin, which gives the animal its white stripes. (So if you've ever wondered if zebras are white with black stripes or black with white stripes, the answer is the latter). In Tira and other zebras with pseudomelanism, the melanocytes are fully expressed, but a genetic mutation causes the melanin to appear as dots rather than unbroken stripes.

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Though rare, this isn't the only time a zebra with pseudomelanism has been documented in nature. Pseudomelanistic zebras have also been spotted in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, but Liu believes this could be the first time one was found in the Masai Mara preserve.

Zebra stripes aren't just for decoration. The distinct pattern may act as camouflage, bug repellant, and a built-in temperature regulation system. Without these evolutionary benefits, Tira has a lower chance of making it to adulthood: Pseudomelanistic zebra adults are rarely observed for this reason. But as Liu's photographs show, the foal has the protection and acceptance of his herd on his side.

[h/t National Geographic]