Do we need our pets more now than they need us?

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By Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor

Taking your pet for a walk is a widely accepted reason for people under stay-at-home orders to go outside. Of course rules vary by state and country, and thankfully where I live, “exercise” (my evening stroll around the block) is also acceptable. However, in Spain (pictured), people are limited to dog walks, trips to the grocery store and pharmacy, and going to work. Some residents have looked for creative ways to bend the rules: A few weeks ago, one man walked his stuffed animal. Another started renting out his dog to people desperate for some fresh air. The police didn’t love that.

It got me thinking. Are dog owners taking their dogs on more walks just to get out of the house? A National Geographic and Morning Consult poll asked over a thousand dog owners in the U.S. to find out.

More than a quarter of people are taking their dogs for more walks—but almost 20 percent are going on fewer dog walks, so it kind of cancels out. On the other hand, 43 percent of people are playing with their dogs more often, compared to just four percent who are playing less. (Is it because you’re worried about giving your dog coronavirus? Don’t be!) And unsurprisingly, about half of people are making fewer trips to the dog park.

If only we could ask our pets whether they’re happy many of us are at home all the time now. My cat, at least, seems to be.

Then again, maybe she just likes the warmth of my laptop.

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Your Instagram photo of the day

The Tiger Spring: Photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols ended up with a surprise on this assignment at India’s Bandhavgarh National Park. “I had been photographing a tiger named Sita as she raised her litter, and then the cubs began to disperse,” he writes. “Bacchi (meaning "little one" in Hindi ) was Sita’s favorite, and it was trying to establish a territory next to hers. This water hole was on that boundary, and tigers and other animals frequented it to get through the hard dry season. Here I captured Bacchi taking a drink. You never know what you're going to get with camera traps.“

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Today in a minute

Not helping: Florida panthers are endangered. Road kills are a leading cause of death. No. 2? Brawls between the panthers themselves in what is termed intraspecific aggression. A turkey hunter captured rare video of two panthers fighting over territory in South Florida, and it is believed the older panther killed the younger one, Nat Geo’s Douglas Main reports.

Cows over condos: A widening movement of ranch-owners and conservationists in the West is seeking to restrict land from being developed into big-box stores and widespread housing. The landowners often are receiving tax breaks for restricting the use of their land if they die or transfer it, the Washington Post reports.

Defining terms: What’s a “wet market” how does it differ from a wildlife market? Wet markets, which are kind of like farmers markets, often also sell and slaughter live animals on site, including chickens, fish, and shellfish. A small number also sell wild animals as pets or for their meat, as did the market in Wuhan where COVID-19 was first reported, writes Nat Geo’s Dina Fine Maron.

The longest creature in the sea? This swirling siphonophore, spotted 200 feet down in the waters off Western Australia, was 150 feet long, the New York Times reports. In comparison, a blue whale nears a hundred feet in length. So, what is a siphonophore? A colony of individual zooids, clusters of cells that clone themselves thousands of times to produce an extended, stringlike body. Kind of like living, organized silly string, researchers say.

Goat2Meeting: Bored by those fake backgrounds on video conference calls? Falling asleep? This sanctuary is offering to bring a goat or llama to your next remote group call, Business Insider reports. Also: “Virtual field trips.” Hat tip to Nat Geo’s Anne Farrar for the item.

The big takeaway

Hi there! This clear-eyed bird is an Egyptian vulture, one of a number of threatened birds that Tim Flach photographed for National Geographic magazine and for his book, Endangered. His challenge was to find unusual, obscure creatures and see which images of species or habitats would elicit an emotional response. Did larger, more colorful birds connect more? How about traits, like big eyes, similar to human babies? Or portraits with seemingly shared emotions, like fear, maternal gestures, or vulnerability?

Subscriber exclusive: What will make us care enough to save endangered species?

In a few words

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Last glimpse

The bold ones: Dolphins (above) have their own extroverted explorers and introverted wallflowers, too. And the bolder bottlenose dolphins, observed for years in a new study, form stronger social attachments as well. While other studies have shown both bold and shy personalities in other species, the study of a group in Italy’s Gulf of Aranci was the first to capture this bottlenose dolphin behavior in the wild, writes Virginia Morell for Nat Geo.

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, with photo selections by Eslah Attar. and Jen Tse. Do you have an idea or a link? We’d love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . And thanks for reading.

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