By Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor
National Geographic, like many other companies, has locked its office doors for now. We’re all working from home—or trying to. One of the most active Slack message channels from the office has featured a steady stream of people trying to coax cats off keyboards and playful dogs away from precious rolls of toilet paper.
I’ve been looking for a lighthearted distraction, too. That’s how I came across Fiona the Hippo’s Facebook Live. For a few minutes, we all got to watch the Cincinnati Zoo’s celebrity hippo (pictured above eating her birthday cake in January) just going about her business. It was great. The zoo is now doing daily livestreams of different animals.
After Fiona, I decided to seek out other live streams to keep me entertained while stuck at home. I’m in love with Old Friends Animal Sanctuary’s feed of elderly rescue dogs. Africam’s stream from Tembe Elephant Park often has wildlife stopping by the watering hole. And underwater feeds, like Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jelly cam and the Georgia Aquarium’s tropical coral reef cam, are the zen distractions I turn to when I need a breather.
There are so many good animal webcams out there. I hope you’re able to take a break and step into someone else’s habitat for a little while.
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Your Instagram photo of the day
Moving the rhino: Why is this rhino hanging upside down? David Chancellor found out while photographing a wildlife veterinarian receiving a black rhino from a hovering helicopter in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. “Rhinos will suffocate if their body weight is supported on their chests, such as in a body harness, and this would also result in undue pressure being placed on their hearts and associated organs,” Chancellor says. “So despite appearances, this is medically preferable—to support them by the legs for short distances.” Obviously, it’s best not to move the rhinos at all, unless their habitat has become unsafe. Sadly, Chancellor says, “to preserve these extraordinary creatures, intervention is often unavoidable.”
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Today in a minute
Odd behavior: Monkeys brawling in the streets in Thailand. Deer wandering through a town in Japan. What’s going on? Popular destinations are emptied of tourists during the coronavirus pandemic, and the animals who depended on them for food are behaving differently, the New York Times reports. Experts advise—you guessed it—don’t feed the animals.
I’ve pet that dog: He’s 11 years old. By the count on his Twitter page, Gideon Kidd has petted 1,170 dogs. That is, until he stopped last week, concerned that someone infected with COVID-19 could have petted a dog and left germs on the fur. In the meantime, Kidd will still be posing for pictures—but only with photos of dogs that readers have submitted, Karen Brulliard reports. Virtual petting is no substitute for the real thing, Kidd acknowledges, but adds that at least “I can hear about the dogs.”
Taking advantage: While authorities are busy trying to deal with the pandemic, poachers in Malta have increased illegal trapping of songbirds, Malta Today says. Our Wildlife Watch has reported on the struggle between wildlife volunteers and poachers in the Mediterranean island nation.
Avian engineers: Scientists studying birds’ nests have a new respect for construction that has been derided as a “disordered stick bomb.” The nests, they’ve discovered, have a certain logic to them and often maintain their shape even when disturbed, the New York Times reports.
A modest rebound: The number of endangered Mexican gray wolves is on the rise in Arizona and New Mexico, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service census. The 24 percent increase represents the biggest jump since 2014, reports the Center for Biological Diversity.
The big takeaway
The 'wonderchicken': It's a bird. A bird that lived in the time of the dinosaurs. Pictured above is a reconstruction of the world’s oldest modern bird, an ancestor of chickens and ducks, John Pickrell reports for Nat Geo. Scientists who did CT scans of fossils—really four blocks with limbs sticking out of them—were astounded to discover “a beautifully preserved, nearly complete, 3D skull of a modern bird,” says paleontologist Daniel Field. Researchers dubbed it the “wonderchicken.”
In a few words
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Where do cats go? The Cat Tracker project, studying 900 house cats, offers answers to that question. Most of the cats—wearing a harness with a GPS device like the cat above—wandered outdoors no more than a few hundred yards from their home. However, 7 percent covered more than 25 acres, and several cats had enormous ranges, Jonathan Losos reports for Nat Geo. Penny, from Whitby, New Zealand, traveled the farthest of all cats in the study. She ranged over three square miles (shown below).