Giraffes Might Be Declared an Endangered Species

iStock.com/ZU_09
iStock.com/ZU_09

It’s been a rough few decades for giraffes. Native to Africa, these long-necked animals are the tallest to dwell on land, stretching up to 18 feet in height. But such a spectacular sight has become less and less common, as their populations have dwindled by nearly 40 percent since 1985. Roughly 97,000 giraffes remain in the wild—a number that might soon prompt the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to officially declare them an endangered species.

According to Smithsonian.com, the giraffe population has been under duress for some time. Encroachment from developed areas has reduced their habitable environment, and poachers have also contributed to their shrinking numbers. Some hunters kill the animal for meat, while others take the tail, which is perceived in some cultures as a status symbol. The leather is also used in fashion and accessories. In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which administers a world list of endangered species, put them at Vulnerable status, signaling a need to minimize their threats.

In 2017, the Fish and Wildlife Service received a petition, signed by numerous environmental groups and activists, asking to investigate the animals' status. Now, the agency has agreed to evaluate the giraffe and consider action. The review process could last up to 12 months. If giraffes receive the endangered species classification, conservationists would receive federal funding to help curb incentives to kill the animals, including the import of its body parts for sale and distribution. Land encroachment is more difficult to monitor and would involve interfering in land deals and development.

Why hasn’t their plight been more publicized? One theory is that giraffes are common sights in zoos, leading to a widespread belief they’re still thriving. Activists are also concerned the review process by the Fish and Wildlife Service could take longer than anticipated and have urged policymakers to act quickly. In a statement, Natural Resources Defense Council spokesperson Elly Pepper said that “it’s time for the federal government to stick its neck out” for the species.

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

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]

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