The Androgynous Lionesses of Botswana

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Moremi Game Reserve, located in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, is home to a pride of butch lionesses with deep roars and bushy, luxurious manes. They look so much like male lions, they easily fool competing prides into believing that they’re actually males.

The maned lionesses are regularly spotted by visitors to the Mombo Safari Camp, an area within the Reserve where these wild beasts reside. Wildlife experts believe that the lion population in the area might have a genetic condition that causes the phenomenon. The seasonal flood waters of the delta could have isolated these lions for decades, forcing them to inbreed their way to a genetic mutation causing a hormonal imbalance.

When National Geographic contacted Luke Hunter, president of the big-cat conservation group Panthera, for answers, he explained that masculine females are likely to occur when the embryo is disrupted – either during conception or while in the womb. “If the former case, the genetic contribution of the sperm – which determines the sex of the fetus in most mammals – was probably aberrant, giving rise to a female with some male characteristics,” he said.

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Retired Doctor Sells Her Properties to Take Care of Stray Cats and Dogs

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Weng Xiaoping, formerly a renowned doctor in China, is spending her retirement caring for stray animals. In what may seem like an unthinkable act to most people, Weng sold two of her properties for 1.8 million yuan (almost $300,000) immediately after she retired and decided to use all that money to fund her new mission in life.

With the money in hand, Xiaopang moved to the mountainous village of Taipingqiao, near Huzhou city, to build a sanctuary for unwanted dogs and cats. In the past eight years, she has adopted and cared for hundreds of animals. She has also hired two assistants, using her pension of 7,000 yuan per month to pay them.

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Meet Tanu, the Japanese Raccoon Dog Taking the Internet by Storm

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The internet is going crazy over photographs of Tanu, an adorable dog that belongs to a canine species called tanuki, also known as ‘Japanese raccoon dog’. Most Westerners mistake the tanuki for a raccoon or badger, but it is in fact a canine breed.

Tanu became an internet celebrity after his owner, Twitter user @chibi_tori, started posting photographs of him. The pictures, which mostly show Tanu eating or sleeping next to a warm stove, were thousands of times over before Buzzfeed picked up the story. Chibi_tori told the popular entertainment website that he found the dog abandoned in June last year and has been raising it as a pet ever since.

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Patagonian Penguin Always Returns to the Human Who Saved His Life 5 Years Ago

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João Pereira de Souza, a retired bricklayer from Rio de Janeiro, shares a heartwarming bond with a Magellanic penguin native to South America’s Patagonian region. For the past five years, the bird seems to have altered its natural migratory pattern just to be able to visit de Souza several times a year.

The unlikely friendship began in 2011, when de Souza found the bird, nicknamed Jinling, soaked in oil on the beach near his house. He brought the penguin home, cleaned him up, and offered him a meal of cool sardines and a shady spot to rest. Since then, Jinling has never stayed away from de Souza for too long.

Even though the kindhearted man tried to get the penguin reacquainted with the open sea after he got better, the bird just kept coming back. He even took him out in a boat, far from land and turned him loose in the ocean, but by the time he got back home, Jinling was already waiting for him.

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The Heartbreaking Story of the World’s Loneliest Whale

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Having to roam the world in search of company, constantly calling out for a mate but never getting an answer sounds terrifying and sad, which is why so many around the world empathize with ’52’, the loneliest whale in the world.

The solitary whale, named after the distinctive 52 hertz frequency of its call, belongs to an unknown, unidentified species. The sound it produces is just above the lowest note on a tuba – clearly that of a whale, but one that no other whale in the world shares or recognizes. So it roams the world’s largest ocean, year after year, desperately calling out for a mate but never finding one.

Interestingly, 52 has never actually been seen; only its forlorn love songs have been picked up by navy sonar detectors, but never accompanied by another whale call. This phenomenon is so intriguing that scientists have closely been monitoring the frequency since it was first detected by William Watkins of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1989. He happened to be studying the mating calls of male whales in the North Pacific, when he came across the anomaly of 52.

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Poodle Learns to Walk on Hind Legs after Having Limb Amputated

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After losing a front leg in a terrible accident, a poodle from southwest China’s Sichuan province has learned to walk upright on her hind legs. Barbie the poodle is now a local celebrity in the city of Chengdu, and is slowly becoming a social media sensation as well.

According to her owner Chen Mianyang, Barbie was hit by a motorcycle in 2011. “There was blood everywhere and she was screaming like she was dying,” he recalled. Her front left leg needed to be amputated in order to save her life, in a surgery that cost Chen 5,000 yuan ($760).

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Istanbul Mosque Opens Its Doors to Stray Cats on Cold Winter Days

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A mosque in Istanbul is creating social media buzz with its cat-friendly attitude. Stray cats looking for warmth and shelter on cold winter nights are always welcome at Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi Mosque in the city’s historical Üsküdar district.

Photographs of Mustafa Efe, the mosque’s imam (leader), playing with the feline visitors have gone viral online. According to news reports, he started allowing stray cats inside the place of worship last year, to help them escape the cold weather. The imam is apparently well-known for his good humor, diligence, and kindness towards animals.

Efe posted a few pictures and videos of the cats on his own Facebook page and one clip actually shows a mother cat carrying her babies in her mouth, one-by-one, into the mosque. “Our mosque’s Friday guests,” the imam wrote. “A surprise awaiting us at the sermon today. The kitty has found the heart of compassion and mercy.”

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Tiger Finds Best Friend in Live Goat That Was Offered to Him as Food Months Ago

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A caged Siberia tiger has surprised the staff at Primorsky Safari Park, near Vladivostok, Russia, after befriending a goat that had been offered to him as live food. That was months ago, and even though everyone thought the friendship wouldn’t last long, the two are still inseparable.

Up until late November 2015, 3-year-old Amur, one of the last remaining Siberian tigers, had never shown any sign of compassion for the live food, caretakers at Primorsky Safari Park offered him twice a week. He would usually pounce on scared rabbits and goats and kill them with a swift stroke of his paw. But something was different about the goat that was thrown into his enclosure last November. Apparently, no one had taught the goat to be afraid of tigers, so he didn’t just up and run at the sight of Amur. He just stood his ground, which confused the giant feline, who didn’t attack it as he normally did other live prey.

“The tiger was confused and gave up,” explained Dmitry Mezentsev, head of the park. “It happened once before, another goat pushed back and the tiger decided not to eat him, but once he showed weakness—that was it—his predator killed him. The situation now is different and the animals are great friends.”

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Abandoned Greyhound Acts as Guide and Protector for His Blind Sister

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A couple of animal shelter workers in the municipality of Navalcamero, near Madrid, Spain, recently came across the most heartwarming sight – a five-month old greyhound helping his blind sister cross the road. The two dogs were apparently moving very slowly through traffic, with the female resting her head on the male’s back. When the two women approached the dogs to help them out, they were visibly nervous, but the male greyhound stuck with his sister instead of running away to safety.

The women quickly realised that the female greyhound was visually impaired because she had thin white films over both eyes. They eventually took the canine pair to the shelter where they work and ran a few health tests, confirming that she was indeed blind. Further tests revealed that the female became blind as a result of a virus, and that her condition might be treatable. It seems that the two pups have been abandoned and have stuck with each other since then, with the male acting as his sister’s guide, never leaving her side and protecting her from danger. Caregivers at the ‘El Refugio’ dog shelter have named the female ‘Blinder’, and her brother ‘Pisper’.

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Greek Cafe Serves Coffee by Day, Shelters Stray Dogs by Night

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The kind owners of a cafe in Greece are making headlines for their extraordinary generosity towards dogs. ‘Hot Spot’, located in Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos, serves as a coffee place during the day and doubles up as a shelter for dogs at night!

Kindness towards animals is apparently quite common among the Greeks, but the generosity displayed by the management of Hot Spot is being hailed as unprecedented, even by local standards. They began their practice of letting strays spend the night indoors in July, when a waiter took pity on a dog that was stranded outside at around 3 am. Since then, they’ve been opening their doors to the dogs every single night.

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The Australian Canine Heroes Protecting a Colony of the World’s Smallest Penguins

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Middle Island, a picturesque outcrop located off the coast of southern Victoria in Australia, is home to a colony of the world’s smallest penguins. Originally known as fairy penguins, these adorable little birds are no taller than a foot and weigh only about 1kg. There used to be hundreds of them at one point, but their population dwindled as they were hunted by foxes. That is, until a chicken farmer came up with an ingenious solution to use dogs as bodyguards for the penguins.  

The problem was first noticed in the year 2000, when the sea’s natural current led to increased sand-build up, encouraging a growth in the fox population. The island is uninhabited by humans, and separated from the mainland by a 30-meter stretch of water. So at low tide, it’s easy for the foxes to cross from the mainland and reach the island, and hunt the adorable penguins.

Soon, the fairy penguin population started dwindling to the point where they were in danger of being completely wiped out “We went from a point where we had about 800 penguins down to where we could only find four,” said Peter Abbott from the Penguin Preservation Project. “In our biggest bird kill, we found 360 birds killed over about two nights. Foxes are thrill killers. They’ll kill anything they can find. The colony really was on its last legs and just one more fox attack would’ve finished it off.”

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Nature’s Photoshop – Venus the Two Face Cat

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Meet Venus, a five-year-old tabby who’s become an internet sensation for her strikingly unusual appearance – half of her face is orange while the other is black!

The divide, right down the center of her face, seems too perfect to be true, so much so that you’ll be tempted to dismiss it as fake. It doesn’t help that her eyes are different of different colors as well, one green and the other blue. But on her website, Venus insists that she is 100 percent natural.

“No makeup at all,” she says. “Not even eyeliner. In the salon where I get my pedicures done Photoshop and spray paint aren’t even allowed.” And she also dismisses the idea that she’s a Chimera – a mythical lion-goat-snake creature. “It’s appalling, but hey, I didn’t invent the English language.”

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Japanese Company Bottles the Scent of a Cat’s Forehead

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Japanese online retailer Felissimo specializes in all things feline, but they really seem to be in love with cat odor. So much so that they’re releasing their second cat-scented product this year! First they came out with a cat paw-scented cream earlier this year, and now they’re introducing a special fabric spray that carries the smell of cats’ foreheads.

‘Mohu Mohu Odeko no Kaori’ (Fluffy Forehead Fragrance) Fabric Water comes in a 3.4-ounce bottle, priced at 1,293yen ($10.60). The company revealed that they developed the product after collecting extensive data through customer survey responses. Many of the respondents wrote that the smell of a cat’s forehead is like ‘the smell of sunshine’, ‘a futon that’s been dried in the sun’, and ‘sweet bread’.

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Kindhearted Man Buys Turtles from the Food Market to Release Them into the Ocean

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A kindhearted man recently melted the hearts of millions after saving two majestic sea turtles from the food market and returning them safely into the ocean.Arron Culling, from New Zealand, recently posted photographs of the rescue operation on Facebook, describing how he and a co-worker purchased the turtles for about US$33, and then released them back into their natural habitat.

“Found these at the local market got them for 50 bucks drove 5km up the road and let them go,” Culling posted along with the photographs, which have now been shared over 85,000 times. He also revealed that these aren’t the first turtles he’s set free – he’s bought and released at least 10 in the past, along with his co-worker.

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Russian Makeup Artist Sparks Outrage after Using Real Fish as Facial Accessories

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It’s hard to imagine how putting dead fish on your face can pass off as make up, but that didn’t stop Russian makeup artist Elya Bulochka using them as facial accessories for a marine-themed photo shoot. Her original idea, however, sparked a deluge of criticism and outrage on Instagram for what is being viewed as a highly insensitive act. A lot of her 25,000 followers on Instagram called it ‘unnecessary’, saying “it’s not art, just another stupid person killing animals for nothing.”

Elya first shared a photo of her holding a bag of newly purchased aquarium captioned: ‘Guess what I’m going to be wearing today?’ She followed that first post with photos of models wearing mermaid makeup that included what were undoubtedly dead angelfish, neon tetra and other small fish. Many more of her followers asked if the fish were real and she confirmed they were ‘already dead. Same as in your dining plates.’ 

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