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upworthy

wildlife conservation

Joy

Chatty animals get 'interviewed' with a teeny tiny microphone, and boy is it entertaining

Here to answer all your burning questions, such as "may I touch your snoot?"

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.


There’s Ginger, the pig with a lot of stored up resentment toward the big bad wolf. She ain’t afraid to talk about it, either. Or so her passionate snorts would indicate.

Then there’s Brazilian porcupine Boris (at least, I think that’s what Boris is after Googling, I’m no zoologist), who is asked to name his favorite food. For the record, it’s corn. And no, you may not touch his snoot.

Godzilla, the itsy bitsy turtle that fits into one hand, gets asked, ironically, “what’s it like being land’s fastest animal?” Though Godzilla remains stoically silent, an image of super cool speedster sunglasses gets superimposed onto his face, along with the words “I am speed.”

The best part to me is a bird, aptly named Giggles, gloriously laughing at a cheesy joke. In fact, here’s a nod to all the birds with impeccable names in this video.

Mordecai, Costello, Bartholomew (these include stars from Higa's first interview) … I’m looking at you.

Though these critters provide some top notch entertainment, there’s plenty of valuable information being thrown into the mix as well.

All the exotic “interviewees” are part of Zoo To You Conservation Ambassadors, a permitted facility in California, Higa informs her viewers. Rescued or surrendered from the illegal pet trade, or permanently injured, these animals receive permanent care and become a part of Zoo To You’s education program. Pretty sweet gig, right?

Higa herself is a wildlife rehabilitator, falconer and streamer who focuses a lot of her content on conservation. Though her online persona veers toward the upbeat and positive, she isn’t afraid to shed light on some darker facts around certain threats many species face.

"The natural world that these animals come from is being absolutely decimated,” Higa states in another video. “The UN estimates that over one million plant and animal species face extinction today. Pollution, habitat loss, climate change, the wildlife trade, exploitation, general human intervention…is causing us to lose species at rates unprecedented in human history. We’re experiencing a mass extinction.”

Wanting to be part of the solution, Higa has founded her own nonprofit organization called Alveus, which, like Zoo To You, acts as an exotic animal sanctuary and virtual education center.

If you’d like to support Higa’s sanctuary, you can do so by donating to donate@alveussanctuary.org via PayPal.

And if you’re already jonesing for more adorable “Tiny Mic Interviews,” you’re in luck! You can find even more on Maya’s YouTube channel here.


This article originally appeared on 09.02.22

Sirga the Lion and Valentine Gruener on Instagram.

Little lioness Sirga was discovered when she was only a few days old. Born in a rehabilitation camp, her mother couldn't defend her cubs and all her siblings were killed by other lions.

To make matters worse, Sirga’s mother refused to feed her.

But then Sirga found Valentine Gruener, co-founder of the Modisa Wildlife Project. In an interview with NBC News, Gruener revealed he chose the name “Sirga” after a 1993 french film “L’enfant lion.”

The name couldn’t have been more perfect. For Sirga was clearly destined to become a star.


Their claim to fame...

@sirgathelioness

Sirga doesn‘t understand the concept of social distancing. Luckily, she doesn‘t have to. ##tiktokwildlifeday

♬ Oh No I Hope I Don't Fall... - IndieHay

Sirga and Gruener’s most viral video shows the gentle giant giving the biggest, sweetest, most exuberant greeting to her caretaker. You know when big dogs don't realize how massive they are? Yeah, it’s like that.

“Sirga doesn’t understand the concept of social distancing,“ the video’s caption reads.

This video currently has close to 195,000 likes, and received a massive amount of positive reactions:

"She’s soooo happy to see you and love up on you."

"So beautiful!!! Love your relationship with such a powerful and amazing girl."

"I want a big cat hug!"

Since rising to social media stardom, Gruener and Sirga have racked up quite a few amazing TikToks. Below are some of the highlights:

Teeth brushing (hard with big cats and little cats alike)

@sirgathelioness

The teeth in the back of a lions jaw act like scissors, they’ll cut through flesh and bones with ease. Sirga knows when to be gentle though 😉 ##wildlife

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Sirga cleans off her canines with a small stick, although Gruener admits that it's more for entertainment than it is hygiene.

Massive toe beans

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @otterlyvirgo lion claws are shaped like hooks. Deadly weapons with which they pull down large prey like antelope or buffalo

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Those are certainly some impressive murder mittens.

Some cool hunting POVS

@sirgathelioness

Hey @GoPro can you send new gear?😬🥲 ##wildlife

♬ Marlboro Nights - Lonely God

Sirga does her own hunting on the reserve, which is six times larger than Central Park in New York City.

…and hunting fails

@sirgathelioness

The poor guy had no clue 😅 ##wildlife

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Jackal: 1. Sirga: 0.

But hey, you win some, you lose some.

Plus a heartwarming look at then vs. now

@sirgathelioness

Happy Birthday big girl! We‘ve come a long way 👣🐾 ##animalsoftiktok ##lioness

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

It's pretty endearing to see their bond grow over 10 years.

Gruener even uses the platform to answer some common questions, such as:

Would Sirga protect Gruener?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @anactualpinecone Probably the most asked question about Sirga and me. Here you go!

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Camera operators, beware.

 Does she interact with anyone else?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @sean_n17 let me know if you have any questions regarding Sirga in the comments! Cheers, Val

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

No, the trained professional is the only person who interacts with the lovable, yet all the same predatory animal.

Why not let her back into the wild?

@sirgathelioness

By hand-raising Sirga I made a commitment to care for her as long as she lives. The risks of her being killed (or she being a threat to people/livestock) in the wild is just too big. ##lionsoftiktok

♬ Stories 2 - Danilo Stankovic

Basically, the risks of being in the wild far outweigh the potential benefits.

Why does she wear a tracking collar?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @ericsaltzman42 a lot going on at the moment so we haven‘t found the time to post on TikTok! Thank you if you‘re still here 😉🙌

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Again, this is a safety measure. Mainly against poachers and in case Sirga gets out.

How much does it cost to feed her?

@sirgathelioness

Happy to answer your questions. Feel free to leave your question about Sirga, me or my life in the comments. ##sirgathelioness

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Answer: around $500 a month. That's a whole lotta meat.

Has Sirga met other lions?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @hetpatel4620 happy to answer your questions! ##sirgathelioness

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Yes! Though the fence has been a boundary. Sirga would at first shy away from her initial lion visitor, but then they ended up sleeping side by side. Sadly the lion visitors have since passed away (or, even more tragic, were possibly poached). But the plan is for Sirga to eventually have her own lion partner at Modisa.

Can lions be pets? (this one seems obvious)

@sirgathelioness

Predators are not pets! Sirga has 2000ha of wild Kalahari where she lives and hunts. If you have any questions drop them in comments!

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Repeat after me: "Predators are not pets."

Actually Gruener brings up a point here that applies to most pets: that you should be committed to the animals full life span if you're going to take care of one.

Gruener also shared that he hopes their story promotes awareness for wildlife and nature conservation, rather than using big pets for fleeting entertainment.

Gruener and Sirga are helping to spread information about the importance of protecting precious wildlife. If you’re looking to help support them, and get the lion’s share of premium content, you can join their Patreon membership here.

May we all find someone who looks at us the way these two look at each other.

For many people, seeing any animal in captivity is a tragic sight. But when an animal cannot safely be released into the wild, a captive-but-comfortable space is the next best thing.

That's the situation for a dozen female pachyderms who have joined the Yulee refuge at the White Oak Conservation Center north of Jacksonville, Florida. The Asian elephants, who are endangered in the wild, are former circus animals that were retired from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 2016. The group includes two sets of full sisters and several half-sisters. Elephants tend to live together in multi-generational family groups led by a matriarch.

Philanthropists Mark and Kimbra Walter, who fund the refuge for rare species, say they are "thrilled to give these elephants a place to wander and explore."

"We are working to protect wild animals in their native habitats," the Walters said in a statement. "But for these elephants that can't be released, we are pleased to give them a place where they can live comfortably for the rest of their lives."


Up to 20 more elephants are expected to come live at the refuge in the near future.

According to the AP, Nick Newby leads the team that cares for the elephants and has spent the past few years getting to know each elephant and their habits.

"Watching the elephants go out into the habitat was an incredible moment," Newby said in a statement. "I was so happy to see them come out together and reassure and comfort each other, just like wild elephants do, and then head out to explore their new environment. Seeing the elephants swim for the first time was amazing."

The refuge covers about 17,000 acres and will eventually include nine interlinked areas that boast a variety of habitat types, including wetlands, meadows, and woods. the center is also constructing 11 waterholes and three barns that will hold veterinary equipment. As of now, the elephants have plenty of space to roam, whether they want to stay near the barn and their caregivers, wander through the woods, play in the mud, or swim in the pond.

It's already home to several endangered and threatened species, including rhinos, okapi, bongos, zebras, condors, dama gazelles and cheetahs.

"In the last few years, everything has changed for these elephants for the better — from their retirement to the way they interact with humans and the space they have to roam," said Steve Shurter, White Oak's executive director, in a statement. "For the first time in their lives, these elephants can choose where and how they want to spend their days."