People pose for a picture with their dogs in the park during a city-wide dog day. People pose for a picture with their dogs in the park during a city-wide dog day. People pose with their dogs in the park during a city-wide dog day in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images)

Our favorite animal stories of 2016

From a runaway rhino to a real-life Batgirl, these furry features are fantastic.

As the end of the year approaches, the annual deluge of "best of" roundups is certain to follow. We kick off our array of articles with this menagerie of many marvelous stories about animals in 2016.

Tel Aviv is the new dog town

dogs israel national dog dayA man sits with his dogs in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images)

There are many dog-friendly cities around the world, but this year Tel Aviv, Israel, emerged as perhaps the friendliest of the bunch. In the coastal metropolis it's common to take your pup to the store, a party or even the office. According to the city, there’s one dog for every 14 residents – one of the highest rates in the world. Not to mention the fact that dozens of dog tech startups, including a dating app for dogs, are based in this Silicon Valley of the Mediterranean.


The camel cowboy rides a new trend

Riegler and his buddy Samson relax at the beach.Riegler and his buddy Samson relax at the beach. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

Gil Riegler has been called the "Dr. Dolittle of dromedaries." The San Diego-based rancher is shepherding a bizarre (and healthy) new food trend that makes camel milk seem like the new almond milk. Camel milk has been found to fight inflammation and infections, lower cholesterol, reduce lactose intolerance and decrease kidney and liver damage. Some parents of autistic children have also sworn by its healing properties. But milking camels is a tough job. "You run in and milk as fast as you can, because camels only give milk for 90 seconds and that's it," Riegler told From The Grapevine. "If you're not fast and not on top of it, you missed the whole thing."


A runaway rhino makes a break for it

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyIsUcj59Hw

It's never a good idea to leave the entrance to a compound containing some of the world's most massive animals wide open. We repeat, Never. Case in point: The video of this rhinoceros nonchalantly walking out of the front gate of the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan, a 250-acre site in central Israel that consists of both a drive-through African safari area and a modern outdoor zoo. Fortunately, the frantic figure that flies through the frame about two-thirds of the way through the video is a security guard. More fortunately, he was able to alert two zoo employees who were then able to track down the rhino and bring it back.


The dogs we started following on Instagram

The "Menswear Dog" feed has more than a quarter million followers.The "Menswear Dog" feed has more than a quarter million followers. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

Cat videos may rule one corner of the web, but when it comes to Instagram, that app has gone to the dogs. With all the serious news filling our Facebook feed this year, the dogs of Instagram served as a welcome respite. From Doug the Pug acting out famous scenes from pop culture to a falafel-eating retriever from Tel Aviv, these candid canines ruled the roost on social media.


The secret rooftop movie screening of ‘Pets’

Pets took center stage at a rooftop theater in Tel Aviv.Pets took center stage at a rooftop theater in Tel Aviv. (Photo: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

When Universal Pictures released "The Secret Life of Pets" this summer, it quickly became the No. 1 movie in America. And its appeal was global. After all, it asked the quintessential question many of us have always wondered: What do pets do when we leave the house? To celebrate the film, the city of Tel Aviv offered a unique rooftop screening. What made this showing so special? Man's best friend was invited to tag along.


Albert Einstein's bizarre connection to the animal kingdom

Melissa is an Internet-famous feline whose resemblance to a certain physicist has gained her notoriety.Melissa is an Internet-famous feline whose resemblance to a certain physicist has gained her notoriety. (Photo: Melissa_Scottish/Instagram and Arthur Sasse/AFP/Getty Images)

This year marked the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. To celebrate, we wrote dozens of stories about the beloved genius. One of our most popular articles highlighted Einstein's enduring connection to the animal kingdom. Besides the fact that his home was a menagerie of animals – he had a dog, a cat and a parrot – many people seem to honor the scientist by naming their pets after him. Actor George Clooney called his senior cocker spaniel Einstein, and when a Texas parrot owner found out her bird was smart enough to speak hundreds of phrases, she named him – what else? – Einstein.


How a nearly extinct frog species was found thriving in Israel

hula painted frogScientists have found the Hula painted frog's DNA in 17 of 52 watering holes they studied. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Researchers assumed that a frog native to Israel's Hula Valley was extinct in the wild but kept it on the endangered list out of sheer hope. Turns out that hope wasn't unfounded. Turns out, the scientists had been looking in all the wrong places. The frogs mainly hang out in the water, not the land, and they especially like to come out at night. This year a research team discovered more than 150 of these frogs, which are apparently still thriving in the country.


Why some sharks glow in the dark

A biofluorescent chain catshark as seen through special goggles.A biofluorescent chain catshark as seen through special goggles. (Photo: J. Sparks, D. Gruber, and V. Pieribone)

Dating is a diverse ritual that happens all the time. In some cases, people use apps and simply swipe to find that perfect companion. Other times, singles are mingling at bars and social soirees looking to find the ideal companion. But news out of the science world offered up something completely different: A group of international scientists from the United States and Israel discovered that certain types of sharks actually glow in the dark underwater to attract a mate.


The real-life Batgirl is a superhero to animals

fruit batNora Lifschitz holds an injured Egyptian fruit bat. (Photo: Reuters)

We end this list with one of our favorite animal stories of 2016. That's when we found out about 28-year-old Nora Lifschitz – dubbed "Batgirl" – who's made it her life's mission to save bats. Lifschitz has been bringing injured fruit bats into her Tel Aviv home for two years and caring for them, hoping to release these fascinating animals into the wild. Last we checked, she had about 70 bats.

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