Vacation Photos: Butterfly Garden

In the beginning of August, we went on vacation. One of the places we visited was the Albuquerque Botanic Garden. I hadn’t been in years, and it is just amazing now, with the exhibits they have added and the ways the plants have grown into place and you can really see the vision the designers had for the garden. I have more photos of the gardens to share, but today I want to share the photos of the butterfly garden.

The butterflies are everywhere. Watch out for them as you walk along the board walk.

The butterfly garden is new since I last visited the Botanic Garden, and I was amazed at the beauty and lushness of the enclosed garden, and the number and variety of the butterflies.

Some of these photos were taken by me, and some by my husband.

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Movie Review: Over The Hedge

I saw Over The Hedge the other day. I know I’m a little late reviewing it, since it came out over 4 years ago, in 2006, but in my defense, I don’t watch many movies.

While I was uncomfortable with the way the wild animals were thriving on human junk food (umm, no, human junk food is really bad for wild animals), the rest of the movie struck me as, well, a movie. Until my little daughter asked, “Mommy, why did they make the woman a bad woman?”

If you haven’t seen the movie, there are two main human characters. One is a parody of an exterminator (male), and the other is a single, well-dressed woman, president of the Homeowner’s Association, and the villain of the piece.

I told my daughter that they (the makers of the movie) hadn’t made the woman bad because she was a woman, but because they needed a bad person, a villain. I ended up explaining how a movie plot generally works and left it at that.

Until I started thinking more about the original question. Because, on second thought, the woman seems to be a caricature of a high-powered female executive. She’s dressed in a power suit (or expensive-looking pajamas), her hair is nicely styled, and she’s always on the go. She doesn’t seem to have a family, or even a significant other, just a snooty Persian cat.

She’s portrayed as obsessive, uptight, and terrified of wild animals or anything else disturbing her precious orderly neighborhood. Why should the single woman doing well in life be the villain? I can easily see a mother being much more worried about the wild animals in the neighborhood — what if they bite one of her children, she might think.

But no, the one mother in the movie who has a speaking part is portrayed as kindly and concerned for the animal, although she doesn’t want her children to touch it (understandable, considering it’s a possum playing dead).

Now, the traits of the villain I have described could easily also apply to a high-powered male executive. So why don’t they? What is it that makes the villain perfectly cast (if such a term can apply to an animation) as a woman?

If you know me, you know that I don’t generally consider myself a feminist. And you know that I don’t rant on about discrimination against women. But sometimes, I still feel the need to speak out.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the way this woman is portrayed in this movie (and the way she is humiliated at the end) makes me think that the directors are threatened by competent, capable women and felt the need to bring them (or at least one) low.

It makes me sad that my little daughter (and my son) saw this humiliating portrayal of women and that strong women need to be brought down.

Cat Bibs

Some time ago I posted on feral cats and the danger they pose to wildlife, particularly birds. As an addendum, I wanted to mention one way scientists have found to decrease the number of wildlife killed by cats. It’s called a cat bib, and it’s basically a small, brightly-colored piece of neoprene plastic attached to the cat’s collar. Cats wearing them have been shown to kill up to 72% fewer birds. Read more at Audubon Magazine.

cross-posted at Citizens for Sustainability.

Feral Cats — Scourge of Birds?

I love cats. I had them the whole time I was growing up, and I wish I had one now, but it just wouldn’t work. And my cats have always been at least partially outdoor cats. I never thought about it too much, and my mother firmly believes that it is wrong to keep a cat indoors all the time, for the cat’s sake. But this article has made me really think about that theory.

Apparently, according to this Audubon article, cats, both totally feral and those somewhat dependent on humans, kill millions of birds a year.

The American Bird Conservancy estimates that 150 million free-ranging cats kill 500 million birds a year in the United States.

Many people believe that Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) is the answer. Feed the feral cats, trap them, neuter them, and then return them. But apparently it doesn’t work.

According to a peer-reviewed study published February 24, 2009, in Conservation Biology, TNR causes “hyperpredation,” in which well-fed cats continue to prey on bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian populations so depressed they can no longer sustain native predators.

The article focused mainly on Hawaii, an area of particular concern because of the many indigenous and unique bird species there that are threatened with extinction, but the points made also apply to the mainland, too, Wisconsin and Florida being cited in particular.

Honestly, I knew cats kill birds, but I never thought the problem could be so terrible. And I never thought about this:

Wildlife biologists and law-enforcement officials contend that in most situations feeding feral cats violates federal law because it facilitates “take” of species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and/or the Endangered Species Act.

But that isn’t usually enforced, due to the power of the feral cat lobby.

Last year, for example, it squashed federal legislation to remove exotic species from national wildlife refuges because feral cats might be among them. In Hawaii legislation to ban the feeding of cats on state property is invariably shouted down. “TNR advocates are very well organized and funded,” declares Steve Holmer, director of public relations for the American Bird Conservancy. “They’re getting ordinances passed all over the place.”

The article was fascinating, and contains much more data and facts than I am providing here. I highly recommend reading the whole article. What do you think? Should all cats be caged or kept indoors? Why doesn’t TNR work? It seems like it should: sterilize the cats in a colony, and natural causes of death should do the rest. Is it impossible to trap all the cats in a colony? Does in-migration to a food source bring in unneutered cats?

cross-posted at Citizens for Sustainability

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