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Celebrating the 8th Annual Florida Week for the Animals

“I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” (Mohandas Gandhi)

“I will not kill or hurt any living creature needlessly, nor destroy any beautiful thing, but will strive to save and comfort all gentle life, and guard and perfect all natural beauty upon the earth.” (John Ruskin)

“There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.” (Charles Darwin)

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.” (George Bernard Shaw)

Florida Week for the Animals

Profuse apologies for the extended delay from my happy place, my place of serenity — but keeping up with a few moves and a few jobs has forced a brief hiatus. HOWEVER, thanks to the wonderful people at Florida Week for the Animals, I’ve been given the opportunity to post about this most wonderful annual event. Running February 20-28, Florida Week for the Animals hosts an amazing number of events throughout the state, through this upcoming weekend.

Help celebrate this amazing week, and speak up for the innocent and voiceless of our state — this week and every day. It doesn’t take much. Check out their Calendar of Events (2 pages worth!), which is constantly updated with new and exciting activities. And click here to see if there’s a similar Week for the Animals in your own state!

More from the lovely Michelle, at Florida Week for the Animals:

Animal World USA is pleased to announce the 8th Annual Florida Week for the Animals is scheduled February 20-28, 2016.  During the fun-filled week animal shelters, rescue groups, wildlife centers, educational institutions and humane organizations across the entire state will be hosting wonderful animal-related special events that will be saving lives, building relationships, helping animals and strengthening communities. Educators, students, businesses and caring citizens across the state will be joining in to celebrate and help the animals.

Events will include adoption events, low cost & free spay/neuter events in honor of World Spay Day, R.E.A.D. dog programs in libraries, Siberian Husky Olympics, festivals for the shelter and rescue animals, 5K’s and Walks for animals, Ponies for Pups polo benefit, events, pet food donations, farm animal sanctuary events, wildlife camps, bird tours/activities, Wetlands festivals,  galas for homeless animals, pet food donation drives, and therapy animals visiting hospitals and living-assisted homes.

Also to be included are a salute to our working K-9 and handlers, low cost vaccinations, educational events, vegetarian dinner theater and meetups, and fun-filled activities for families to enjoy friendship, food, music on behalf of the always amazing animals. Scores of precious lives will be saved and lasting new relationships will be built during the dynamic week which has approximately 100 events scheduled!

Please note that events and activities will be added through the week as energy grows for the animals.  For more info call 901-454-0807. Please see the exciting website and learn how to become involved at  http://www.floridaanimals.org/

Florida Panther Kitten (Copyright John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Florida Panther Kitten (Copyright John Kellam), Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Gopher Tortoise in His Burrow: One of the oldest living species, and now listed as threatened in Florida

Alligator Pair in the Everglades, Florida

Alligator Pair in the Everglades, Florida: What’s not to love about these gorgeous, ancient, fascinating creatures?

 

Saving Florida’s Black Bears

A pine cut down, a dead pine, is no more a pine than a dead human carcass is a man. Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine-trees, and he who understand it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it. -Henry David Thoreau

Animals don’t make me cry. What humans do to animals does. -AD Williams

In just a few days, on April 15, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) holds a hearing to consider a proposal allowing the trophy hunting of Florida black bears — a species that is unique to Florida and has been protected for two decades. Under the proposal, trophy hunters could kill up to 275 bears each year. The FWC claims that due to a recent increase in bear attacks, they have no other choice but to kill the bears for public safety. Recent incidents involving human-bear conflict were in areas where the bears were drawn to unsecured garbage, and humans illegally feeding bears. Many admit that hunting would not reduce the number of bear incidents in suburban neighborhoods. Allowing hunters to destroy these animals not only fails to resolve human-bear conflicts (for which the agency already has management systems in place), but will place an entire species at risk. Rather than trophy hunt this delicate species, the FWC should proactively work on helping and educating the public to avoid such conflicts with this typically shy and gentle animal.

Florida bear hunting ended relatively recently, when the population fell to barely 500 bears — they were on the brink of extinction. It was the FWC that petitioned the federal government for help in protecting them. Bears were removed from the threatened species list in 2012, but the species is very fragile, and is still recovering amidst difficult (to put it mildly) scenarios. Florida’s bears live in small areas, fragmented by the state’s rampant overdevelopment, and face serious threats — including severe habitat loss, genetic isolation, and road mortality.

 

Florida Black Bear

 

The Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) is a subspecies of the American black bear that ranges throughout most of Florida and southern portions of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. They live mainly in forested areas and have seen radical habitat reduction throughout the state. Florida black bears are mainly solitary, except during mating season. Although they are solitary mammals, Florida black bears are not considered to be territorial, and typically do not defend their range from other bears. Read more about the species here.

Before Florida was settled by Europeans, Florida black bears occupied all of the Florida mainland, into the Keys, and had a population near 12,000. Today, overdevelopment in the state has pushed them into isolated groups living mainly in protected areas, including Ocala National Forest, Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, Apalachicola National Forest, Osceola National Forest, and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. 

To get an idea of what these wonderful creatures — as well as so many others — suffer due to habitat loss in Florida: Nearly 20 acres (81,000 m2) of wildlife habitat are lost to new development every hour in Florida. And this report dates to 2010! These same bears are further at high risk for being injured or killed by motorists. Since 1994, 89.5% of bear deaths have been attributed to such crashes.  (Defenders of Wildlife)

 

Saving the Florida Black Bear

 

Florida is in desperate need of attention to, and ceasing its cruel ignorance towards, the state’s natural flora and fauna. The fact that these gentle and shy animals, just recently on the brink of extinction, are even under consideration to be slaughtered as part of trophy hunts is beyond appalling. As an avid hiker throughout the state, I’ve yet to encounter one of these beauties. I’ve heard them, known they were behind me smelling the peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich in my backpack, but I’ve yet to witness one. I HAVE, however, encountered many a hunter, hunting illegally. (They often think I’m a ranger.)

I truly hope that wisdom and foresight (with a touch of kindness) will rule the state, soon — for the animals’ sake as well as for ours.

Speak up for those with no voice, our magnificent Florida Black Bears — PETITIONS to sign BEFORE April 15!

Florida Week for the Animals Returns for a 7th Year

Florida Week for the Animals LogoNot to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it. —St. Francis of Assisi

Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way. ―Martin Luther King, Jr.

St. Francis watches over the critters in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami

St. Francis watches over the critters in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami

We tend to think animals are lower than us, but all the scientists in the world couldn’t design and operate a bumblebee’s wing. We can’t jump or run very fast, and we can’t carry vast weights like an ant can. We can’t see in the dark and we can’t fly…. Humans compared to animals are almost totally deaf, and we can’t smell a fart in an elevator by their standards. We are finite and separate, and neurotic, while the consciousness of an animal is at peace and eternal. We strive and go crazy to become more important. Animals rest and sleep and enjoy the company of each other. We think we have evolved upwards from animals but we have lost almost all of their qualities and abilities. The idea that animals don’t have consciousness or that they don’t have a soul is rather crass. It shows a lack of consciousness. They talk, they have families, they feel things, they act individually or together to solve problems, they often care of their young as a tribal unit. They play, they travel, and medicate themselves when they get sick. They cry when others in the herd die, they know about us humans. Of course they have a soul, a very pristine one. We humans are only now attempting with the recent rise in consciousness to achieve the soul that animals have naturally. —Stuart Wilde

TNR Resident at the Ancient Spanish Monastery, Miami

TNR Resident at the Ancient Spanish Monastery

February 14-22 is the 7th Annual Florida Week for the Animals! Help celebrate this wonderful event, and speak up for the innocent and voiceless of our state — this week and every day. It doesn’t take much. We’re currently in the process of TNR’ing (TRAP-NEUTER-RETURN) the abandoned, stray, and feral cats of our neighborhood, much to their chagrin, wink. You can also investigate the links to the right, under “Florida Nature Blogs.” Blogs like janthina images, Walking with Alligators, naturetime, and Our Florida Journal showcase and highlight the plight of Florida’s unique and beautiful creatures. And don’t forget to check out FLA Week for the Animal’s constantly growing Calendar of Events to see what’s happening throughout the state. From the lovely Michelle at Florida Week for the Animals:

Rescued Florida Panther at Flamingo Gardens: Sadly, this guy can’t be returned to the wild, because he underwent a painful de-clawing procedure at the hands of humans

Rescued Florida Panther at Flamingo Gardens: Sadly, this guy can’t be returned to the wild, because he underwent a painful de-clawing procedure at the hands of humans

7th Annual Florida Week for the Animals Coming February 14-22, 2015!

(Tampa, FL) The 7th Annual Florida Week for the Animals will be celebrated from February 14-22, 2015! During the extraordinary governor-proclaimed week, animal shelters, rescue groups, educational institutions and humane organizations across the state will be hosting over 100 wonderful animal-related special events that will be saving lives, building relationships, helping animals and strengthening communities. Educators, students, businesses and caring citizens across the state will be joining in to celebrate and help animals.

Events in the spotlight will include pet adoption events, low cost spay/neuter & vaccination events, Valentine’s Day pet promotions, Volunteer days at Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary, Husky Olympics. thank you to Eglin Air Force handlers and K-9’s, Cat Depot’s ‘Love Me Tender’ gala, Boxer Friends Dog Bowl, displays and R.E.A.D. dog programs in libraries, Doxie Derby, Pucker Up for Puppies, Wetlands festivals, Veg events, SF Siberian Rescue of FL Painting for Pups, Mardi Gras in the Park, Museum events, Tree donations/sale to citizens for upcoming Arbor Day, children’s book donations, horse adoption/help with supplies events, pet food donations, Manatee activities for the family, farm animal sanctuary events, wildlife center activities and therapy animals visiting hospitals and living-assisted homes.

Also to be included are search & rescue orgs, vegetarian and vegan meetups, parrot education classes, low cost clinics, puppy & dog training, educational events and fun-filled activities for families to enjoy friendship, food, music on behalf of the always amazing animals. There is more being planned!

Precious lives will be saved and exciting new relationships will be built in communities during the exciting week. For more info please call 901-791-2455 or visit http://www.floridaanimals.org/; Email michellebuckalew@comcast.net.

Alligator Pair in the Everglades, Florida

Alligator Pair in the Everglades, Florida

A sweet, dozing cormorant in the Florida Wetlands

Gopher Tortoise in His Burrow

Gopher Tortoise in his Burrow: One of the oldest living species, and now listed as threatened in Florida

Audubon of Florida

A growing number of people are demonstrating respect, love, and passion for conservation and the environment in general, something I firmly believe this most beautiful blue sphere of ours, and its lovely inhabitants, needs en masse. And there are organizations that pull together these wonderful passions, using them for the greater good. Audubon is “Florida’s oldest conservation organization, protecting birds and wildlife for more than a century”. Through Audubon of Florida and their Conservation Network — a powerful and knowledgeable grassroots network of citizen advocates — you can access up-to-date information on the state’s conservation issues, and receive calls-to-action during critical decision-making times. There’s an incredible amount of information and resources: free and timely e-newsletters and fact sheets (including the Everglades Conservation Network’s Restore, the Florida Conservation Network’s Advocate, the Climate Action Network’s Climate Solutions, the Center for Birds of Prey’s Raptor News and the Coastal Strand). Regular reports of Florida conservation issues are provided, as are ways to help.

Great Egret in Breeding Plumage, Florida Wetlands

Great Egret in Breeding Plumage in the Protected Wetlands

Continue to love, enjoy, and work to preserve this most amazing environment, ensuring that the devastatingly high habitat loss in the Everglades and in other endangered ecosystems throughout Florida is reversed. Not all have the planet’s protection in their best interests — money still rules, and development and sprawl are devastating. But with Audubon’s tools and resources, you can help conserve Florida’s environmental future: its water resources, land, and birds and other wildlife.

National Audubon Society Logo — The Great Egret in Flight (Courtesy of The National Audubon Society)

Visit Audubon of Florida, their news blog, and the organization’s plethora of information and educational resources. It doesn’t take much to be an advocate and supporter of this state’s incredible and unique ecosystems. Or, just run to one of Florida’s more than 2,000 natural spaces and national parks (two THOUSAND) — there are so many amazing places to love and support, and by simply visiting, enjoying their beauty, you’re helping to protect them.

And for the Facebook followers: Audubon Florida on Facebook

Protect my land…!

Baby Alligator in the Florida Wetlands

Baby Alligator in the Protected Wetlands

Or…where would you be able to see my beautiful mug?

Sunning Alligator in the Florida Everglades

Sunning Alligator in the Florida Everglades

Goodbye to You, Isaac!

Since Friday evening, we felt Isaac’s feeder bands with increasing force — Sunday and Monday were particularly…”active.” If you haven’t witnessed a tropical storm, hurricane, or their feeder bands, it’s a most amazing and beautiful sight — to stand in the open and watch a storm’s dark feeder clouds rapidly circling around you. The sheer force and expanse of these storms is awesome, and can put things in perspective.

However, I’m particularly grateful today, given our flooded neighborhood and city, that I freelance / work from home — GRATITUDE!

Flooded cul-de-sac

A new lake in the cul-de-sac! The other streets were equally…damp

And on another bright spot, the fish and ducks are VERY happy with the extra real estate.

Thanks St. Francis, for keeping those waters just a few feet from our little home….

A Motled Duck surveys her newly expanded lake

A happy Muscovy Duck eating at the water’s edge — near the house

An anxious Mouse surveys the lake, staying far above the flooded porch floor

Now, sending good wishes and love to the northern Gulf Coast, as a strengthening Isaac approaches on Katrina’s anniversary.

A Walk Through an Endangered Scrub Community

We recently visited one of  Palm Beach County’s many preserved swaths of pristine Florida land, the Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area. Thanks to Tropical Storm Debby and other interesting recent weather patterns, we’ve been afforded some great hiking weather — CLOUDY! TS Debby brought us massive rains and winds (and she snapped my lovely, towering Japanese Sunflower plant — GR!), but we’ve been able to accomplish longer hikes than we normally would have at this time of the year.

This particular area was never developed, and saw minimal agricultural use throughout the years. Purchased in 1999 in a growing effort to protect and maintain threatened and endangered biological communities in the county, we’re thankful to be afforded this glimpse of natural Florida. Located on a sand ridge that was once an ancient shoreline, 97 acres of Florida scrub and scrubby flatwoods communities have been incorporated and are now protected at the Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area — as are the threatened Florida scrub-jay and gopher tortoise, both victims of years of over-development and lack of protection.

Scrub and scrubby flatwoods habitats are two of the rarest natural communities in Florida, with less than 2 percent remaining in Palm Beach County. Truly phenomenal, when you wrap your head around it.

The area has quite an interesting history (for more info, visit another post of mine on this natural area — Endangered Native Florida Ecosystems at the Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area). During this dusk outing, we were alone (the sky was sputtering), and we encountered many gopher tortoises returning to their burrows, hunting hawks, and thousands of dragonflies. Altogether a wonderful early evening in a most unique and beautiful land.

Scrub and Scrubby Flatwoods

Gopher Tortoise Returning to Its Burrow

Slash Pine Profile

Ground Cover Blossoms

Scrub and Scrubby Flatwoods

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

A Trail Offering

A Lovely Old Slash Pine

Someone’s Meal, So Perfectly Arranged

A Butterfly’s Kingdom

In light of recent events, smiles were in order… So we hiked, we walked our natural areas, and we visited the butterflies!! I’m a nut for butterflies — I often find myself plowing through beastly banana spider webs, or managing the swamp, to chase butterflies on our hikes. More than once I’ve nearly tripped over large, scaly, and silent objects at the water’s edge — quite unlike a butterfly — in my efforts to photograph these lovelies….

Butterfly World, located here in South Florida, opened in 1988. It’s the largest butterfly park in the world, and the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. At any given time, more than 3000 live butterflies are fluttering at the facility (and usually MORE), representing 50 different species (150 species over the course of an entire year). This is all thanks to Robert Boender, who raised butterflies and their food plants from his Florida home, post-retirement. In 1984, he was supplying farmed butterflies to zoos and universities with his own company. He met Clive Farrell — founder and owner of the London Butterfly House — in 1985, during a visit to England. Wanting to create a similar facility in Florida, Boender and Ferrell joined forces and began plans to create a combination public attraction / research facility and butterfly farm — and Butterfly World was born.

Visitors enter the spectacular Paradise Adventure Aviary, with fountains, ponds, lush vegetation, and of course thousands of butterflies — representing five continents. It’s a glorious shock to the human system, to be suddenly surrounded by thousands of fluttering brilliant colors. The Hanging Garden & Butterfly Emerging Area is next, where cases filled with pupa and emerging butterflies are displayed. Finally, the Tropical Rain Forest Aviary recreates a rain forest — complete with waterfall, thousands of tropical plants, and free-flying birds and butterflies.

Butterfly World also includes the largest free-flight hummingbird aviary in the United States — the Jewels of the Sky Aviary — as well as a Lorikeet Encounter, and an aviculture research center. At the butterfly laboratory, visitors can view — through a glass enclosure — where butterflies are raised, observing the different stages of formation including eggs, caterpillar, and pupa.

At the Museum/Insectarium, exhibits of mounted specimens of beetles, butterflies, moths, and other insects are displayed. The Bug Zoo features live insects, including spiders, walking sticks, and mantids. Not particularly my favorite part of the facility, having been raised on the Equator, on a tropical island where insects grew to gargantuan proportions — and there was little barrier between you and them.

Other features include Grace Gardens, offering examples of the world’s flowering tropical plants. The Wings of the World Secret Garden presents one of the largest collections of flowering Passion Flower vines (passiflora) in the world — beautiful beyond compare. Butterfly World’s conservation efforts include the establishment of The Passiflora Society International, which was established at the site to encourage research on passion flowers, the source of food for many butterflies. A North American “Bring Back the Butterflies” campaign is also active here, with thousands of people across the country receiving free literature on butterfly gardening for their region. Check it out! Butterfly World also helped establish the Boender Endangered Species Laboratory at the University of Florida — instrumental in saving the endangered Schaus Swallowtail, and reintroducing the species to South Florida.

Many pesticides kill butterflies (and bees, and…), so it’s important to be safe with their use — or, use ladybugs in their stead! Sadly, butterflies came up in the news recently with companies like genetically-modified foods giant Monsanto. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Crops have been tied to the decrease in Monarch populations by killing the very plants that the butterflies rely on for habitat and food — milkweed. These plants are being destroyed by the heavy use of glyphosate-based pesticides on Roundup Ready crops. Over the past 17 years, the Monarch butterfly population in Central Mexico has declined, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010. Obviously there’s a far bigger picture here, which many are aware — land destruction, farmers’ livelihoods, and our own health — but when the news was released that these companies and their crops were now ravaging the butterfly populations (for years, now)…. Honestly.

But thanks to the education and conservation campaigns of facilities like Butterfly World, perhaps there may be some sort of balance reached between the destruction caused by these companies, and a return to the natural order.

Piano Key Butterfly

Swallowtail Butterfly (Specifically, err…)

Clipper Butterfly

Madiera Butterfly

White Morpho Butterfly

Still trying to figure this one out…

…And on to the birds!

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