It is not often that Mojo applauds. Aside from the physical challenge, he is careful with his emotions. He doesn't run off down every rabbit trail that comes along. However, he was applauding the other day. Mojo had found out that there is a bill sitting in the Education Committee of the South Carolina Senate (SB 134) that will expand Pre-K in SC to make sure that every at-risk child has access to quality early education. "Finally," Mojo allowed, "you humans are getting something right. We in the canine world have long known that as the pup is weaned, so grows the dog."
Mojo's enthusiasm was infectious. I did some research and came across a ground-breaking study, ""Enriching Children; Enriching the Nation." The study, or rather a collection of studies, was compiled by an economist. It is full of charts and data. Mojo and I always strive for simplicity on the other side of complexity. After sorting through the studies, I agreed with the compiler that quality Pre-K education leads to better developed children and a healthier and more prosperous community. Studies show that quality Pre-K results in such things as higher levels of verbal, math and general intellectual achievement; greater success at school, less grade retention, less need for special education and higher graduation rates; higher levels of employment and earnings; better health outcomes; less welfare dependency; lower crime rates; higher government resources and lower expenditures (one study showed that for every dollar invested in Pre-K education, three dollars and eighteen cents was saved in budgets) …
Can it be that one of the best ways to get a long-term handle on such things as budget deficits, health care costs, crime rates (and gun violence), the growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor … is to invest in our children? A gift that keeps on giving.
The South Carolina legislature has an opportunity to do the ethically right thing as well as the economically correct thing and pass such legislation. Oh, by the way, Mojo reminded me, one of the state senators from our area, Ray Cleary, is on the Senate Education Committee. What a wonderful opportunity for him to show some leadership. Mojo is applauding again.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Watkins and Mojo
Cats impact on birds
In a recent letter Karen McGranahan, of Bikini Beach Cat Rescue, blamed humans for the decline in bird populations, and stories of cats killing birds was only that, stories. Of course humans have impacted birds and other wildlife, particularly through loss of habitat. And I suppose cell and radio towers get a few too. But the biggest impact humans have had on birds and native wildlife was the introduction of the domestic cat to North America and other sensitive environments. Like New Zealand where cats are responsible for the extinction of 41 bird species thus far.
Cats introduced and carried around the world by human travelers and explorers are now the most widespread alien predator population roaming the earth. In the US alone there are an estimated 90 million domestic cats and at least that many more feral and stray cats.
There have been countless well-documented scientific studies that implicate cats in the death of billions of birds each year. A 2006 study by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in NY, NJ, Florida, California and Hawaii demonstrated the impact free-roaming domestic and feral cats had on nesting piping plovers.
A more recent study in the Journal of Ornithology shows the dramatic effects domestic cats have on bird populations in urban and suburban areas where birds have adapted to the human-altered habitat. The study involved attaching radio transmitters to fledging Gray Catbirds to track factors that led to their mortality or survival. They found that predators were responsible for 80% of the bird deaths, and nearly half of those predators were domestic cats. In areas with fewer cats survival rates were around 50%, but dropped to 20% in areas with larger cat populations.
Efforts to manage feral cat populations through the trap and neuter projects have not significantly reduced cat populations or stopped them from killing birds. One study indicated that such managed cat colonies can persist for up to 15 years. And well-fed cats continue to kill birds and wildlife. We all know cats kill for sport, it’s what they do.
Yes, its true. Humans are to blame for the decline in bird populations, primarily through the introduction of the domestic cat.
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