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Kitteh Urbanism
In what will certainly enrage feline lovers everywhere, Andy Beckerman and his colleagues from the University of Sheffield, UK, are blaming cats for “the ongoing fall in urban bird numbers.”

Kitteh Urbanism


From New Scientist: “Many accusatory fingers point to the cat, and in areas of high cat density, predation may indeed be the sole reason for the decline. It might not be cats' only effect, however. Becker's team built a model that took both kills and the fear factor into account, and found that apprehension could explain the decrease even where predation is low. A reduction of just one chick per breeding pair per year per cat can lead to a fall in bird numbers of up to 95 per cent.”

Does this mean that urban ecology will simply be variegated, for the most part, by what members of the Westminster Kennel Club and the International Cat Association decide to include in their indoor menageries, and that any further decline in biodiversity will be offset by what is quarantined and confiscated at airports? Does this also mean that cats might be part of the solution to the looming Avian flu crisis?

The article, unfortunately, is too meager to provide an answer, and the source material published in the journal Animal Conservation isn't freely available online.

Nevertheless, there are two projects worth mentioning in this context. One is the Bat House Project.

Bat House Project


A collaboration between Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller and partners, the project aims to highlight “the potential for architects, builders, home-owners and conservationists to work together to produce wildlife-friendly building design” and connect “the worlds of art and ecology to encourage public engagement with ecology issues.”

And one way of achieving their goal is to sponsor a competition. Entrants are tasked to design “a purpose-built structure that will provide the maximum diversity of specialised features to attract roosting, breeding and hibernating bats, and the possibility for visitors to engage with the bats and learn more about them.” The deadline is Monday, September 10, 2007, and the winning entry will actually be built.

Similarly exploring ways to increase urban biodiversity and augment the interface between the wild and the city is Natalie Jeremijenko's pigeon paradise, or the Model Urban Development for the Birds. We'll let her give you the tour, courtesy of Seed Magazine.

Natalie Jeremijenko

But we'll let Jonathan Glancey have the final words, though.

“Architecture and wildlife,” he wrote in The Guardian last year, “have [...] been intimately connected in most cultures around the world since the very first baked brick was placed on top of another some 10,000 years ago. Equally, animals were found within buildings, whether in stables, or, in much of the world, in the home itself.”

However:

Today's architecture is determinedly anti-animal. For all the insistent talk about “sustainability” and “green” buildings, and the huge popularity of wildlife programmes on television, animals have been increasingly pushed away from the built environment. So much so, that vast tracts of modern architectural development and urban landscaping are actually reducing the population of some of those animals we appear to be so very fond of at Christmas - if at no other time of the year. This distancing of animals, while imagining ourselves to be safe and clean inside our spick-and-span, chemically cleaned homes is, on one level, darkly comic. In many towns and cities, these same homes sit on heaving piles of maggots, rumpuses of rats, squealing mice and all sorts of other creeping things. Even the most superficially perfect minimalist Manhattan apartment, designed by the most fastidious architect, will be scuttling with cockroaches before the residents move in and take their first power-shower.

And despite our best attempts to exterminate it, the animal world creeps, bounds and flaps around us. And, unless genuinely dangerous, we should learn to welcome it into our built environment. Our homes are not just for us, or our cats and dogs, but part of a much wider, wilder world.



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1 COMMENT —
  • Museum of Ephemerata
  • June 21, 2007 at 12:37:00 PM CDT
  • Cat Conservation International has a short little article on designing bat-friendly bridges. Particularly, they're proposing refashioning the US highway system as a series of apartments for migrating bats. "Over half of the 47 species of bats in the United States have been documented to use highway structures as roosts" - so 1950s interstates developed as part of the US national defense system are becoming weapons in the war on biomonotony...


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