Badass Women From Around The World You Probably Haven’t Heard About
This March, @instagram is collaborating with BuzzFeed News reporter and producer Kassy Cho of @world to find and highlight women around the globe who are making an impact in their local community and on Instagram. Stay tuned on @instagram and @world to see more.
1. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who has inspired thousands of students around the world to strike against climate change inaction. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined In August last year, Thunberg began to skip school every Friday to sit outside Sweden’s parliament to demand the country act on climate change.
“I have continued to do so every Friday since then, and I will go on until Sweden is in line with the Paris Agreement,” she told BuzzFeed News.
Thunberg, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has since addressed global climate talks last December, the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, and has given her own TED Talk.
More than 20,000 students in at least 270 cities around the world — from Australia , to Belgium , to the UK — have followed her lead and also organized their own climate strikes, according to the Guardian .
“I think that’s just amazing,” Thunberg said.
2. Parisa Pourtaherian, a photographer who shoots soccer matches in Iran, where women generally aren’t allowed in soccer stadiums. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined “Whenever I saw sports photography, I was like, ‘This is me. This is what I have to do. This is my job, and this is my career I want for the rest of my life,'” Pourtaherian, who went viral last August for her genius solution to shoot a match that she was denied entry to, told BuzzFeed News.
She said the biggest challenge for women sports photographers in Iran is having to place so much effort on getting permission to enter the stadium at the cost of their professional development.
“Even when we are inside the stadium, we are always under the stress that someone might suddenly stop us from continuing our job, which is very distracting,” she said.
Despite this, Pourtaherian says she keeps going because “when we know in our hearts that something is right, we have to fight for it.”
“We have to hold on to that dream, even though the path to making it come true requires overcoming lots of obstacles and maybe doing some things that are out of the ordinary,” she said.
3. Thelma Fardin, an Argentine actor who started a national conversation about sexual harassment and abuse in her country. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined Last December, Fardin said an older male costar raped her in 2009 when she was 16 and he was 45, an allegation the actor, Juan Darthés, has denied.
Fardin’s story, which she shared as a video on her Instagram , received an outpouring of support. People started sharing their own experiences and expressing their solidarity with sexual assault survivors in a movement “seen as the country’s answer to the global #MeToo reckoning,” according to the New York Times .
Fardin has continued to speak up for women’s rights in the country, showing support for a movement to make abortion legal in Argentina and, more recently, for an 11-year-old girl who was forced to give birth to her rapist’s baby.
4. Rahmalia Aufa Yazid, a freelance creator in Japan who combines Muslim and Japanese fashion. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined The daughter of Indonesian Muslim parents, Yazid was born and raised in Tokyo. Her work — self-portraits styled, photographed, and designed all by herself — combines Japanese fashion and Muslim fashion with the city of Tokyo.
“I want to show that Muslim fashion — hijabi fashion — is something that goes beyond the boundaries of religion and that anyone can sympathize with and enjoy,” the 24-year-old told BuzzFeed News.
“I want to show myself, a Muslim, living strong and beautiful, through my art,” she said.
5. Ramla Ali, a Somali boxer who is the first Muslim woman to win an English boxing title . View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined Ali, who fled with her family to London from Mogadishu after the civil war broke out in Somalia, got into boxing after she went to the gym because she was being teased at school for being overweight.
Last year, she was named as a global athlete for Nike.
“Sometimes I feel like a shopping list of hardships,” the 27-year-old told BuzzFeed News. “But if I didn’t go through all these difficulties, I wouldn’t be the same woman I am today. I wouldn’t appreciate what I have or take the time to recognize the highs and rewards that come through my sport.”
She said that the obvious misconception women boxers face is that they are “more fragile, weaker, and less likely to stick it out in boxing.”
“The reality is female boxers are often more technically gifted and more willing to learn without putting their ego first,” she said, adding that she hopes to see the media giants of the world make a conscious effort to promote and advertise more women in sport.
6. Johanna Toruño, aka the Unapologetically Brown Series, a New York–based street artist using public spaces to tell the stories of people of color. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com Toruño, who was raised in El Salvador, told BuzzFeed News she started The Unapologetically Brown Series because she wanted to highlight and empower people of color.
Her art focuses on women of color because they are the most influential culture makers and deserve to see the fruits of their excellence, Toruño said.
“[Women of color] are the ones whose stories are the brightest, but very intentionally, our stories are silenced and pushed aside — they are ‘othered’ while also being fetishized,” she said. “I want to tell our stories because no one knows how like us.”
“I want our autonomy, our own spaces, without reducing ourselves for the gaze of other folks,” Toruño said. “Women are powerful. We are the makers of this world, and we deserve everything we are due in its entirety.”
7. Kheris Rogers, a 12-year-old in Los Angeles who started her own fashion line after she was bullied for her dark skin . View this photo on Instagram instagram.com “I have always had a passion for fashion, but I wanted it to have a positive message behind it,” Rogers told BuzzFeed News.
With the help of her older sister and best friend Taylor, Rogers started Flexin’ in My Complexion in April 2017 as a way to instill confidence in herself and others.
“My main goal for starting the line was to inspire people to love the skin that they are in,” she said. “It does not matter if your skin complexion is dark, fair, light, freckled, albino, or even green! You should always love yourself from the inside-out.”
8. Macarena Sánchez, an Argentine soccer player who is fighting for women soccer players to be recognized as professionals in the country. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined In February, Sánchez filed a lawsuit against her club, UAI Urquiza, and the Argentine Football Association after she was let go from her club midseason, making her the first woman to launch legal action against the association.
Although soccer is the most popular sport in Argentina, women players are not treated as professionals, Sánchez told BuzzFeed News. Unlike their male counterparts, women players are not protected by legal contracts, nor are their salaries large enough for soccer to be their full-time occupation.
Sánchez said she decided to file the lawsuit because she wanted to do something not just for herself, but for all women players that will lead to them being fully recognized as professionals.
“Feminism has made me rethink absolutely everything in my life, reflect on the ideas I had and on the concepts that were imposed on me since childhood,” Sánchez said. “I am a feminist because I want women to have the rights that were historically denied to us. I practice feminism because I believe it is the only way to fight against a system that oppresses us and does not allow us to live fully.”
9. Yagazie Emezi, a Nigerian photographer documenting life in Africa with a focus on women and their stories. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined “All my life from childhood, I have been pulled towards storytelling, and I searched for an unexplainable ‘fit,'” Emezi told BuzzFeed News. “I drew, then I wrote, then I made videos. When I focused on photography, it was a simple soulmate moment of, ‘Oh, there you are. I’ve been waiting for you.'”
Emezi says her work primarily focuses on African women and stories surrounding their health, sexuality, education, and beauty, because she wants to make sure that what she is doing is meaningful, as a woman “who is entrusted to share the stories and experiences of people, often women.”
“Personally, it’s about the part I can play in the lives of others and if my photography can do any bit of good,” she added.
Although she says that there is never one set message with her work, Emezi said that she has learned many lessons revolving around perseverance from photographing women.
“Kindness and patience will always come back,” she said.
10. Dani Burt, a World Adaptive Surfing champion from the US. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com Burt’s leg was amputated after a motorcycle crash in 2004 that left her in a coma for 45 days. Since then, she has not only been crowned the first ever women’s World Adaptive Surfing champion, but is also a doctor of physical therapy who regularly shares tips for amputees on her social media channels .
Burt told BuzzFeed News that she does what she does because she saw a need for someone to be real about what life is like as an amputee.
“I have the platform, privilege, and responsibility to do that loud and clear,” she said. “I know what it feels like to be knocked down hard, and I hope to make the path I had to travel on a little less bumpy for others.”
11. Maria Qamar, aka Hatecopy, a Canadian artist who draws pop art featuring desi women. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined Qamar told BuzzFeed News they first started drawing to try to deal with their sadness and frustration with failure through humor.
“Being a teen with little grasp of the English language and Western culture, leaving all your friends behind to come to an ice-cold tundra where you’re called a terrorist by classmates is exceptionally difficult,” they said. “My habit of documenting everyday encounters with bullies by immortalizing my revenge via hand-drawn comics led me to, naturally, deal with my emotions and my problems the exact same way into my twenties.”
Their focus on women is a way for them to stay connected to those who came before them and those who will move the world forward, they said.
“I had a very matriarchal upbringing,” Qamar said. “The women around me shaped the way I viewed the world; they made me realize the beauty of sisterhood, and the real threat patriarchy presents to us when it disguises itself as tradition.”
12. Kimiko Nishimoto, a 90-year-old Japanese grandmother who takes amazing self-portraits. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined Nishimoto, who lives in Kyushu, Japan, discovered photography when she was 72 years old, after a friend invited her to an amateur photography class.
What started as a homework assignment from her photography teacher turned into a hobby for the now-90-year-old, who has since built a following of more than 200,000 people on Instagram for her hilarious self-portraits, which she also edits on Photoshop herself.
“I love the sound of a shutter clicking,” Nishimoto told the Japan Times . “Cameras have opened a window to another world for me. It would be boring just sitting around the house all day.”
13. Madeline Stuart, the world’s first professional model with Down syndrome, from Australia. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined Stuart — who walked eight runways at New York Fashion Week and debuted the third collection from her own fashion line last year — told BuzzFeed News that she feels she came along at a time when people were ready for change.
“Social media really has turned our world upside down,” she said. “It has given the little person a voice, and because of that I had the opportunity to get my message out there.”
She feels that people are now excited to see something new that also gives them representation, hurdles she had to overcome when she first started out, Stuart said.
“I really hope to change society’s perception of people with disabilities, break down stereotypes, and to continue to open doors for other people wanting to work in this sector,” she said. “After all, 90% of the population does not look like a traditional runway model.”
14. Charlotte Allingham, an Indigenous Australian illustrator whose art focuses on Indigenous women. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @undefined Allingham, a Wiradjuri woman based in Melbourne, told the Broadsheet that she has always done traditional Indigenous painting with her dad but never found the courage to share it because she was afraid of being shunned for being fair-skinned.
“I thought I’d be called ‘too white,’ and I didn’t want to have to prove my identity to people,” she said.
However, since starting to engage more with her heritage as a form of self-healing last year, Allingham found herself building a community, and her illustration “Always Was, Always Will Be Aboriginal Land” went viral on Australia Day last year.
“I have to be two times more attentive in what I’m doing now. Now I have a way of helping people,” she said. “I feel like I have a duty to promote Aboriginal women as strong and powerful.”
Saori Ibuki contributed additional reporting to this post.
More on badass women Meet Ramla Ali, The Somali-British Boxer Inspiring People Around The World Ikran Dahir · March 8, 2019 13 Badass Women And Girls You May Not Have Heard About In 2017 Stephanie McNeal · Jan. 1, 2018
Whole Foods’ Annual Beauty Sale Is Coming To Take Your Tax Return
Erika Stalder Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images. Whole Foods has changed over the past couple of years — and for the better. After being purchased by Amazon in 2017, the natural-centric grocery store formerly known as Whole Paycheck has become much more wallet-friendly , with additional deals for Amazon Prime members . Now, the market is proving its once-bougie reputation to be even more outdated with its upcoming Beauty Week event, a store-wide sale slated to run from Wednesday, March 27, to Tuesday, April 2. The deals are major : During the week, prices on the store’s entire stash of makeup, facial care, hair care, nail polish, perfume, and makeup brushes will be slashed by 25%, with an additional 10% off for Prime members. That means discounts on brands that rarely go on sale, like Dr. Hauschka, and those we can’t live without ( Weleda all day, every day). Advertisement As if that weren’t enough, there’s another perk in the works: Limited-edition handmade ikat Queen Alaffia makeup bags stuffed with about $100 in goodies are up for grabs for a mere twenty spot, while supplies last. Whole Paycheck? More like mere milk money. See seven ways to save, ahead. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission. 1 of 7 On days when we don’t feed our bodies enough veggies, serums like this one — loaded with skin-nourishing kale, spirulina, chlorella, and broccoli-seed oil — make us feel like we’re at least doing something right. Shop This
Inside the Strange World of Dried Hummingbird Love Charm Trafficking
Inside the Black Market Hummingbird Love Charm Trade Photograph by Luján Agusti, National Geographic Read Caption Catch a hummingbird. Kill it. Wrap it in underwear, cover it with honey—and sell it to arouse passion in a lover. The confiscated hummingbirds shown here are part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s reference collection to facilitate identification of newly seized birds intended to be sold as love charms called chuparosas. Photograph by Luján Agusti, National Geographic 17 Minute Read Photographs by Luján Agusti and Dominic Bracco II
Leer en español.
There’s a witch in San Diego who casts spells to “trap a man” and “dominate him” so “he’ll always come back.” She has a shop on San Ysidro Boulevard, one mile from the busiest Mexico border crossing in the United States, near a pawnshop, a liquor store, a furniture market, and the Smokenjoy Hookah Lounge, where DJ music thumps on Friday nights.
But you don’t need to go to her shop for magic—you can join the tens of thousands watching her on YouTube. Like a wicked Martha Stewart creating potions instead of potpourri, she provides step-by-step instructions for her spells. View Images
Hummingbird species occurring in the U.S. have been strictly protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The international trade of all hummingbirds is illegal without permits under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Photograph by Luján Agusti, National Geographic
“This is the honey jar,” she tells viewers while introducing the ingredients on her workbench: photographs of two would-be lovers, a piece of paper with their names written on it three times, a small glass jar—and a dead hummingbird. She rolls the tiny animal inside the photographs and wraps the cigar-shaped bundle with hot-pink yarn nearly the same shade as her long, fake fingernails.
Showing only her arms and lower body on camera, she shields her identity as she swaddles the package in a sarcophagus of tacky flypaper, dips it in cinnamon spice, squeezes it into the jar, and spritzes it with perfumes and oils—pheromones—“so he’ll stay sexually attracted.” Restless balm “so he’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, I need to call her.’” Sleep oil “so he’ll be like a zombie.” Attraction oil “so he’ll be like, ‘Goddamn, you so beautiful, you so fine.’” Dominating oil “so you dominate his thoughts.”
Finally she fills the jar with a thick pour of golden honey and tops it with a sprinkle of rose petals. “I love this,” she says. “I’m already getting a really good vibe.”
As an entrepreneurial saleswoman, she tells viewers that any hard-to-find ingredients used in her creations are available for customers. For example, on her website a dead hummingbird—in life a feisty little iridescent green creature with rust-colored tail feathers—is $50. Buying a ready-made honey jar is another option. In an email she quoted me $500.
Had I typed in my credit card number, I’d have been committing a felony. Multiple federal and international wildlife laws protect hummingbirds and most other feathered animals from being bought and sold. Even possessing undocumented birds is a serious crime. Last May a California man on a flight from Vietnam got caught at Los Angeles International Airport with nearly a hundred “good luck” songbirds in his suitcase. He was sentenced to six months’ home detention followed by a year in prison.
YouTube voodoo starring dead hummingbirds isn’t just some weird internet thing—it’s a peek inside the dark world of a mysterious international trade that may pose a serious threat to a group of animals already facing declines from habitat loss and climate change.
Some Mexicans believe hummingbirds have supernatural powers. Beyond the internet, merchants sell them from behind counters at spiritual shops called botanicas, filled with herbs, incense, candles, oils, and scythe-wielding statues of Santa Muerte , the goddess of death. Mystics call the hummingbird la chuparosa, a token akin to a lucky rabbit’s foot for good fortune in love. Chuparosas are often sold wrapped in red paper and satin tassels with an accompanying love prayer: “Divine hummingbird … with your holy power I ask that you enrich my life and love so that my lover will want only me.” LOVE CONNECTION View Images
At Mexico City’s Sonora Market a vendor misrepresents red-legged honeycreepers, in the the lit area of the cage, as hummingbirds. The ruse plays on the Mexican belief that a heart freshly plucked from a hummingbird and eaten boiled in soup or tea is the most powerful treatment for cardiac illness and epileptic seizures. Photograph by Dominic Bracco II, National Geographic
The underground market for hummingbirds is so secretive that U.S. government officials didn’t even know it existed until about 10 years ago when agents with the Fish and Wildlife Service intercepted a postal package inbound from Mexico containing dozens of lifeless, jewel-colored birds.
“We were like … hummingbirds? What do people do with a commercial quantity of dead hummingbirds?” recounted Special Agent James Markley, who has led investigations into the hummingbird trade. He soon learned about the love connection. “Women trying to attract a man, widowers hoping to remarry, men carrying them as a way to keep their mistresses and wives from meeting each other, a wife trying to prevent her husband from straying and looking at other women,” he said. “We’ve heard all sorts of stories.”
Hummingbirds have played important roles in Latin American cultures, religions, and mythology. The Inca used hummingbird feathers in their fine garments, ritual sacrifices, and even architecture. On the Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca, south of Cusco, in Peru, an entrance to an important Inca shrine was covered in hummingbird feathers.
In Aztec mythology the hummingbird represents the powerful sun god Huitzilopochtli, conceived by his mother after she clutched to her breasts a ball of hummingbird feathers—the soul of a warrior—that fell from the sky. Mexican elders say Huitzilopochtli guided the Aztec’s long migration to the Valley of Mexico, and thus the hummingbird is the symbol of strength in life’s struggle to elevate consciousness—to follow your dreams.
These days, in addition to being powerful love tokens, hummingbirds are considered messengers from the heavens and “road openers” for travelers. Markley recently met a former narcotics detective who encountered dead hummingbirds in shrines used by the drug cartels to pray to the patron saints for safe passage, good luck, and protection from the police.
Federal agents posing as customers usually find hummingbirds for sale at botanicas in little plastic bags containing a satin-wrapped bird and a love prayer. Average price: $45. Texas has been a hot spot. In 2013 a man named Carlos Delgado Rodríguez, who owned a botanica in Dallas, offered the undercover Markley a wholesale discount: 35 chuparosas for $770.
In the months that followed, Delgado continued making deals, selling Markley more than a hundred hummingbirds. The agency was able to identify at least 60 of them representing 10 different species, including several in steep decline.
In May 2014, after the last day Delgado met Markley to swap bird cadavers for cash, he was arrested, according to court documents. A five-count indictment charged him with violating the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the global wildlife trade, as well as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the U.S. smuggling law known as the Lacey Act, and Texas state law. The judge in the case sentenced him to four years probation and $5,000 in fines.
That punishment was light, Markley said, but the verdict was a victory because it had shut down a smuggler. “Think about it,” he said. “If these were elephants or bald eagles, and we bought that many from one person. It’s crazy.” View Images
Pepper Trail, with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s lab in Oregon, is one of the world’s leading forensic ornithologists. Trail has identified more than 775 trafficked species, from penguins and cassowaries to hummingbirds and hornbills. Photograph by Luján Agusti, National Geographic
A key component of the case was the analysis of the birds at the Fish and Wildlife Service’s forensic lab in Ashland, Oregon, where experts in pathology, morphology, and chemistry examine crime-scene evidence using high-powered microscopes and scientific instruments that can even distinguish an endangered tree from a splinter of wood.
The lab’s Sherlock Holmes of bird crime is Pepper Trail , who has spent 20 years poring over feathers and bird carcasses to help ID avian victims in wildlife crimes. Trail, a nature lover and a poet with a furrowed brow and small eyeglasses that sit low on the bridge of his nose, is the first to admit that the job can be incredibly depressing.
“Birders have life lists,” he said, when we first spoke, on the phone. He was referring to the way many birders tally the number of species they’ve seen in their lifetimes. “I also have a death list of all the bird species I’ve identified in casework. It’s over 775 species from all parts of the world—everything from penguins and cassowaries to hummingbirds. You’re always learning new things.”
Cracking the case of the chuparosa has become especially important to him. “Hummingbirds are powerful animals,” Trail said. “We respond to their vitality, their pugnaciousness, and their beauty. There’s nobody who doesn’t love hummingbirds. To find that there was this whole exploitation going on that was completely unknown—to me it seems particularly sad.”
No one knows the exact toll smuggling is having on wild hummingbird populations, but some experts are concerned because the demand for love charms appears to be significant and possibly growing.
In 2009 researchers surveying Mexico City’s Sonora “witchcraft” market documented more than 650 dead hummingbirds for sale. Since then federal agents have bought chuparosas with “made in Mexico” stickers—a sign that there’s a commercial market. “Maybe there’s a factory, or at least a good-size shop, making them,” Markley said, adding that they’re “all being processed somewhere.”
There are still many unanswered questions: How big is the trade? Where are the birds coming from? How are they being captured and killed? Are there a few major traffickers, or is the trade decentralized? How many buyers have a sincere belief in love magic or want the birds as novelties?
“Many of the answers lie in Mexico,” Trail told me, “but Mexico is not part of our jurisdiction. It will be interesting to see what you find.” He paused. “Be careful down there.” GEMS OF GLOWING FIRE
Naturalists have long been in awe of hummingbirds . In the 1800s John James Audubon rhapsodized about some of the “fairy-like” birds he’d chronicled while painting North America’s birds. Writing to a friend, he described the ruff-necked hummingbird as a “breathing gem … of glowing fire, stretching out its gorgeous ruff, as if to emulate the sun itself in splendor.” See Hummingbirds Fly, Shake, Drink in Amazing Slow Motion They move so fast that human eyes see only a hovering spot of color, a blur of wings. But when frozen in time by high-speed cameras, hummingbirds yield their secrets.
Hummingbird colors sparkle, from the glimmering purple crown and iridescent yellow-green throat of the male magnificent hummingbird to the brilliantly scarlet collar of the male ruby-throated hummingbird . They’re famously adept fliers , capable of hovering up, down, forward, backward, sideways, even upside down.
As a group, some 340 species—from as small as a bee to as large as a cardinal—are named for the high-pitched sound of their wings, whirring at up to 80 beats a second. With the fastest metabolism of any animal in nature, hummingbirds hardly ever stop eating , except when they’re sleeping, which they can do only because of their astonishing ability to dial down their inner thermostats and enter a state of torpor, like astronauts deep-sleeping on interstellar voyages in sci-fi movies.
Each hummingbird species is defined largely by its adaptation for drawing sweet nectar from the types of plants it pollinates. At the extreme end of this spectrum, the sword-billed hummingbird’s saber-like black bill is longer than its body. The bird’s beak evolved to gather nectar from flowers with long tubular corollas, including a passionflower that is deeply reliant on the avian rapier for pollination. The sickle-billed hummingbird has a dramatically hooked bill for sucking sweet sustenance from a heliconia blossom while perched on the flower. Found only in Cuba, the itty-bitty bee hummingbird, the world’s smallest bird, weighing less than a dime, is adapted to drink nectar from flowers too small for any other hummer. But since flowers can’t provide all the fuel required to keep the bird aloft, it’s also deft at snatching mosquitoes mid-air.
Hummingbirds may look dainty, but if they feel threatened, they’ll chase pets and people, and they’re tough enough to flourish in some of the planet’s harshest places, from the heights of the Andes and the lowlands of Central America to the arid deserts of U.S. Southwest and the chilly coastlines of Alaska. Some make epic migrations between their wintering and breeding grounds: One record-setting rufous hummingbird was tracked more than 3,500 miles from Tallahassee, Florida, to near Anchorage, Alaska. View Images
Claudia Isabel Rodríguez Flores gentles a hummingbird as she examines, weighs, measures, and bands it at La Cantera research site at the National Autonomous University of Mexico campus in Mexico City. Photograph by Dominic Bracco II, National Geographic FLIGHT HAZARDS
At least 17 species of hummingbirds migrate between the U.S. and Mexico, where a small group of researchers spends several days each month monitoring both winter guests and year-round residents.
Their study site, called La Cantera (the Quarry), is a lush oasis on the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s main campus, in the capital city. Buffered from the drone of the traffic and smog in North America’s most populous metropolis, the former rock quarry’s flowering shrubs and babbling creek are a haven for hummingbirds. View Images
Claudia Isabel Rodríguez Flores removes a captured hummingbird from a net at La Cantera. Each bird is examined and fitted with a leg band that allows researchers to track the bird’s movements over time. Photograph by Dominic Bracco II, National Geographic
At dawn one February morning at the site, Claudia Rodríguez Flores huddled in a winter parka, trying to keep warm in the shade. An ornithology Ph.D. student from Bogotá, Colombia, Rodríguez smoothed her long dark hair away from her face and tugged on a pair of fingerless mittens.
As she arranged a tidy work area on a plastic table with a towel and pliers specially designed for fitting hummingbirds’ pin-size legs with metal bracelets, she gave a primer on the research project, now in its seventh year. “We’re trying to monitor the hummingbird population,” she said. “We catch them with mist nets and band them so we can track their movements and try to understand the structure of the community.” Mist nets are typically made of black polyester mesh suspended like volleyball nets between metal poles. “So far,” she said, “we’ve caught 1,355 birds, about nine different species.”
Heading down a cobblestone path, she pointed toward a shady brook where up to a dozen pixie-like hummingbirds were dipping in and out of the water for their morning baths. I watched in amazement, thinking about the rare treat of spotting just one hummingbird in my garden, a magical fleeting moment, like glimpsing a shooting star. Rodríguez carefully untangled a squawking hummingbird from a mist net. She put the bird into a cloth bag and tucked it inside her shirt to keep it warm.
Back at the table she noted how healthy the bird looked. “He’s in great overall condition, probably just molted,” she said. “And he’s already banded, a recapture—we’ve caught him before.”
She used a magnifying glass to read the code, MX8165, on the bird’s tiny anklet and fed him some sugar water through a dropper while taking measurements and dictating to a student who was recording the information. “Adult berylline hummingbird, male,” she said.
The berylline, locally abundant and aggressive, is the most common species found at La Cantera. “They’re the chief of the feeders,” said Maria Del coro Arizmendi, who’d stopped by to see how things were going. They’ll bully and chase other hummingbirds trying to feed. View Images
The researchers use a variety of nets for catching hummingbirds at La Cantera. This one placed over a feeder is operated by a college student who pulls a string to drop the net if a bird arrives. Photograph by Dominic Bracco II, National Geographic
Arizmendi, 55, fresh from an early morning workout, in leggings, a black fleece jacket, and purple running shoes with fluorescent orange laces, is the preeminent hummingbird expert in Mexico. She’s spent more than 30 years studying the birds and their threats. “Fifty-eight species are found in Mexico,” she said. “Thirteen are endangered, and five are threatened.”
Endemic hummingbird species confined to niches of habitat are particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards. The thumb-size short-crested coquette is found only in the forest edge along a roughly 15-mile stretch of road in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain in southern Mexico. Now a war zone for drug cartels, peasant guerrilla fighters, and government militias, the area is too dangerous for biological surveys, and as a result very little is currently known about the bird’s status. BirdLife International, a nonprofit conservation group, estimates that the coquette is likely declining by 10 to 20 percent a decade as forest habitat is replaced by coffee plantations and other crops, including opium poppies.
Another threat: climate change. As global temperatures rise, the flowering periods of salvias and other important nectar plants for hummingbirds are shifting earlier in the season, becoming increasingly out of sync with the birds’ foraging demands. It’s a serious concern for migratory species that need to find food at pit stops along their routes. “They fly for a day, refuel, then fly for a few more days,” Arizmendi said. If the flowers continue the trend of blooming earlier and earlier, the hummingbirds will eventually go hungry.
When I asked her about the threat that wildlife trafficking poses to the hummingbirds, she said, “Nobody has a measure, but if the trade for love is growing, we have to stop it now.” She’s concerned about the effects of indiscriminate collecting by poachers (“without any knowledge—females, juveniles, whatever they find”) on those populations of endemic species that are confined to small areas.
By now the table was crowded with students and volunteers shuffling bird guidebooks, pencils, walkie-talkies, clipboards, and data sheets. Carlos Soberanes González, 38, who co-leads the fieldwork with Rodríguez, returned from a final net check. With the morning’s hummingbirds banded and released, it was time for Soberanes, Rodríguez, and me to go meet a Santero priest at a coffee shop near the center of the city. “MADE IN MEXICO” View Images
Cristóbal Carreño Parada, who practices the Yoruba religion, spends time at his family’s shrine in Mexico City. In Yoruba beliefs the hummingbird is an important messenger between the saints and the terrestrial world. Hummingbirds, unlike pigeons and chickens, aren’t used in sacrificial ceremonies. Photograph by Dominic Bracco II, National Geographic
I’d imagined a Santero might be an old guy wearing an ornate robe or something exotic, but Arturo Frausto Iwori Ogbe (“Nicho”), 25, came dressed in a black T-shirt, puffy green vest, tan pants, and black Nikes. At Starbucks, sipping a venti caramel macchiato, he prepped us for our visit to the market, where he buys supplies for religious ceremonies, including animal sacrifices. We would talk to some merchants selling dead hummingbirds, Nicho said. “But no pictures—unless I say it’s OK.” (I’d been forewarned that this was no place for tourists.)
Nicho’s religion is Yoruba, named for one of Nigeria’s main ethnic groups, an African faith now commonly followed in Cuba, the Caribbean, Latin America, and some parts of the U.S. Traditional Yoruba beliefs hold that all people possess a destiny or fate and that eventually people become one spirit with a divine creator and source of all energy. The hummingbird plays an important role in this religion as a power force and as a messenger between the spiritual and physical realms.
At the market, every second shop brimmed with dream catchers, voodoo dolls, candles, animal skulls, and Santa Muerte statues. Nicho took us straight to a “witch,” a stocky woman in a green camouflage apron and combat boots. She welcomed us into her shop, where skulls and feathers dangled from the ceiling. Stretching out her palm, she showed us four inert little hummingbirds.
“It’s for amor, ” she said—a love spell. “When you do an amor of this kind, be careful because, it’s a big deal. The force of a hummingbird is very strong in the mystique world.”
Then she explained how she makes the spell. “We put them face-to-face [a male and a female bird], ideally with underwear from both a man and a woman. Then you put them in a small red bag, fill the bag with pure honey, and you place it in your shrine with candles. That’s the way we do it.” View Images
Vendors at Mexico City’s Sonora Market sell dead hummingbirds for about $2.50 each. For an extra fee some sellers will prepare the birds in small pouches filled with honey. Customers place the pouches in their personal shrines. Photograph by Dominic Bracco II, National Geographic
Without the honey and other trappings, a hummingbird can be used as an amulet, she continued—“for good luck, or a road opener. If you have someone in your sights, you just write their name, wrap it toward you, and carry it around. Every day you put some of your perfume on it.”
These birds, she explained, were from a guy in Pachuca, the capital city of the state of Hidalgo, north of Mexico City. “They throw nets up to the trees and catch them and preserve them in hydrogen peroxide,” she said. “That way they don’t fall apart, or lose their feathers.” A single bird costs 50 pesos (about $2.50), a tricked-out amor,600 pesos. She makes about 20 of those a month, mostly for women. “Works 98 percent of the time,” she said. “Very powerful.”
Deeper inside the market, Nicho stopped to say hello to other merchants who showed us their hummingbirds. In one area, where seemingly endless cages of puppies, rabbits, chickens, parrots, and a dead chinchilla lined the aisles, we met a guy displaying a handful of dead hummingbirds. He recommended them as a good treatment for epilepsy or heart problems.
“You cut their heart out,” he said, “and boil it to make tea or soup.” One of the species in his hand was an amethyst-throated hummingbird, noticeably larger than the other species we’d seen. Recognizing our interest in the bird, he offered it for 150 pesos. To sweeten the pot, he’d toss in two free teeth that he said were crocodile.
Almost every vendor we met had nearly a dozen hummingbirds dangling like charms on hooks, red thread stitched through their eyes and throats. Soberanes, who’d worked in pet shops and aquariums as a child and studied military macaws in Oaxaca’s Sabino Canyon in graduate school, touched them in disbelief. He whispered, “These are the birds we try to preserve. It’s very depressing.” ONGOING INVESTIGATION
At the Fish and Wildlife Service’s forensic lab in Oregon, Pepper Trail was stooped over a black countertop, poking at a petrified hummingbird with a scalpel. He’d found another clue in the chuparosa mystery: tiny orbs visible on a CT scan. Curious, he’d x-rayed some specimens collected during the Delgado case and was examining them now to see if there were any signs of how the birds had been killed, one of the mysteries bugging him.
Removing his glasses, he pulled on a magnifying visor to get a better look at the birds. At first he found only a dried resin-like substance. He noticed that the birds’ breasts had been cut open but couldn’t find any metal inside them. The lab’s veterinary pathologist, Tabitha Viner, offered to take a look. Minutes later she extracted a dull-gray metal ball about the size of a pinhead from the bird’s chest.
“It looks like lead,” Trail said. “Maybe some kind of shot?” View Images
Pepper Trail has identified nearly 20 species of hummingbird chuparosas sold packaged in plastic bags with adornments and love prayers. Photograph by Luján Agusti, National Geographic
He scraped the fragment into an envelope and took it down the hall to his colleague, Pam McClure, an analyst in the chemistry lab. “Yes,” she said, as the results showed on her computer screen. “It’s lead.” Comparing it to a chart of ammunition sizes, she surmised that it was size 11 (1.57 millimeters in diameter), probably something used in a small-gauge shotgun.
Using a shotgun to bring down a hummingbird seems like chopping a salad with a machete. Yet more than a third of the birds Trail X-rayed recently contained lead shot. How they weren’t blown to smithereens is another mystery.
Pedro Trinidad, who grew up in the mountains outside Mexico City and is now living in New Jersey, told me that as a six-year-old, he and his brothers killed hummingbirds with slingshots. It helped pass the time, he said, when they were minding the family cows. He regrets it now, but back then it was what boys did. “Rabbits, snakes—if it moved, we killed it. I could shoot two or three hummingbirds in a day. A man in a local shop would buy them. We’d be very happy because we had a couple of pesos to buy a Coca-Cola or a sweet.”
It would take an army of kids with slingshots to supply the profusion of hummingbirds in Sonora Market and all the botanicas in Mexico and the U.S.
“It comes down to supply and demand,” Trail said. “As long as the demand is strong, people will always try to meet it.”
Stopping hummingbird smuggling will require law enforcement on both sides of the border, but Mexico hasn’t yet determined that there is indeed a hummingbird problem.
Joel González Moreno heads the inspection and surveillance of wildlife, marine resources, and coastal ecosystems in the Federal Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection. “We have not detected a critical trafficking situation for this group of species,” he wrote in an email. He cited habitat loss as the main concern but added that animal smugglers can face up to three years prison time. And if the smuggling is associated with organized crime, the punishment can be nearly 20 years in a Mexican jail. View Images
Chuparosas purchased at botanicas by undercover Fish and Wildlife Service agents are sent to the service’s forensic lab in Oregon—the only one in the world dedicated to crimes against wildlife. There the birds are identified by species and scrutinized for clues about where and how they were killed. Photograph by Luján Agusti, National Geographic
Pepper Trail is trying to elevate the issue with Mexican officials. Each year Mexico joins the U.S. and Canada at a trilateral meeting to coordinate international conservation efforts. In preparation for the meeting on April 9, Trail submitted an update on the chuparosa trade.
“Ongoing investigative work by the [Fish and Wildlife Service] Office of Law Enforcement indicates that this trade is significant and widespread, at least in the border states,” he wrote. “Continued efforts need to be made to gather information on the status of hummingbird populations in the U.S. and especially Mexico …. It may be appropriate to consider whether additional protections for hummingbirds under Mexican law are needed …. Additional collaborative work needs to be done involving both governmental and non-governmental organizations in the U.S. and Mexico to educate the public about the ecological importance of hummingbirds and to discourage killing hummingbirds for these love charms.”
“I received an acknowledgement that it was received,” Trail said. “But there’s no one to push for it—I’m not a member of the delegation.”
Humberto Berlanga, Mexico’s coordinator of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, an international forum of government agencies and private organizations, is a member of the delegation. Berlanga doesn’t regard hummingbird trafficking as a high priority. “I suspect the market is not too big, and I don’t think it’s affecting any endangered species, but we don’t have the data,” he said. “Those are my general impressions. People are illegally catching and using the birds, but there’s not enough enforcement to limit and stop this practice—it’s sad, but true.”
Lately a steady stream of new evidence has been arriving at the Fish and Wildlife Service’s lab in Oregon: a total of nearly 300 birds representing roughly 20 species so far. The birds are accompanied by at least five variations of love prayers. “They’re all printed differently, and the language is a little different,” Trail said. “My assumption is those presentations imply different producers. That tells us it’s not just one—it could be many.”
Trail might never know—because he aims to get out of the detective business soon. On a bookshelf in his office sits a fat white binder labeled “Retirement Planning.” Last year the lab hired a forensic ornithologist who’ll eventually take his place. Trail is excited about having more time to lead birding tours, write prose, and gaze at living, breathing animals. But he’s not relinquishing the case of the chuparosa just yet.
Rene Ebersole writes about science and the environment for many publications, including Popular Science, Outside , The Nation , and Audubon . Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn. Wildlife Watch is an investigative reporting project between National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners focusing on wildlife crime and exploitation. Read more Wildlife Watch stories here , and learn more about National Geographic Society’s nonprofit mission at nationalgeographic.org. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to . Continue Reading
Superdrug launches insane health and beauty sale – with items for 1p
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We’ve all had our eyes on Boots over the past few months, eagerly awaiting that 70% off sale – but now it’s Superdrug that’s making heads turn.
The health and beauty chain has been spotted selling items for as a low as 1p in its latest annual clear out.
And the deals are so good that shoppers have taken to social media to reveal their amazing bargains.
Speaking on the Latest Deals Facebook page , one woman wrote: “Some absolute steals in Superdrug today! Missed some of the best deals but some items were down to just 1p!” The sale includes 1p washing up liquid and 30p hair products (Image: Latest Deals, Extreme Couponing & Bargains Group)
The biggest reduction appears to be on washing up liquid, which can be snapped up for a penny.
Meanwhile, hand moisturisers and candles are all under 30p – most of which appear to be excess Christmas stock.
However, Superdrug also seems to be shifting old stock – perhaps items being discontinued.
On 2 March, one mum on the Extreme Couponing and Bargains UK Facebook group revealed she picked up Wella hair spray for 1p at her branch in Tiverton. Shopper Joanne managed to pick up hair spray for a penny! (Image: Extreme Couponing and Bargains UK group)
The discounts appear to vary by store, depending on how much each branch has to clear – which means it’s only while stocks last.
However, if you’ve missed out on the ‘sale’ don’t worry as Superdrug is famous for its spontaneous bargains – just when you least expect it.
Last summer, Mirror Money spotted the chain selling these body puffs in hot pink for a penny – down from £2.99.
In November, shopper Samantha managed to pick up a Zoella hair towel for a penny at her local Salisbury branch.
And more recently in January, the chain was selling Solait maxi bronzer for face & body also for a penny in a flash sale . Now this really is a reason to relax! (Image: Latest Deals, Extreme Couponing & Bargains Group) If you’re lucky, you may also be able to pick up some 90% off discounts including on Soap and Glory gift sets at Boots for Mother’s Day (Image: Latest Deals, Extreme Couponing & Bargains Group)
If you’ve a Boots store nearby instead, see what reductions you can find in its 90% off sale .
Shoppers have revealed some incredible savings – including Champneys gift sets and Jack Wills Mugs – for next to nothing at a number of stores.
One bargain hunter revealed she managed to pick £82 worth of stock for just £8.25 at her local store – but as always, the sooner you spot them, the better. Read More
Computer to call balls and strikes in minor league
FILE – In this May 13, 2018, file photo, MLB umpire Joe West, right, talks with a player in the ninth inning during a baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Washington Nationals in Phoenix. West, who has umpired more than 5,000 big league games, said the 2016 TrackMan computer system test was far from perfect. NEW YORK – Get ready for strikes by robots. No, overworked machines aren’t walking out in a labor protest.
Computers will be used for ball/strike calls starting April 25 in the independent Atlantic League, where the distance between home and first will be shortened by 3 inches. The ground between the mound and home plate will lengthen by 2 feet for the second half of the season beginning July 12.
The 60-foot-6-inch distance between the front of the pitching rubber and the back point of home plate has been standard since 1893, but Major League Baseball reached a three-year deal to experiment in the Atlantic League, an eight-team circuit that occasionally produces big leaguers. Infield defensive shifts will be limited. Pitchers there will have to get used to 62 feet, 2 inches this summer.
“That’ll make a bigger difference than the 3 inches at first,” New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird said.
Plate umpires will wear earpieces and be informed of ball/strike calls by a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar. Umps will have the ability to override the computer, which considers a pitch a strike when the ball bounces and then crosses the zone. TrackMan also does not evaluate check swings.
“The beauty of baseball is that it’s not foolproof. You’ve got to hit a round ball with a cylindrical bat square, and then you’ve got to get it past people,” said Joe West, who umpired his first big league game in 1976. “The game is typically American. It’s always somebody else’s fault when they lose — and usually it’s us.”
MLB has evaluated its umpires since first starting to install a QuesTec system in 2001 that umpires initially criticized as being inaccurate. Questec was used at a maximum of 11 ballparks in 2008, its final year.
A PitchF/x system, a partnership of MLB Advanced Media and Sportvision, was the basis of evaluations from 2009-16, and the TrackMan system was tested during the final year of that span. TrackMan has been used to evaluate umpires since 2017.
West, who has umpired more than 5,000 big league games and is on track to break Bill Klem’s record in 2020, said the 2016 test was far from perfect.
“It missed 500 pitches in April, and when I say it missed 500 pitches, that didn’t mean they called them wrong. They didn’t call them at all,” he said.
In addition, bases will become 18-inch squares in the Atlantic League, up from the 15-inch squares that have been standard since 1877. That will in effect cut the distance from the front of home plate to the front of first base from 87 feet, 9 inches to 87 feet 6 inches. The 90-foot measurement between bases is from the back of the plate to the back corner of first and third along the foul line.
While the distance between the mound and the plate will be lengthened, the height will remain 10 inches — its level since 1969.
“Changing the distance, that seems a little odd to me,” Yankees manager Aaron Boon said. “I know lowering the mound is an interesting one, obviously, something that would favor offense and maybe in some level help with some pitching injuries.”
Other changes for the season:
— Infield shifts will be restricted by requiring two infielders to be on each side of second base when a pitcher releases his pitch. Infielders also will be prohibited from setting up on the outfield grass.
— Each pitcher must face at least three batters or complete the half-inning, unless injured.
— Between inning breaks will be cut from 2 minutes, 5 seconds to 1:45.
— Mound visits are banned, except for pitching changes or medical issues.
Atlantic League teams are in Bridgewater, New Jersey; Central Islip, New York; High Point, North Carolina; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; New Britain, Connecticut; Sugar Land, Texas; Waldorf, Maryland; and York, Pennsylvania.
Southern Maryland is at Sugar Land in the opener. Trending in Sports