The dangerous world of butterflies: the startling subculture of criminals, collectors and conservationists written by Peter Laufer, PhD.
This is a book I probably would have glanced at in a bookshop – and not taken much interest in it. My copy came into my possession via my wife who bought it for me for Christmas. The title and subject matter intrigued her and she took a gamble, hoping I would enjoy it.
Her gamble paid off; at times I could hardly put it down. The author, Peter Laufer, a journalist of note, had tired of writing about serious, world shattering events and theatres of war, and jokingly said at a book launch that his next book would be “about butterflies and flowers.” The idea stuck with him, but he didn’t realise how life changing that throw-away line would prove to be.
The more he delved into the world of butterflies, the more he became intrigued, fascinated and amazed. The book is written about three main aspects of butterflies: crime, collecting, and conservation. Rare and beautiful butterflies are much sought after and there is a thriving black market for the most sought after. Collectors will go to extraordinary lengths – usually illegal – to add to their hoard of specimens mounted on card with a pin. Conservationists, however, try desperately to protect the last few surviving beauties. It is a dangerous world indeed, not the least for the poor insects themselves struggling to exist in an increasingly hazardous world.
Laufer deals also with valiant attempts to breed endangered species, detailing the amazing life cycle of these beautiful, delicate miracles of nature. Large breeding centres also sell large quantities of more common species for release at weddings and other ceremonies. I’d never heard of this “use” of butterflies but the idea appeals to me. Apparently you can buy butterflies for this purpose here in Australia, though it remains mostly an American custom.
Last Wednesday my wife and I had the joy of seeing a preview of the soon to be released movie The best exotic marigold hotel starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and several other wonderful actors. My wife won the tickets through and offer made by the Seniors Card people here in South Australia.
We both thoroughly enjoyed the movie and will eventually buy the DVD as it is such a delightful romp with many hilarious lines and incidents. Unknown to each other a group of ageing English people respond to glossy advertising placed by the young manager of a run down hotel in India. Unable to afford their current housing, or seeking adventure, each in the group sets out to take up residence in the hotel. Through many misunderstandings, misadventures, comical situations and a touch of pathos, the group is thrown together in an unlikely situation and help one another to survive – or not.
I haven’t laughed out loud like this for some time. In fact, the whole audience – the theatre was full – enjoyed it so much that I occasionally missed some of the wonderful dialogue. Mind you, the average age of the audience was well over 60; you have to be 60 to qualify for a seniors card. The script was certainly written with seniors in mind – but younger generations will also get a good laugh at this, if only out of fear of what might happen to them in a decade or two.
I am a great admirer of the acting of both Judi Dench and Maggie Smith but this movie shows how both of them are ageing quickly. May they continue to delight audiences for many years to come – even if those movies send up the elderly in hilarious ways like this wonderful film.
As regular readers woud know I do regular reviews of books here on my writing site. Every writer should be an avid reader, and I enjoy sharing what I am reading with regular visitors to this site.
This time the review is a little different. Normally I would review books about writing, novels I’ve read or volumes of poetry. I have also reviewed children’s books, including picture books on occasions. (Click here to read more of my reviews.)
This review focusses on a Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia. As my long term readers would know, I also write articles about and post photos of Australian Birds on Trevor’s Birding site. I’m not going to write a new review of this book here. If you are interested in reading this review, click here.
This book was given as a special gift to a close family member who has close connections with Colombia. One day I hope to get to that fascinating country and do some birding. Of all the countries in the world, Colombia has more bird species than any other, with nearly 1800 different kinds. By way of comparison, Australia has about 800 different birds.