Hungry owls: No one wants to use chemical pesticides to protect crops, and apple farmers in Japan don't have to. That's because a natural predator is available to help keep their orchards free of field voles. That predator is the Ural owl (Strix uralensis). These birds build nests in the hollows of trees near the orchards, and farmers even supply manmade structures to attract them. The night hunters do swift work of nabbing voles, which can do considerable damage to apple trees and cut into the profits of the farm.
Inked all over: Some people get a tattoo (or two) somewhere on their bodies, but Kerstin Tristan decided to get her whole body tattooed. The grandmother from Leipzig, Germany, started on her tattoo odyssey in 2015 when she got her first one. Now, her arms, legs, torso, hands, and feet are almost completely covered. The tattoos range from flowers to butterflies to women's faces to leopard spots to strings of pearls. Tristan has spent, so far, about NZ50,000 on her body art, and she doesn't regret it. She intends to keep filling the blank spots with more tattoos.
Mural mandate: A mural on the side of a building in Warsaw, Poland, helps clear the air of pollutants. Located near a busy metro station, the mural is made of special photocatalytic paint that lures pollutants from the air. The pollutants are then changed into harmless particles, which are washed away when it rains. The mural features flowers with smiling faces, with the foliage wrapped around tall buildings. The project was part of the City Forests campaign. Several other cities around the world are part of the movement, including Bogot, Columbia; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Melbourne, Australia.
Cat lady: A woman who lives in Muscat, Oman, is a true animal lover. In fact, she loves animals so much that her home has become a shelter for homeless cats and dogs. Maryam al-Balushi didn't always appreciate animals. Her affection for felines began in 2008 when her son brought home a Persian cat, which she grew to adore. She started taking pity on strays, and today she has nearly 500 cats and about a dozen dogs. It costs almost $8,000 per month for food and vet care, which at first she paid herself, but now donors help her with the bills. She hopes everyone will understand that animals need to be treated with compassion.