Endangered species were the first type of conservation I remember learning about. I did a panorama of the black-footed ferret in 3rd grade. A project on the manatee in 4th grade led to a sirenian-obsessed pre-adolescence. These are cute animals, and we are destroying their habitats! WE MUST SAVE THEM!
Endangered species are a great way to connect a public, which may not be interested otherwise, to conservation efforts. It’s a near-tangible way to pinpoint a specific problem, a specific animal even, and get people involved. Some conservationists argue that this isn’t a good method, that the focus on CMF, or charismatic megafauna (such as the endangered whales, tigers, lions, manatees, etc.), ignores the smaller and uglier microbes and insects, which are going extinct at a much higher rate. But, hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere!
Seychelles Sheath-Tailed Bat by Molly Schafer
The Endangered Species Print Project was started by the artists Molly Schafer and Jenny Kendler, who met at the Art Institute of Chicago and bonded over “nature-geekery.” After years of art shows filled with works based on natural imagery, they decided to start a project to help save some of the animals that inspired their work.
The ESPP releases prints, the sales of which go towards specific conservation organizations. Each print stars an endangered species and the number of prints of each work corresponds with the number of animals left remaining in the wild. For example, there are only 37 prints available of the seychelles sheath-tailed bat, and 222 of the madagascar fish eagle.
By limiting the print-editions, there is a reaction in the buyer to want the rarest print (as is an art-buyer’s instinct), accompanied by the creeping realization of what the rarity of that print means, and of how distant our lives are from these animals’. Sure, we can buy a piece of art that is a symbol for a single animal that exists in the wild; this art can donate money to help save this specific animal; but in the end, these species are nearly gone from the planet, and far more needs to be done than buying a piece of art.
That being said, this is a wonderful project to support, as it spreads conservation awareness while donating money to good causes. Buy prints here for $50 a pop (no matter the print/wild quantity).
Extinked, which took place in November, involved the tattooing of the endangered species of the British Isles on chosen human “ambassadors.” Detailed scientific drawings were made of the species, and common citizens applied to the artists for the honor of being blessed with the drawing of the specific animal for life in the form of a tattoo. Even if the species does go extinct, it’s form will live on in the skin of at least one Brit for another 100 or so years.
And isn’t that one purpose of art? To commemorate a certain event or person or time? I like to imagine the effects of this project much like the living books in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, where people would memorize the text of books and teach it to one more person before they died to keep the book alive through the book burnings. Pass on your extinct animal to the next person, so that at least a glimmer of prior biodiversity can be remembered by a small group of people.