Tag Archives: endangered animals

CFN’s Little Rangers – an environmental education camp for kids in the Menabe region of Madagascar

More than a year ago when I was writing the post about the Globe-horned chameleon – one of the many endangered chameleon species endemic to Madagascar – I contacted biologist Dr. Matthias Markolf, chairman of the Göttingen based non-profit organization Chances for Nature, to ask for permission to use his excellent photographs as illustration on my blog. I was aware of CFN’s committed work in environmental education and wildlife conservation, so when Matthias told me about their recent project on Madagascar and asked me if I could make a poster for their ‘flagship’ species – the Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, smallest primate on the world – it was no question this was something I’d love to get involved with. I offered them that I create a 12 piece series – they provided a list of the suggested species, and soon the posters featuring Madagascar’s wildlife were ready.

The program the posters aid is the ‘Little Rangers’, an environmental education camp organized by CFN for local kids in the Kirindy forest in the Menabe region of western Madagascar. The Kirindy Forest is an approximately 100 km2 large protected area of one of the main threatened wildlife habitats of the island, the dry deciduous forest. The forest canopy is dominated by huge baobab trees; it’s home for several rare and endangered species like the giant jumping rat, the Verreaux’s sifaka, several mouse-lemur species and other nocturnal lemurs, bats, tenrecs, reptiles, frogs, rare insects and the fossa. The forest is an important research area for biologists studying different species and the ecosystem of the island, and also an eco-tourism location.

image credits (all cropped): 1. Grey mouse lemur by nomis simon CC BY 2.0 2. Fossa by zoofanatic CC BY 2.0 3. Lowland streaked tenrec by Alan Harper CC BY-NC 2.0  4. Giant jumping rat by Josh More CC BY-NC-ND 2.0  5. Verreaux’s sifaka by nomis simon CC BY 2.0 6. Malagasy green tree frog by hehaden CC BY-NC 2.0  7. Satanic leaf-tailed gecko by Allan Hopkins CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 8.  Red-tailed sportive lemur by Frank Vassen CC BY 2.0 

During the multi-day camp the children participate in different playful educational activities aimed to increase their knowledge about the unique wildlife of the island and to gain a better understanding about the dangers of human-induced threats to natural habitats and the importance of preserving the environment and wildlife. Many animal species of the island became already very rare because of their rapidly disappearing habitat (slash and burn agriculture is prevalent on Madagascar) and hunting by locals, so visiting the protected forest is a special opportunity for the kids to observe lemurs, birds and other species at close range.

CFN plans to offer this camp as a permanent program in the future, they are trying to gain some traction and support for the project. To help this, the posters where also exhibited on location at the Centre National de Formation, d’Etudes et de Recherche en Environnement et Forestier in the Kirindy Forest.

The LITTLE RANGERS education camp in the Kirindy Forest, Madagascar
©Copyright Matthias Markolf 

If you’d like to know more about the Little Rangers program or other activities of CFN, please visit their youtube channel or their website. If you’d like to get involved and help their work, you also find options for donation on their website.


Madagascar wildlife poster series

My new wildlife conservation awareness poster series is out featuring the amazing wildlife of Madagascar, a unique biodiversity hotspot with a range of endemic species severely endangered by the deforestation of the island.



This series was created in collaboration with Chances for Nature, a Göttingen (Germany) based non-profit organization working for the conservation of natural habitats and biodiversity. They have several ongoing projects around the world (you can read about them in detail on the CFN webpage); one of the locations is Madagascar. Among other things, they established an environmental education camp in the Kirindy Reserve in the western part of the island where they bring local children to the forest to observe the animals as closely as researchers do – many of the species featured on the posters occur in this relatively small area.

For now, the new series is available in my RedBubble store on posters, art prints, spiral notebooks and stickers. Similarly to the two original series I plan to create design versions more suitable for apparel and to write a blogpost about each of the species later.

As usual, my whole profit from the RedBubble sales goes to the Sea Shepherd . We are working to make this series available through other channels that would directly support wildlife conservation projects on Madagascar – so stay tuned for updates.


The addax – a desert specialist



Addax – the screw-horned antelope

One of the defining movies of my childhood was Jamie Uys’ 1974 nature documentary Animals Are Beautiful People. I remember the opening shots panning over the sand dunes and flats of the Namib desert and the narrator’s voice: ‘The oldest and driest desert of the world…. You’d think nobody could make a living here.’ And then the movie introduces the incredible animals and plants inhabiting that hostile and seemingly empty environment; and shows the other, ephemeral face of the desert by filming how the Kalahari turns into a meadow for a few weeks after a rain.

The Sahara – largest of all (non-polar) deserts – doesn’t appear in this movie; but the wildlife of the over 10 million km2 area (together with its southern Sahelian fringes) is just as uniquely adapted to the complex mosaic of arid and semi-arid lands of rocky plateaus, sandy dunes, basins, depressions, wadi systems, gravelly plans, arid grasslands and mountain ranges. Thanks to the extreme conditions these habitats have remained largely undisturbed by humans, and the main threat to the survival of most of the wildlife is the recent severe drought. For the last few hundred thousand years, the climate and the vegetation of the Sahara has alternated between hot desert and savanna grassland – this phenomenon is attributed to a 41 000 year cycle caused by the 2.5° precession of the Earth’s axis. Although currently we are in the dry period – with the next wet period expected in 15 000 years – the long droughts of the 1960-80s are considered rather extreme and induced a catastrophic expansion of desertification over the entire region with direct and collateral consequences affecting both the flora and the fauna of the desert.



Desert dunes of the Erg Chebbi in Northern Sahara
©Copyright  Ali Eminov / CC BY-NC 2.0 

Unfortunately there is one group of Saharan animals threatened not only by the extreme drought: large mammal species of the desert have been heavily overhunted in the last century with modern arms. The populations of these species are rapidly declining; many of them are facing the imminent threat of extinction. One of the critically endangered species is the Addax – or white antelope – with fewer than 100 individuals living in the wild.

Range: The addax was historically widespread throughout large areas of the Sahara and its bordering Sahelian grasslands, but over the past century and particularly over the last few decades the range of the species has been drastically decreasing. Once found in all countries sharing the Sahara Desert, today there’s only one remaining addax population in the wild in the Termit/Tin Toumma region – a narrow band of desert between eastern Niger and the Djourab sand sea in western Chad -; with some occasional vagrants in southern Algeria and a possible small group in central Mauritania, based on unconfirmed reports.
A few hundred addaxes have been reintroduced into fenced enclosures in their former range and habitat in Tunisia and Morocco, with slowly increasing numbers. The captive population is estimated to be around 6000 individuals globally (in Europe, North-America, Japan, Australia and the Middle East); partly in managed breeding programs of zoos, partly in private collections and on ranches in the USA where they are kept and bred for hunting.

The addax used to inhabit all major habitat types of the Sahara
©Copyright Coke Smith

Habitat: Addaxes are desert-dwellers, the species has been recorded in all major habitat types of the Sahara except the mountainous areas; they inhabit even the most arid territories with extreme temperatures and less than 100 mm annual rainfall. They have a preference for firmer sand sheets and flatter areas between sandy dune fields where they can graze on ephemeral annual pastures and more permanent perennial vegetation.
The addax is a nomadic species with movements following the food source available at the moment – they penetrate deep into the central arid Sahara after rainfall makes the desert bloom and move out of the desert to the bordering Sahel regions during the drought to find shade and grazing.

Critically endangered addax antelope
©Copyright Coke Smith

Description: The addax (Addax nasomaculatus) – besides the rhim gazelle, also endangered – is the most desert-adapted African antelope: it has anatomical, physiological and behavioral characteristics allowing the utilization of extremely desolate, inhospitable and arid habitats. The species is also known as screw-horned antelope: its most recognizable feature is the beautiful, long spiral double horn that can reach over one meter in length with one to three twists.
Male addaxes have a shoulder height of about 95-115 cm and a body weight of around 100-125 kg – females are a bit smaller and lighter. They have a stocky build, relatively short and sturdy legs for an antelope, and broad hooves with flat soles and strong dewclaws suitable for traveling efficiently on sandy terrain – they have adapted to endure the extreme conditions of the desert rather than to speed. The coat of the addax changes seasonally: in the hot summer it is almost white to reflect radiant heat; in winter it turns into smoky grey while the belly, the legs and the hindquarters remain white. They have dark brown hairs between the horns and a conspicuous X shaped white mask over their greyish nose. They have a short, slender tail ending in a tuft of black hair.



Portrait of an addax
©Copyright Josh More  / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0  

Addaxes are primarily grazers, eating mainly grasses; but they also consume leaves of shrubs, leguminous herbs and bushes, water-storing plants such as melons and tubers, perennials turning green after the rain, and – if there are no grasses available – they browse leaves of small trees like Acacia too. The addax has physiological functions highly adapted to desert life; these antelopes are able to survive without water utilizing only the moisture from their food and the dew that condenses on plants. They conserve the moisture by excreting dry feces and concentrated urine and they are able to tolerate a daily rise of 6 °C in their body temperature before they need to resort to nasal panting to cool down. They feed at night and early morning and spend the day resting in shaded areas and depressions that provide them protection from direct heat of the sun and sandstorms.

The addax is the most desert adapted African antelope
©Copyright Coke Smith

Addaxes are social animals, herds usually contain up to 20 members – both male and female -, with a strong social structure based on age and led by the oldest female. Breeding peaks during winter and early spring, females deliver one calf after a 9 month gestation period.



Female addax and calf in winter colors
©Copyright Greg Goebel / CC BY-SA 2.0

Threats: The addax has been hunted historically with traditional methods for its meet, skin and horns by nomad peoples of the desert and by European trophy hunters; but the rapid decline of the population started at the end of the 1940s with the advent of the lethal combination of modern firearms and off-road vehicles. The extreme drought periods of the second half of the 1900s resulted in general reduction of pasture lands, forcing the addax from the more secure arid area to the Sahelian steppes where it was more exposed to exploitation.

By the beginning of the 21th century the number of addaxes plummeted to near extinction – the wild population was estimated to be around a few hundred individuals. During the last two decades growing regional insecurity, migrants, and the illicit trade of arms and drugs has significantly increased the traffic and illegal hunting in the remote, formerly undisturbed habitats of the addax. Poaching has also increased because of hunting by mining, military and administrative personnel of the Chinese oil industry’s installations in Niger, the last remaining reserve of the addax.

The Termit/Tin Toumma region in Niger is the last reserve of the wild addaxes
©Copyright Coke Smith

In spring 2016, an extensive aerial and ground survey of the experts of the IUCN and the Sahara Conservation Found had found only three individuals in the Termit/Tin Toumma Reserve of Niger – an area considered as the key habitat of the addax. Fortunately later that year and during 2017 new surveys in Chad and Niger revealed a few small groups – still less than hundred individuals – of addaxes, giving hope that with joint efforts and engagement of the governments and wildlife services of both countries and with the expert help of several conservationist groups an effective action plan can be implemented to save this remaining population.


The addax poster at the top of this post is available in my store on Redbubble, with design variations more suitable for apparel and other products. My whole profit goes to the Sea Shepherd to support their fight to protect our oceans and marine wildlife. 



The Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo – back to the canopy



Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo

Tree kangaroo might sound like an oxymoron to someone not familiar with the wildlife of New Guinea, but these arboreal macropods really do exist and inhabit the tropical rainforests of the island and the far northeastern territory of Queensland, Australia. In fact, the evolutionary history of tree kangaroos is a beautiful example of how life will always adapt to a new habitat to fully exploit its environmental carrying capacity.

Looking at the map one would naturally assume that the wildlife of New Guinea is similar or closely related to the fauna and flora of the other islands of the Indonesian archipelago. This supposition proves to be rather untrue: though New Guinea’s flora is a mixture of tropical rainforest species with Asian origin and typically Australasian plants, the second largest island of the Earth is inhabited overwhelmingly – and surprisingly – by animals of Australian origin.



New Guinea’s endangered Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo
©Copyright Zweer de Bruin / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

The explanation lies in the geological history of the region: unlike the rest of the archipelago, New Guinea with the surrounding smaller islands is part of the Australian continental plate called Sahul and not the Sunda Shelf (extension of the Southeast Asian continental shelf). Sahul had separated from Antarctica and South America by the beginning of the Miocene; and kept slowly drifting northwards, colliding with the Sunda Shelf about 15 million years ago.
For long periods from the Miocene until the Holocene, today’s Australian mainland and New Guinea were linked by a land bridge during the repeated episodes of glacial advance when sea levels fell more than 100 meters and Sahul was exposed as dry land. Similarly, from time to time the Sunda Shelf used to be a continuous land mass connecting southeastern Asia and the Indonesian islands – Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Bali. In these periods the migration and distribution of species on the mainland and the respective future islands was unrestricted, but a barrier of a wide deep-water sea-channel along/above the colliding edges of the two continental shelves kept most species from crossing, and thus Asian and Australian wildlife – especially fauna – mostly separated.
However, many plant species have managed to spread through the channel; and as Sahul kept slowly drifting north to the tropical zone and the climate has gradually changed, the lush vegetation of the Asian tropical forests started to invade and replace the original flora on the northern territories of the shelf, developing into an entirely new habitat. This vegetation was quite different from the native flora, providing superior quality food in comparison with the plants of that age that were adapted to the more arid climate of the Australian landmass.
Only few animals – mainly bats and birds – have been able to cross the stretches of open water between the shelves; and the absence of leaf monkeys or any leaf-eating mammals occupying the canopy of the average Asian tropical forest left this niche of the new forests empty, presenting an evolutionary opportunity.



Tree kangaroos inhabit montane and lowland tropical forests of New Guinea and northeastern Australia
©Copyright Stu Rapley / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Around that time, rock-wallabies were abundant in northern Australia. Rock-wallabies are terrestrial kangaroos, but some of their species have a propensity to climb trees to feed on the flowers, fruits and leaves. Molecular evidence – genetic studies show that the Proserpine rock-wallaby is the closest living relative of tree kangaroos – strongly suggests a rock-wallaby ancestor around 5-7 million years ago that moved in into the new habitat and has slowly adapted to the arboreal lifestyle, evolving over time into a dozen of new species today known as tree kangaroos.
At the end of the last glacial period about 12 000 years ago the rising sea level separated New Guinea from the Australian mainland: most species of tree-kangaroos live now in the tropical forests of the islands, only two species are native in Queensland. Most tree-kangaroos are endangered, with decreasing populations threatened by hunting for food and by habitat loss: one of the endangered species is the Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, also known as ornate tree kangaroo.

Range: The Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo is endemic to the island of New Guinea; the current range of the species covers the mid-montane regions of the Central Cordillera from the Indonesian border to Milne Bay province. Historically it used to occur in lowland areas too but now it’s locally extinct: rapid deforestation of these regions has destroyed most of its habitat.

Habitat: Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos inhabit montane and lowland tropical forests, they adapted to a canopy-dwelling lifestyle.



Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos have two golden stripes on their back and every individual has a unique pattern of rings and blotches on their tail
©Copyright  C Steele / CC BY-NC 2.0 

Description: The anatomy of the Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus goodfellowi) is a great example of a living transitional form of evolution. Tree kangaroos have several features clearly showing the adaptation to arboreal lifestyle; but their general anatomy is still close to the ground-dwelling ancestor and is rather unsuited to a life in the canopy of trees. They have shorter and broader hind limbs with ankle joints that are modified from the highly specialized ankles of terrestrial hopping kangaroos to allow the foot to be rotated to grip branches; their arms are proportionally larger and stronger; they have rubbery pads on the soles of their feet and their paws and large, curved claws; their tail is lighter built and they use it well to balance while moving; and – unlike hopping kangaroos – they can move their hind limbs independently. But compared with perfectly adapted tree-dwelling animals like monkeys, possums or squirrels they are still clumsy climbers.

Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos have a body length of around 55-80 cm with a tail length of 70-85 cm. They have maybe the nicest coloration among tree kangaroos: their short, wholly fur has a soft reddish-brown shade; they have a greyish-brown face and light golden underbelly, throat and limbs. Two longitudinal golden stripes run on their back where they have a characteristic vortex of hair. Every individual has a unique pattern of brown and golden rings and blotches on their tail.



Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos eat large quantities of leaves
©Copyright Nathan Rupert / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos feed mainly on leaves of the forest trees; but occasionally they consume flowers, fruits, cereals and even insects. They have a sacculated stomach with fermenting bacteria to digest the large quantities of fibrous foliage. They are active in the morning and afternoon, except near human settlements where they are mostly nocturnal.

Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos are solitary and territorial animals. Being marsupials, females have a well-developed pouch opening forward. They have one young per birth after a 21-38 days gestation period, and the joey grows for almost a year in the pouch before first leaving.



Endangered Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos in the Melbourne Zoo
©Copyright Tim Williams / CC BY 2.0 

Threats: Except humans there are virtually no predators or competitors for Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos in their habitat; the species – as all tree kangaroo species – is primarily threatened by uncontrolled hunting for meat and extensive habitat destruction. The lowland tropical forests of the island had been almost completely eliminated and replaced by plantations – coffee, rice, palm oil and wheat – and farm gardens of locals; and logging continues in the montane areas for timber, mining and more agricultural land.


The Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo poster at the top of this post is available in my store on Redbubble, with design variations more suitable for apparel and other products. My whole profit goes to the Sea Shepherd to support their fight to protect our oceans and marine wildlife. 


The globe-horned chameleon – individualist of the rain forest



The globe-horned chameleon is one of the chameleon species endemic to Madagascar

Chameleons are fascinating creatures for many reasons. They have a couple of morphological features and unusual abilities that make their appearance truly unique and somewhat bizarre: their hands and feet are fixed in a grasping position to help them cling to branches – arboreal species also have a prehensile tale for that, accurately curled up like a spiral when resting; they have extra-long, extensile tongues for catching insects at a distance sometimes bigger than their own length; they have unique, bulging eyes that can turn and focus independently giving them a full 360 degree view –  they can see in both visible and ultraviolet light; and they are most recognized for their ability to change their skin coloration and pattern – contrary to popular belief, the main reason for that is not camouflage but to convey their emotions and to communicate with mates.

Chameleons come in many sizes from 15 mm up to 75 cm; many of them have variously sized and shaped casques, horns, crests or other protrusions or appendages on their heads, and spikes along their spine from neck to tail.  They have a characteristic swaying gait rocking slowly back and forth between each step taken. Unlike other animals, they continue to grow throughout their lives, shedding their old skin in pieces.



Endangered globe-horned chameleon
©Copyright Linda de Volder

These extraordinary, colorful lizards live in warm habitats – ranging from humid forests to deserts – of mainland Africa, Madagascar, southern Europe, some regions of the Arabic and Indian peninsulas and the island of Sri Lanka. From the more than 200 known chameleon species (according to the IUCN listing) 85 can be found on Madagascar. Many of them are endemic to the island – Madagascar has an 88 million years long history of relative isolation, 90 percent of its wildlife can be found nowhere else on the planet. This unique wildlife and ecosystem is severely threatened by different activities of the island’s growing human population – the globe-horned chameleon is one of Madagascar’s 28 chameleon species assessed as endangered or critically endangered.

Range: The globe-horned chameleon is endemic to Madagascar, with a current distribution range restricted to a relatively small area of around 675 km² (based on the size of the residual forest patches around the locations of confirmed sightings) in the central highlands between elevations of 1200-1500 meters.

Habitat: The residual humid montane rainforest of the central highlands. Globe-horned chameleons live in the mid-upper stories of the forest; they prefer areas with old, big trees, mossy branches and twined lianas, often alongside streams.

Calumma globifer, female

Female globe-horned chameleon
©Copyright Matthias Markolf All rights reserved

Description: The species was first described by German zoologist Albert Günther in 1879. The globe-horned chameleon belongs to the larger chameleon species: females are a bit smaller than males, with a body length of around 15/17 cm and a tail of 30/39 cm, respectively.

Globe-horned chameleons have a backwards directed flat casque on their head – the species is also known as flat-casqued chameleon -, and males have two small globular nose appendages. They don’t have spikes on their back and the scalation of their skin is heterogeneous. Their color range – as by many chameleon species – covers different shades of brown, yellow, green and gray; on their side from head to tail they have a wider horizontal stripe with variable colors and usually three or more diagonal stripes. Males have a whitish-yellowish pattern on their throats.

Calumma globifer

Close-up of a male globe-horned chameleon – also known as flat casqued chameleon – showing both eponymous features
©Copyright Matthias Markolf All rights reserved

Globe-horned chameleons – as all chameleon species – are insectivores, hunting by projecting their tongue to capture the prey. They are diurnal, live solitarily and are often aggressive towards other members of their own species, showing their emotions by rapid color change. There’s no information about the breeding and mating habits of the species, it’s only known that females lay around two dozen eggs in a clutch.

Threats:  As most chameleon species of Madagascar the globe-horned chameleon is mainly threatened by the rapid loss and degradation of the island’s original forests. The continuous deforestation of Madagascar started with the arrival of humans around 2350 years ago and accelerated rapidly in the second half of the 20th century – around 40 percent of the forest areas were lost in that period, making altogether 90 percent of the original forests gone. Forest loss is largely attributed to the traditional slash-and-burn agricultural method imported to the island by the earliest settlers, (partly illegal) logging for charcoal and construction materials, and recently the increasing demand in land suitable for cattle grazing and coffee plantations. The increased exploitation of natural resources as a repercussion of the political events of the last decade had dire consequences for the island’s wildlife and forest conservation: several species are threatened with extinction.



The Ambohitantely Forest Reserve located 140 km northwest of Antananarivo
©Copyright Ambohitantely.blogspot.com

Chameleons are popular pets all around the world and the globe-horned chameleon is also threatened by illegal trade – the legal export of all Calumma species is currently suspended on Madagascar.


The globe-horned chameleon poster at the top of this post is available in my store on Redbubble, with design variations more suitable for apparel and other products. My whole profit goes to the Sea Shepherd to support their fight to protect our oceans and marine wildlife. 


The mottled eagle ray – little known species of the oceans



The mottled eagle ray

If you spend some time browsing in the IUCN database of species you get to realize two scary and disturbing things – I mean statistically, because the database for the most part is a disturbing and infuriating read on its own… There are over 15 000 species categorized as DD (data deficient), meaning we don’t have enough information about those plants and animals to be able to assess how threatened they are; and more than 50 percent of the critically endangered and endangered species also need research on basic knowledge like life history, ecology, population size or distribution. Among them the whole diversity of wildlife is represented; they live in various habitats from forests to deserts, in land and marine regions of all biogeographical areas. These species might be easily extirpated by humankind from the planet forever without even really knowing them before – not that I would think it makes a real difference for the victims, but anyway.

One of the marine species with very deficient information is the mottled eagle ray (Aetomylaeus maculatus), assessed as endangered.



Mottled eagle rays are endangered by demersal fishing methods
©Copyright  Keith DP Wilson / CC BY-NC 2.0 

Range: Mottled eagle rays have sporadic distribution in the Indo-West Pacific along the coastal waters of the South China Sea and Indonesia, the Bay of Bengal, Sri Lanka and the Gulf of Oman. They no longer occur in the Gulf of Thailand.

Habitat: The species appears to be naturally uncommon, occurs on the inner continental shelf to depths of about 60 m over soft sandy substrate, also inhabits mangrove creeks and protected sandy channels to a depth of at least 18 m.

Description: The mottled eagle ray can grow up to 78 cm disc width, has an exceptionally long – over six times the length of the body – spineless tail and a distinctive color pattern of stripes and patches. It is an active swimmer, travelling long distances; feeds on crustaceans and mollusks. Mottled eagle rays are ovoviviparous (the embryos feed initially on yolk then receive additional nourishment from the mother by indirect absorption of uterine fluid enriched with mucus, fat or protein). The species is suspected to have a low fecundity, up to 4 offspring per litter.

Threats: The mottled eagle ray – as all marine animals in its habitat – is severely threatened by a variety of inshore demersal fishing methods (bottom trawls, gillnets, trammel nets) frequently used in its entire range. Fisheries tend to retain eagle rays as a ‘collateral catch’ and sell them to local fish markets. The high level of exploitation of these habitats combined with the low fecundity and natural rarity of the mottled eagle ray can lead to the extinction of the species very quickly.

And that’s it, we know nothing else about mottled eagle rays…



Mottled eagle rays have a distinctive color pattern of stripes and patches
©Copyright  Keith DP Wilson / CC BY-NC 2.0 


The mottled eagle ray poster at the top of this post is available in my store on Redbubble, with design variations more suitable for apparel and other products. My whole profit goes to the Sea Shepherd to support their fight to protect our oceans and marine wildlife. 

12 images for environmental awareness

Nature, wildlife, animals, and environmental awareness were a natural part of my life for as long as I can remember.

I was growing up reading Gerald Durrell’s books; with my family going every weekend on long hikes in the surrounding woods and mountains; and taking home every kinds of stray, wounded or abandoned animals from fallen, injured nestlings to baby bunnies thrown out after Easter (I have to admit though that our parents weren’t always completely enthusiastic about this habit…).
Through this connection with nature and animals, being aware of the impacts our everyday life and human activity in general has on our environment became also a part of our consciousness: my sister and I learned at a very young age about issues like the diminishing rainforests and the increasing pollution of our oceans, and about how to do our best to lessen or avoid the harm we cause to our planet.

critically endangered animals

critically endangered animals

And I remember that even as a kid I was constantly stunned – and enraged – by how little the vast majority of our peers, their parents and our teachers knew and cared about these things. I remember a particular conversation I had as a teenager trying to explain the importance of preserving the Amazon forest to my friends and I remember how they dismissed my reasoning labeled as naive, unimportant and exaggerated.

extinct animals last seen in the 20th century

extinct animals last seen in the 20th century

More than 20 years later, as humankind almost succeeded to literally smother a whole planet into its waste, with desperate warnings about global warming and plastic pollution screamed at us from the media, and internet petitions circling on Facebook, one would think this behavior has generally changed.

Well, it hasn’t. Although there has been some advancement regarding environmental awareness and there are more and more people who do everything and beyond to save and protect what is still left of the planet, most people I know aren’t even willing to collect their waste selectively.

animals endangered by human activity industrial overfishing deforestation agriculture dams

animals endangered by human activity industrial overfishing deforestation agriculture dams

I don’t get this attitude, I never will. I could go on for pages about the reasons, but it doesn’t lead anywhere. I don’t know if being appreciative of the beauty and diversity of our planet and its wildlife or feeling responsible for the harm we cause to other living beings can be taught – I can’t imagine my sister or I could have turned out any other way, and I know a lot of people who didn’t have the kind of family background we had growing up and still think the same way as we do.

My niece is about 10 years old; she loves animals and nature, knows a lot about wildlife conservation and environmental issues and does what she can on her level. But most of her friends and classmates (and their parents and teachers…) have basically no idea or just don’t think these things are important – same story again.  And I see that most of the kids would be inherently interested and would care but with the practically non-existent school education about these subjects and without proper behavior patterns from the parents it’s a lost case.

recently extinct animals 21st century

recently extinct animals 21st century

It has been my conviction for a long time that making environmental consciousness a fundamental part of education at school in every country would be crucial – but I‘m not in a position to achieve this. So – as I’m working partly in graphic design – I created my poster series about endangered and extinct animals. My main intention was to try to give a useful tool to help dedicated parents, teachers or communities who’d like to do something to get the kids’ attention and get them involved – and maybe, hopefully, their parents too (yes, I’m still naive…).

extinct bird species

extinct bird species

The poster series features 12 endangered and 12 already extinct animals. It’s not a random collection: I selected the species very thoughtfully to give the opportunity to cover as many aspects of environmental issues and wildlife conservation as possible. With the help of the posters the kids can learn about these animals and on their example it’s easy to talk about a wide range of topics: about the impacts of pollution and global warming; about how human activity like agriculture, deforestation, building dams and roads etc. changes the habitat of animals; about how overfishing and industrial fishing like netting kills marine wildlife; about poaching and holding wild animals captive for the sake of human entertainment or hobbies; about the vulnerability of islands to invasive species; about the utmost importance of clear waters; and about general things like how an ecosystem works, how can the tiniest element of a system be as significant as the biggest, and why it is so important to maintain the balance.

And, of course, about the possibilities of wildlife conservation and preserving or restoring the health of our environment: everyday acts like conscious buying choices, reducing plastic waste, recycling and sparing resources, using renewable energy; scientific methods from inventing non-polluting or biodegradable materials to resurrecting already extinct or critically endangered species by captive breeding programs and cloning.

animals endangered by illegal trade and poaching

animals endangered by illegal trade and poaching

The posters portray a wide range and diversity of species: mammals, birds, fishes, insects; amazing, cute, weird or cool animals; well known, emblematic and relatively unknown species; endemic and global species; species of islands and continents, oceans, seas and rivers, forests and grasslands, mountains and lowlands; recently and hundreds of years ago extinct animals from all around the planet.

The abbreviation and year under the name refers to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List category of the species: EX – extinct, CR – critically endangered, EN – endangered.

I made the posters available by setting up a store on RedBubble, with a small profit that goes entirely to the Sea Shepherd to support their efforts to save our oceans and marine wildlife. I’ve also made some design variations more suitable for t-shirts and other products: they are also available in the store.

animals hunted to extinction

animals hunted to extinction

Whether I believe my idea could work, and 12 images could really make any difference?
I don’t know – it’s just a tool, and without dedicated people who put their time, efforts and knowledge in using these posters they are just decoration. But even then, if a kid spends every day in a classroom with these posters on the wall it’s more likely s/he will pay attention and start to ask questions…I think at this point the only chance we have is to make sure that future generations are brought up with an attitude that makes sure they are precisely and painfully aware of the consequences of their everyday acts, that the human race is part of the intricate ecosystem of the Earth, and that each and every individual is personally responsible for the future our planet has – or doesn’t have.

endangered species with successful conservation efforts

endangered species with successful conservation efforts


I keep publishing informative posts about each species, please check the ‘Endagered and extinct animals’ category