Tuesday, March 3, 2009
I had the chance to do several cards for the Endangered Ark Playing Card deck, which featured 52 different endangered animal species done by a variety of artists. A portion of the deck's proceeds were donated to charities dedicated to helping endangered wildlife.
"Cheetah" & "Condor - Number Nine"
I feel really lucky to have had the chance to paint the California condor for the Endangered Ark card deck.
I feel even more lucky to have had the chance to see them in the wild. But most of all, I feel luckiest that I was born in world where thanks to the dedicated efforts of a few determined individuals, I can still drive down the 1 in California and catch a fleeting glimpse of one of the coolest birds to ever grace the skies.
In 1987, there were only 22 Californian condors left in the world. The folks at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles zoo caught all of the remaining birds in an effort to conserve the species. Through their selective breeding and release program, they have risen the population to 327 birds, over half of which are in the wild today.
"Amur Tiger" & "African Wild Dog - Dust Dogs"
Siberian (aka Amur/Manchurian/Ussuri) tigers are a rare, critically endangered subspecies of tigers, found only in the Amur region of the far east.
Today, there are an estimated 400 to 500 Siberian tigers in the wild, and their population seems stable. While there is a very successful captive breeding program, there is little to zero chance of reintroducing captive bred tigers back into the wild. This makes it imperative to protect their natural habitat if Siberian tigers are to continue to exist outside of zoos and private collections.
The African Wild Dog is known by many names, including Cape Dogs, Hunting Dogs, Painted Wolves and Spotted Dogs. They are an extremely social pack hunting canine native to Africa.
At once point, there were 500,000 Wild Dogs in the wild, some ranging in packs of 100 animals. Now, there are only 3,000-2,500 left. They are endangered due mainly to hunting from ranchers and habitat loss, which forces them in direct competition with lions and hyenas. They are also very susceptible to introduced diseases such as distemper, parvovirus and rabies. Due to their extremely social nature, these diseases spread through their numbers like wildfire.
For the Endangered Ark Card Deck, I also did the two jokers--both of which are the opposite of endangered.
"Brown Rat" & "Red Fox"
It is a very adaptable and intelligent animal, and as a species, thrives in proximity to man. While they likely originated in the plains of Asia, China and Mongolia, the brown rat rapidly spread throughout the rest of the world in the Middle Ages by stowing away on boats and following human migration trails. The brown rat first appeared as early as 1553 in England, and today, it is speculated there is 81 million brown rats in the UK, making it 1.3 rats per person.
Taking second place to feral house cats, the red fox is one of Australia's most problematic invasive predator. They were originally brought over in 1855 from Europe for the purpose of recreational hunting. Since then, their numbers have exploded, estimated around 7 million animals. They are responsible for the decline of many small marsupials, including the numbat. The fox is a very adaptable, elusive and prolific animal, and as such, is nearly impossible to contain or control. It continues to decimate populations of native species and there is no foreseeable solution.