Just a day to go before the online exhibition and announcement of winner of the title Wildlife Artist of the Year 2022 Wow I am so looking forward to this prestigious event and so proud to be a shortlisted artist. The last time I was shortlisted was in 2016 which resulted in a sale of the painting and voted as the Peoples Choice winner. The event this year will be held online and starts at 6.30pm UK time so with the time difference it will be 3am in the morning in Australia but worth being up in the middle of the night for I think !
So absolutely thrilled to have been shortlisted for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year 2022 in the UK for my Tasmanian Devil painting - Fire Rebirth & Hope. This prestigious wildlife art exhibition attracts artists around the world and the standard is very high.To have been chosen out of more than 1600 entries is so exciting and a true endorsement of my aim to create interesting art that tells a story. The terrible bush fires in recent times have been totally catastrophic for wildlife with millions perishing in blazes including Tasmania where the devils live. Already facing habitat loss due to logging and fighting a dreadful facial tumor disease these fiesty little animals are listed as endangered. Huge efforts have been made to save them and progress is being made but the road to full recovery is long. I just hope they make it.
Numbats are pint sized Australian marsupials that have faced down some serious threats to their existence but these brave little battlers are hanging on. Predated by cats and foxes and surviving habitat loss there is promising evidence there is hope. Weighing a tiny 500g these distinctive striped cuties hunt for food during the day eating an astounding 20,000 termites a day. They only live up to about 5 years and their habitat is Western Australia.
This recent commission was the first time I have ever drawn a horse so it was definitely a challenge. Such a different animal to my big cats and I can really appreciate why they are considered a complicated and difficult animal to accurately portray but I totally enjoyed the process. This horse was called 'Rebel' and the lady who commissioned it said he had the kindest eyes she had ever known in a horse so that became my focus, to get those kind eyes just right. Drawing is my happy place I think.
Conflict between wild animals and impoverished people is a reality of the African bush. The sad news of the death of Hukumuri a much photographed and loved leopard has highlighted this reality. He was only 9 years old but his presence in and around a poor village where he had killed livestock was his death sentence. He was shot by authorities as a last resort it has been reported.
Few animals divide opinions quite like the dingo, Australias native dog and top predator. Most farmers hate them for killing or attacking their sheep and predating calves and other vulnerable animals. Since the outback was farmed bounties were put on the dingo's head to reduce their numbers but they persist because of their intelligence and resilience. It's thought that they came to Australia around 4,000 years ago with the Sulawesi hunters and gatherers. They are opportunistic and eat small native mammals and some feral animals and will forage for leftovers left by humans. A dingo famously took baby Azaria Chamberlain in 1980 which went down in history as one of the most incredible cases in Australias legal history. So it does prove their opportunistic nature but I wonder if their reputation as killers of farm animals is really deserved.
It has been reported that three Western lowland gorillas have tested positive to Covid at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Almost certainly they have contracted it from a positive human contact. Other animals have tested positive during the pandemic such as tigers, dogs, cats and mink. No evidence has shown humans have caught the virus from animals to date but we have given it to them.
We all know 2020 was a tough year and not just for humans suffering a global pandemic. Animals have also suffered but there were some good news stories that give us hope that perhaps attitudes to wild and captive animals are shifting due to the effects of the pandemic. There were rays of hope in America with prosecutions of people illegally trafficking and mistreating tigers when the so called Tiger King faced numerous charges for his mistreatment of animals. Please let the respect for animals grow and bring pressure to bear on countries to make changes to their laws to protect the beautiful creatures of this world.
The planet is already in trouble with so many animals and diverse species facing extinction. Why ? because of human population which shows no signs of slowing down. The thought that by 2050 90% of all land animals could lose part or all of their habitat to make may for agriculture to feed us is shocking to me. Do we really have the right to do this ? Don't animals have the right to live just like us ? How can this fragile planet heaving with humans continue to sustain this unstoppable populating. David Attenborough had it right when he commented that this is the reason for the so much loss of the natural world and yet no one ever seems to talk about what can be done to address it. Indeed what can be done ?
America is a haven for people who exploit animals to make a living. Road side zoos are just one such way big cats are kept in awful conditions as attractions for the public. Only this year the TV show Tiger King was very popular but now the star and owner has been charged with a raft of crimes including wildlife trafficking and cruelty to his animals. Along with members of his own family owners of other facilities have also been charged and I am overjoyed to hear it. These people don't care about animals and should never be allowed to own them let alone big cats. They are only about glorifying themselves at great misery and suffering to the beautiful animals that deserve so much better. Thumbs up to the authorities that brought this miserable excuse of a human being down.
For the first time in 3000 years Tasmanian Devils are living on mainland Australia. The conservation group Aussie Ark have reintroduced 26 of the animals into a safe environment near Sydney and apparently they are thriving. After being wiped out on the mainland it's thought from marauding packs of dingoes they are now only found in Tasmania where populations of them have been decimated by the awful mouth cancer which leads to a miserable death. Hope though as they seem to be able to fight back from the brink. It's thrilling to think Australia might again see healthy populations of this feisty little predator.
With the world in some form of lockdown or another due to Coronavirus it is interesting to note that the animal world remains as yet unaffected. Isolated exceptions exist but these are cases with a direct link to humans either in zoos, domestic, or captive breeding situations. Let's hope it stays that way. There is absolutely no evidence that animals can give the virus to us but we can give it to them. The thought that this virus could affect the animal world is too awful to contemplate with so many species already struggling to survive. The emergence of this virus shows how important it is to put an end to the illegal trade in animals worldwide because it's through this trade the virus began anyway along with others such as SARS. We have mistreated abused and exploited wildlife to breaking point and it must stop. Perhaps this current pandemic will bring about and end at long last.
Shame on the US for it's disgusting trade in giraffe body parts. It's not just asian countries driving animals to the brink of extinction but a wealthy country that obviously has a thriving trade in souvenirs and trophies of these beautiful towering African animals. It probably shouldn't surprise anyone actually when you consider the leadership or should I say lack of it. Trump is no lover of the environment of animals so why would be do anything to stop this ghastly trade. Over 40 years the populations of these amazing unique animals has plummeted by 40%. Bones used to make knife handles, cowboy boots, bible covers and even a stuffed baby giraffe were all uncovered in an investigation into the trade which highlights how much in need these creatures are of protections and the clamping down of this senseless and horrifying profiteering.
Vietnam is set to bring in strong measures to eliminate the illegal trade in wildlife in the wake of the Corona virus. So much of the miserable suffering of animals and their exploitation stems from Asian countries so if some of them start to change their policies and create harsh measures to stop this unacceptable trade then it has to be a good thing. Is it all talk or will they actually follow through ? China has also declared similar bans and if they also follow through it surely will be a gigantic step to ending the crisis that wildlife faces especially Pangolins Elephants Rhino and the bones of big cats.
The mighty jaguar is facing a poaching crisis as so many other big cats have. Growing numbers of these magnificent animals of Latin America are being poached and their body parts sold in a country that shows at least 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. With poverty comes the need to survive any way they can and wildlife becomes the target of ready cash. It doesn't help that the country has a president that cares little for the wildlife. The jaguar is a symbol national identity and yet is vulnerable to exploitation in an ever increasing human population where people just don't have the luxury of caring about the wild and the creatures in it. In a place where one poached jaguar is worth the same as 20Kg of gold it's not hard to understand the motivation to hunt and kill them which is a desperately sad situation.
In the aftermath of Corona Pangolins the most trafficked animal on the planet could just be getting a desperately needed lifeline. In 2020 the list of approved medicines that has included Pangolins for the past 10 years is not listed. These animals now have a Class 1 rating which is the same as the much loved Panda. The origins of Corona virus still seems to be the wet markets of China where so many wild animals including Pangolins are sold for food. Pangolins could just get the benefit of being the suspect of the outbreak in the minds of a lot of Chinese people who previously would've eaten their meat or used the scales. If it means these defenseless creatures get a chance to live without persecution and probable extinction it can only be a good thing.
It's not surprising that some of the greatest human minds such as the late Stephen Hawking believe humanity will destroy itself with greed ignorance and stupidity. Personally I've felt this conviction for decades. The idea that the earth has unlimited resources and that we can keep taking from it and killing the animals within it forever without paying the ultimate price is incredibly stupid. Our planet is our home a precious wonderland that was once filled with so much of beauty, a magical universe of diverse animal and plant life that is now under increasing threat of total destruction. This world can't go on indefinitely and survive without humanity making some effort to value what we have and look after it. Greed is killing our own existence as we pillage and plunder whatever the nature can supply as if we don't need it, that it's only use is to make money or exploit in in some way. But we are wrong. The air we breathe the water we drink the rainforests the oceans every bit of it is part of a whole that enables us to survive. Without it we will perish and sadly it seems perhaps too late already.
There can be no better time to address the awful trade in wild animals for human consumption than now. As the world is reeling from the effects of Corona we all need to take action to stop the unacceptable trade that devastates wild species to the point of extinction and leads to potential pandemics. When we get over Corona what else will loom on the horizon as a result of continuing to plunder the wild for food.
As the Corona pandemic spreads relentlessly around the world Jane Goodall speaks about the causes. The way we have used the environment and the animals in it exploiting natural resources leaving wildlife with less and less has caused what I would describe as a day of reckoning. This pandemic is as a result of our own activities and what conservationist biologists and naturalists have been warning about for decades. The harvesting of wild animals and the slaughtering of them in open wet markets of Asia must be stopped for the good of not just mankind but the earths beautiful wild animals as well.
Amid the Corona pandemic we have news that should concern all of us who care deeply about big cats and their survival. At a zoo in Bronx a Malayan tiger now extinct in the wild has been found positive to the virus. That this virus can now be considered able to jump from human to big cat is a very worrying scenario. At a time when big cats are struggling to survive this is potentially devastating. How could it be controlled once it got into the wild ? It couldn't.
In all the gloom around the horrifying rate of extinctions it's nice to get some good news. Probably the most high profile animal is the tiger that faced almost certain extinction prior to protections being put in place in the mid 20th century. That doesn't mean they aren't threatened. New threats replace old ones for the tiger such as the illegal logging that not only destroys habitat but allows access into the forests for vehicles and people. Constant vigilance is needed to protect all the vulnerable creatures and we can make a difference if we care enough to act to save them.
After the devastating bushfires of December 2019 there is something to celebrate. Some of the rescued koalas have just been returned to the wild following rain that has brought growth to the trees. Three males and five females of which 4 were carrying joeys were rescued and taken into care. The radio collars the animals were wearing made it possible to find them prior to the fires and get them out to safety. Tracking their movements from now will provide better understanding on how they adapt to their environment following the fires and to plan for a future that will almost certainly mean more fire events as the climate warms.
The mass poisoning of 1000 Hooded vultures in Guines-Bassiau Africa is a tragedy. These birds are already critically endangered due mostly to deliberate poisoning or accidental from strychnine used to kill other animals that provide the carcasses they feed on. The area where the birds have been killed in in political turmoil so it's hardly surprising efforts to control this situation is almost impossible. These birds are a vital part of the African landscape but it seems they are arrive at the carcasses of poached animals very quickly which alerts authorities so they become a target of extermination. These amazing great birds have a vital role to play in a healthy eco system cleaning up waste. Yet another example of what seems almost like a war on wildlife.
Australian women are making a carving a name for themselves making amazing documentaries to highlight the plight of wildlife and the wonders we risk losing unless humanity takes action now. Women such as Valerie Taylor who helped change our perception about sharks making documentaries with her husband Ron for decades. It seems appropriate that we celebrate these amazing women for what they are contributing in terms of showing us the plight of wildlife and our oceans that are facing ever increasing struggles to survive. It's International Womens Day Sunday 8th a time to reflect on the achievements of women passionate about wildlife and our environment.
The trade in wild animals poached from the wild is an enormous problem and a very lucrative one that must be addressed if the planet is to have any hope of ensuring the survival of the wild for the future. Primates are taken for food the pet trade and entertainment. That a live african primate can fetch between 1 and 8 million on the international market gives some indication of the scale of the monetary gains made in the trade. It is estimated that as many as 150,000 primates are poached from Nigeria and Cameroon every year as bushmeat. It's a shocking statistic that can leave no doubt that these species are under extreme threat.