Just off the easel
The Ghost in the Mountains
acrylic mixed media on canvas
90cm x 90cm
Without a doubt this painting has been my most experimental. Using a combination of acrylic paint, stencilling, torn and printed paper, it has challenged my creativity to the limit. I wanted to say something about the rugged habitat of Central Asia and the ancient cultures that these elusive beautiful and shy cats share with man. Increasingly endangered these cats are hunted for their striking skins and their bones are used in Chinese medicine. The snow leopards prey is primarily wild goats and sheep but they have been known to attack domestic animals and are often killed by herders defending their animals. Huge efforts are being made to educate indigenous people in ways to protect their livestock and not kill these stunning cats. Pressure to survive also comes from depleted prey species such as Ibex and Baral sheep that are killed by recreational hunters.
Tiger numbers on the increase. For a change some good news. In a world where it seems almost all wildlife faces some threat or another I was thrilled to read that Bengal tiger numbers have grown. Plundered and hunted all through the 20th century to the present day any increase in their numbers no matter how small is wonderful news. It's all down to authorities acting to protect these beautiful animals from the ever present threat of poaching which sadly will probably never be eradicated. As demand for the tiger bones, body parts and skins grow and prices climb it's not hard to see why poachers get involved in this ghastly trade. Serious global efforts to save tigers from extinction are showing that they are actually starting in recover and I applaud all the hard working dedicated people who have helped make this happen.
Just to prove that attitudes can be changed remember the awful days when it was high fashion to wear animals skins ? Now you would risk abuse and condemnation stepping out in a leopard skin coat but back in the 50' and 60's animal skins were very fashionable and a status symbol of wealth and privilege. It all changed with campaigns to bring about awareness of the plight of the beautiful animals being killed like leopards. Sadly leopards and tigers in Asia and India they are still plundered for their gorgeous coats but it's more black market than high fashion. Can we hope that a sustained campaign against hunting animals for pleasure may also bring about awareness that it's absolutely not ok just like it wasn't ok to wear a skin ? I certainly hope so. It does seem that there are many individuals and governments globally looking at this issue in a new light after the worldwide shock and horror felt about the death of Cecil the lion at the hands of a rich American dentist. A groundswell of feelings can change attitudes of that I am sure.
These women deserve a medal. They are part of an almost all female anti poaching unit putting their lives on the line to protect wildlife. They are called the Black Mamba Anti Poaching Unit and bravely go where many wouldn't. It's great to see women at the forefront of the battle against poaching so committed to saving the wildlife that is so at risk.
The idea of reintroducing the Tasmanian Devil to the Australian mainland where it was wiped out by dingoes around 3000 years ago seems to offer some solutions to the feral species problem. Dingoes were blamed for livestock losses so were hunted and killed and continue to be regarded as a pest by a lot of farmers. The loss of any real population of apex predators in the Australian environment has left the country at risk of a takeover by feral cats and foxes. Could the feisty Tassie Devil be the answer ? Since this species is also at risk from a terrible facial cancer in Tasmania efforts have been made to breed successfully a population in a safe environment that could be released back into the wild ensuring their survival. Why not take the idea a step further and reintroduce them to the mainland if they can also help the chronic problem of cats and foxes that are all but wiping out many small vulnerable and defenceless animals that are just no match for these highly skilled hunters.
I wonder how many people know about palm oil and the catastrophic impact vast clearing of sensitive rainforest habitat goes on to grow it. Not only that the animals suffer too. In Sumatra and Borneo thousands of hectares of pristine rain forest has been systematically destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations leaving nowhere for the animals to go. Sumatran tigers, orangutans, elephants, asian rhino just to name a few are all endangered animals living in a shrinking habitat. Palm oil is a cheap ingredient in many of our household cleaners soaps and foods. In fact it's used in everything from biscuits to shampoo and it seems the global appetite for it is insatiable. Look at your labels next time you go for your groceries. Choosing products that say 'Palm Oil' free means you are doing something to helping stop driving the unsustainable palm oil market. Massive deforestation on this scale will see many already endangered animals disappear within 20 years if nothing is done to stop this. Say NO to palm oil. Click here to see Palm oil products.
The heat is on the power brokers of the world to step up and start taking some serious measures to bring an end to the horrific trade in wild animals and poaching. It's about time tough measures were put in place to protect the animals in Africa from the relentless exploitation threatening to send them to the brink of extinction. In the wake of the awful death of Cecil many new measures are being put in place to do more to save elephants, rhino and lions. Poaching wildlife is in my opinion one of the biggest issues facing humanity and must be brought under control before some of these threatened species numbers are so decimated the populations aren't viable. To consider that an elephant is poached for it's ivory every 15 minutes is a truly horrifying statistic and explains why their numbers have plummeted from hundreds of thousands to perhaps a mere 30,000 - 40,000 animals. It is criminal that this situation has been allowed to flourish for so long, that this trade in ivory funds terrorism which in turn affects all of us threatening our very survival. I don't believe that we can afford to look at it any other way.