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International Conservation

Sumatran Echo.JPG

Sumatran Echo. 36in x 60in. Watercolor and Ink. $6500

The last of Indonesia's tigers, the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger has less than 400 living in the wild. They are the smallest surviving tiger subspecies, distinguished by heavy black stripes on their orange coats, and are holding on for survival in the remaining patches of forests on the island of Sumatra. Despite increased efforts in tiger conservation, strengthening law enforcement and anti-poaching capacity, as well as jail time and steep fines for anyone caught hunting tigers, a substantial market remains in Sumatra and the rest of Asia for tiger parts and products. According to a survey from TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring network, poaching for trade is responsible for over 78% of estimated Sumatran tiger deaths, which amounts to at least 40 animals per year. 

Human-tiger conflict is also a serious problem in Sumatra, where habitat destruction forces tigers into human-settled areas in search of food. Their habitat has been drastically reduced by forest clearing  for agriculture plantations and human settlement. Despite intensified conservation and protection measures for the tigers, as well as punishment for illegal timber harvesting and forest conservation, there is no evidence that tiger poaching or forest clearing has significantly declined on the island since the early 1990s. Sumatran tigers are losing their habitat and prey fast, and poaching shows no sign of decline. We need to act now before these magnificent creatures become nothing more than an echo of where they once thrived. 

Photographic reference provided by Johnny Cadena. 

Eastern Surveillance

Eastern Surveillance. 36in x 60in. Watercolor and Ink. $6500. 

The Amur leopard is a rare subspecies of leopard that has adapted to life in the temperate forests of the Russian Far East. Agriculture and villages surrounding the forests where the leopards live make the animals relatively accessible, which leads to problems with poaching, habitat destruction, and the hunting of prominent prey species.  Amur leopards are poached largely for their beautiful, spotted fur, which have been found to be sold for anywhere between $500 and $1,000 (in 1999). As of 2019, scientists have estimated that there are approximately 84 Amur leopards remaining in the wild along the Primorskii Province in Russia and the Jilin Province of China. 

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has implemented a program to stop the illegal trade in Amur leopard parts with TRAFFIC to help governments enforce domestic and international trade restrictions. Amur leopards have been listed on CITES Appendix I, which prohibits all commercial trade of the species. In 2012, the Russian government declared a new protected area called the Land of the Leopard National Park, which extends nearly 650,000 acres and includes all of the Amur leopard's breeding areas. The park is also currently home to 10 endangered Amur tigers. Although conservation efforts are progressing, there is still much to do to ensure that the Amur leopard's population continues to grow and is sustained throughout its former landscape. 

Photographic reference provided by Emmanuel Keller at Wildlife Reference Photos. 

Basking Condor

Basking Condor. 36in x 48in. Watercolor and Ink. $5200.

The California condor is the largest flying bird in North America and can soar as high as 15,000 feet. It once occupied an expansive range that extended from the far east of Florida and New York to California and was considered sacred by Native Americans. When European settlements began to spread across North America, the condor population began to decline. In 1967, the species was listed as endangered due to lead poisoning, the spread of pesticides, and habitat destruction. Conservation efforts for the California condor began in 1980, and by 1992 the first captive-bred condors were being reintroduced into the wild. There were only 27 condors left in 1987, but by the end of the 1990s, the population had grown to 161 California condors. 

On July 12, 2019, the 1,000th chick was born in the California Condor Recovery Program. 

Thanks to current breeding programs, there are more than 300 condors in the wild; however, the birds still remain critically endangered. Their populations are still low and considered unstable due to accidental death from power lines, habit destruction, and human-animal conflict. Their biggest threat from humans was lead ammunition, which California banned in 2013 and was in full effect in 2019. Although the breeding program has been extremely successful, it is still up to us to heal our relationship with the planet and continue to establish healthy habitats in order for these beautiful birds to survive. 

Photographic reference provided by Liz Sauer.

This conservation series was born in August 2019 out of my passion for conservation and love for the animals of the planet. I wanted to create large, striking paintings that not only got the viewer's attention, but also taught them something in the process; for I believe that education and empathy can truly change the planet. 

My current style of work was actually created from a series of failed attempts to adhere a large sheet of watercolor paper to a 36in x 60in wood panel. The paper kept buckling, creasing, bubbling - anything you can imagine going wrong did. I attempted to adhere the paper three times (and had to sand the paper off after each attempt) before going back to the drawing board. I had to paint these portraits this size - so I had some thinking to do. Eventually, I came up with the idea of adhering small squares of watercolor paper to the board instead of one large sheet. This not only worked to my advantage of creating a nice grid for me to draw from, but also added a flair of texture and surprise as people got closer to the painting. Each painting is completed in watercolor, and ink stippling with colored micron pens is added over the top to add extra detail and texture. 

At this time, I am working on pushing this series further and seeing what I can do with other mediums, types of paper, and textiles, and you can now follow this journey on my blog! 

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