Endangered Species

The sixth mass extinction, 65 million years after the fifth one, is happening right now! 

Notes

Endangered Species is an 18-minute lesson that explains why we’ve entered the sixth mass extinction. This extinction is different from the previous ones and it’s threatening our ecosystem, whose vitality is essential for our civilization. 

“All life on Earth today depends entirely on our actions.”

Learn FREE with videos and interactive exercises

Introduction

Video youtube

Anne uses the stories and symbology of four of her most representative installations dedicated to endangered animal species to help us understand how much we risk losing.

She describes a number of key topics to find solutions to this threat, such as the connection and interconnection between us and the biosphere, and the recognition of new international rights for animals. 

Download here the video script:

Art and Science – IMPERIAL BEE

CORSICA, FRANCE, JUNE 2015 

I could only imagine creating a Bee TimeShrine in Corsica, where I grew up. My fellow islanders have always glorified and cooperated with the honey bee. I set the abandoned honeycomb as close as possible to the hive and surrounded my artifacts with dried immortal flowers. They always seem alive. The white beekeeper suit put me in a new spatial dimension, the echoing sounds in the helmet resonating with the bees’ humming. I have grown up with the embroidered Imperial Bee, an emblem of immortality and resurrection. If you look closely you will see its honey tears. 

A DEEPER LOOK

Bees play an extremely important role in maintaining biodiversity and in nature conservation. They’re pollinating insects, who make the formation of fruits possible by carrying pollen from flower to flower. By doing so they ensure the presence of different plant species, an extremely important element in keeping nature healthy.

Without bees and other pollenating insects, supermarket shelves would hold about half of the fruits and vegetables they have now. 

On top of that, bees pollenate a wide variety of the plants that other animals rely on, from berries that are consumed by bears to seeds that are necessary to birds.

Art and Science – AREANG 1

PHNOM TAMAO WILDLIFE RESCUE CENTER, CAMBODIA, NOVEMBER 2015

They told me he was not the most beautiful. I chose him because he loved his keeper, Nick Marx the tiger whisperer. Nick didn’t think Areang would collaborate. The park was big enough that he could easily shy away. The installation fragile enough he could destroy it with the swipe of his paw. For 30 minutes he became the guardian of the TimeShrine and gifted me with the most incredible collaboration. His eyes stronger than any of my words. All tigers are beautiful. 

More tigers live now in cages than in the wild. They are being farmed, butchered, sold and commoditized.

A DEEPER LOOK

The sixth mass extinction isn’t a future problem – it’s already happening right now, much faster than previously expected. Human beings have already wiped out hundreds of species and have driven many more to the brink of extinction through the illegal trafficking of wildlife, pollution, habitat destruction and the use of toxic substances.

Today, around a million species are at risk of extinction, and for many of them, this has happened only in recent decades.

The tiger, whose scientific name is “Panthera tigris”, is the largest living feline. It was once found throughout central, eastern and southern Asia, but over the last 100 years the tiger has lost over 93% of its territory and now survives only in populations scattered in 13 countries. 

Over the course of the last century, the tiger population has plummeted from 100,000 to around 3,500. The populations in south-eastern Asia, in particular, have drastically collapsed.

The main threats to tigers are poaching for use of their body parts in traditional medicines; the loss and fragmentation of their habitat; and slayings in retaliation for attacks on livestock. 

According to some estimates, today more tigers live in cages than in the wild. They’re being farmed, butchered, sold and commoditized. 

Art and Science – GARDENERS OF EDEN I

CHANG RAI, THAILAND, FEBRUARY 2015

There is a distinctive light in Golden Triangle mornings. It’s not bright, it shines. I wasn’t looking for them, they found me. Together we stumbled upon this forest of wild banana trees. From their happiness radiated deep rays of bliss. One eternal maternity. 

A DEEPER LOOK

Elephants trample forests and dense grasslands, creating water holes and passageways used by other wildlife. Their dung not only spreads plant seeds but also helps fertilize the soil. Pachyderms’ dung is proportional to their massive size, so it’s extremely important in making the terrain more fertile.

They’re very special, with behavior much like our own, which brings them close to home for us: each animal has their own personality and their own social relationships. The bond among elephant families, the help they give one another, the care of their young is all extraordinary within the animal world. They even keep vigil after a fellow elephant dies.

Today some elephant species already risk extinction. This is confirmed by the latest assessments, which forecast drops of 50% to 80% in the elephant population within the next three generations. 

Some countries are introducing new laws that recognize animals as “sentient beings”, that is, ones capable of sense and perception and therefore able to experience feelings. If this legislation were adopted internationally it would help protect all animal species. Actually, recognition of this kind was already provided for in the Lisbon Treaty, the agreement that established broad changes in the European Union and went into effect in 2009. However, though Article 13, the one regulating the issue, asks the member states to consider the needs of animals and their wellbeing as sentient beings, it also respects each country’s laws and customs in regard to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage. 

Art and Science – SUDAN DAWN

OL PEJETA CONSERVANCY, KENYA, SEPTEMBER 2015 

I spent two days with him from dawn to dusk watching his kindness and feeling his solitude. A species that survived millions of years and all evolutions has been decimated in a decade of war, habitat loss and poaching for horn. Sudan is the extreme symbol of human disregard for nature. I will make him live on forever.

Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino on the planet, died on March 19th 2018.

A DEEPER LOOK

Rhinos once lived in the wild in many regions of Europe, Asia and Africa, but we’ve basically managed to wipe them out in less than 50 years.

Rhinos are killed mainly for their horns. Though rhinoceros horn is made of keratin, like our hair and fingernails, it’s ground up and used in traditional Asian medicines. 

It would be a big help to invest in rangers on a global scale, ensuring they have the equipment, training, support and motivation they need to effectively patrol their parks and protect the wild fauna from poachers. But rangers aren’t enough to keep poachers at bay.

Rangers need the eyes, ears, and strong support of local communities, one reason why it’s important to improve community management of natural resources and fair distribution of benefits. This would stimulate sustainable development and give communities a stake in the preservation of their wild animals.

Analysis

Analysis to be developed through individual or group research

When reading stories about poached rhinos, poisoned bees, penguins without ice and decimated large carnivores, you might have the impression that these are distant phenomena and gradual, isolated losses. But everything is interconnected. For example, without bees, not only would our diet be far more limited, but there would even be a shortage of food for other animals. It all depends on us! What kinds of changes could you adopt that would make the difference? 

Making a conscious decision of what to buy, opting for sustainable in-season products grown without the use of pesticides and whose packaging is as environmentally friendly as possible. Always checking what’s in the refrigerator and pantry to avoid wasting food. But also making our balconies and terraces greener by growing flowers and plants on them to welcome and nourish insects. For example, just think of butterfly corridors or the experimental idea of setting up apiaries on rooftops. 

Some countries are introducing new laws that recognize animals as “sentient beings”, that is, as having the capacity of sense and perception and therefore being able to experience feelings. If this legislation were adopted on an international scale it would help protect all animals species. What steps could you take to encourage your country to change its current legislation in this direction? 

Stay informed of legal developments by taking part in events and initiatives. When you go to vote, choose candidates who are attentive to environmental problems and actively work to protect animals. 

Definitions

Sixth mass extinction 

We’re undergoing the sixth major mass extinction, and scientists say we humans are what’s causing it. This extinction is happening a thousand times faster compared to the other five. Why? There are many causes, but we can name the illegal trafficking of a lot of wild animal species, habitat loss, pollution, the widespread use of chemical substances, and the climate crisis.

“Endling” 

The scientific term “endling” is used to define a living individual animal that is the last survivor of its species or subspecies and whose death will therefore mean the extinction of its species or subspecies. 

Predators and ecosystems 

Large carnivores help maintain healthy ecosystems. The direct or indirect effects of their “work” helps improve biodiversity, mitigate the effects of climate change and control illness. The presence of these animals has positive ripple effects, such as limiting herbivore numbers, which allows woody plants to thrive and store more carbon. Researchers say their absence has serious consequences for entire ecosystems.

Man-animal interconnection

The poaching of wild animals is one of the biggest problems we need to deal with in order to protect the animal world. Recent studies indicate that the level of poaching in a specific area is directly related to the quality of life of the population living nearby. Helping local communities develop sustainable livelihoods can reduce poaching and help us find solutions to improve man-animal coexistence.