Illustrating extinction

WAWA Conservation recently teamed up with Illustraciencia, an organisation that tutors artists in scientific nature illustrations. With this new collaboration, Illustraciencia launched a brand-new course to teach students how to illustrate engaging storyboards for children. Illustraciencia were looking for both scientific advice and general input for the students as they progressed through the course alongside a set of species for their students to focus on. In true WAWA style, we chose four weird and wonderful species: the maleo, Mary River turtle, cork-bark leaf-tail gecko and the saola.

Cork-bark leaf tailed Gecko by Lucia Rozas @joyaborealis

Why did WAWA choose these species; what are their weird and wonderful traits? The maleo is a communal nesting bird that incubates in geothermal sands, cooking their eggs until they’re just right. The Mary River turtle is often known as the punk turtle, owing to its algae hairdo, which also breathes through its butt. The Asiatic Unicorn or saola is so rare and mystical, it has never actually been seen by biologists in the wild. The cryptic cork-bark leaf-tail gecko camouflages so perfectly that it is practically invisible and was only identified by science in 2004. These special species are amongst the rarest and most genetically unique species on the planet.

Maleo by Marina Madrigal @meligram

The maleo and saola are both classed as critically endangered, and whilst the cork-bark leaf-tail gecko and Mary River turtle (that’s a mouthful) have slightly better endangered statuses, both their population sizes are unknown and thought to be decreasing. Simply put, all four of these species face a genuine threat of extinction. However, collaborations between organisations such as ours with Illustraciencia could help these species and others like them.

Saola by Loes Roos @artbyloesroos

Through their course, Illustraciencia’s students have produced charming and engaging storyboards, each able to share the special traits of their animal in a way that children can understand and connect with. These species are brought to life through characters such as Leo and Cleo the maleos and Georgie the gecko. By sharing this new material for these relatively unknown species, we hope to gain support for them and raise awareness and funds for their conservation.

Mary River Turtle by Barbara Gonzalez @anbarbaraa

At WAWA, we are beginning to build a fundraiser for one of these species, with our new illustrations being at the core of our communications. Engaging young people adds a new element to our work and we are excited for the new direction that we can develop with the help of Illustraciencia. We’d like to thank Illustraciencia for their fantastic role in this unique collaboration and, of course, all the students. It has been a delight being part of the process as they created their pieces, and we appreciate the work and dedication behind every illustration.

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