The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Peccary Specialist Group recently enlisted the voluntary help of artists to raise awareness of the White-lipped Peccary (Tayassu pecari), which is increasingly threatened by habitat loss and hunting. The creativity and generosity of the artists resulted in over 38 artworks showcasing a wide range of artistic styles, and capturing the peccary’s social behaviour, environment and charm.
“The artworks will contribute to environmental education and conservation efforts throughout the many Latin American countries where the species is threatened,” said IUCN SSC Peccary Specialist Group and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Brazil member, Alexine Keuroghlian, who came up with the idea.
White-lipped Peccaries occur from southern Mexico to northern Argentina and are important indicators of healthy forests and ecosystems. The species plays an important role as prey for large felines and in the function and structure of Neotropical forests as a major predator and disperser of seeds. White-lipped Peccaries are classified as Vulnerable on The IUCN Red List due to an ongoing population decline estimated to be close to 30% over the past three generations (18 years). Habitat loss, illegal hunting and disease pose major threats to the species, which has also suffered from sudden unexplained population crashes and local extinctions in several areas.
Artist Kitty Harvill, well-known for her wildlife and conservation-themed artwork, manages a Facebook group on which she challenges fellow artists to submit artworks of a particular threatened species every week. Every Monday, Kitty posts a new photograph of a species and invites members to spend an hour or two creating a quick, loose, experimental painting from that photo.
“I've been communicating with Kitty for some time, and was desperately looking for some nice paintings and artwork for our WCS Brazil White-lipped Peccary community outreach program. There are not a whole lot of peccary artworks out there. So I sent her some pictures and asked her what she thought of the idea of using the White-lipped Peccary as a challenge for her ‘52 weeks - Nature Painting Challenge’ group,” said Alexine Keuroghlian.
Kitty graciously accepted Alexine’s request and submitted a call for White-lipped Peccary art, resulting in a whole collection of diverse and beautiful works which can all be viewed on the IUCN SSC Peccary Specialist Group’s Facebook page.
“This week has been very special, and has shown us not only the beautiful work of our members, but more importantly their beautiful spirit of embracing this cause of the peccaries with such an abundance of creativity and generosity - giving of time and talent to help raise awareness of the desperate need at this time for the Nature on our planet,” said Kitty Harvill.
Inspired by the successful White-lipped Peccary campaign, other IUCN SSC members also approached Kitty and requested artworks of the Giant Armadillo, the Barbary Macaque, the Wattled Curassow, and most recently, the anteaters. Many of the artists are willing to donate their paintings, and Flávia Miranda, Deputy Chair of the IUCN SSC Anteater, Sloth, and Armadillo Specialist Group, is currently planning an art exhibition to potentially raise funds for threatened species. The electronic versions of all artworks have been made available to the IUCN SSC Specialist Groups to use in their conservation programs and educational material.