Category Archives: endangered species

Caught! The Spanish Imperial Eagle

The following is a long-term project, intended to be interactive and multi-platformed, that I am working on when not busy with other things. The scope of it is massive, but it begins quite humbly in these samples:

This is an invitation to take part in a planet-sized story.

The immense and recent popularity of animals in photographs and videos in social media, suggests a level of global caring and wonder—and humor—of which we were unaware before the internet.

Animals make us laugh, at times through our tears. There is a massive call to action to save endangered species. On Twitter alone, dozens of organizations and thousands of individuals are taking part in the effort; financial aid, increased action to halt activities such as poaching and trafficking, destruction of habitat and ecosystems, as well as the closing of zones of demand that require captivity and cruelty. Animals are penetrating the social bloodstream at a speed impossible before the internet, teaching us to open fresh eyes for their value, their brilliance, and beauty. And disappearance.

Every dog one meets on the street, it seems, was rescued from a shelter. We join in this mission with illustrations accompanied by short stories from the perspective of the animals.. The working title is Caught!

Global issues happen somewhere else. Our environmental crises are too vast for anything we do to be of consequence. Or so we believe. This book of illustrations and short stories offers a small window of possibility. a fingertip of contact, the start of a relationship.

This project focuses on letting the animals talk, getting each endangered creature under your skin with their side of the story, based on facts about their daily struggle. In these first-person narratives these creatures have been endowed with self-awareness, and the capacity for reflection. They have names and homes, they have family and friends.

The narrative is not militant, political, or activist. It is a socially conscious, one-inch step into a forbidding future. As one goes about coloring, one shares the troubles told in each story, in addition to the meditative restfulness that has popularized coloring.

Looking after our planet is not solely a job for big organizations and massive change, but asks, more pointedly, for the participation of the individual. This is how ordinary people create real change in any arena. This book is just a beginning and the project may appear on a different platform. A venue to add to the conversation and benefit the collective — to participate in a new consciousness.

We have all been softened by an extraordinary act by an animal, shown to us on someone’s phone. This is the first time these two ideas, planetary and personal, exist in the same heartbeat.

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There was a loud “owk!” and a sudden thud and something hit the ground. l stared into the layers of dense vegetation below, agitated, my head twitching, my eyes darting about. On the ground something struggled and struggled again but I could only see the large dark leaves shiver, like a trap, something was trapped. Then quiet.

High in this tall oak tree my mate Isbel is beside me. She has dark flight feathers, light -colored shoulders, and white flashes on the tips of her wings. She’s a dream in flight, flat V-shaped wings seem to just hang from the sky. Home is a nest on a big knotty branch, in the deep woods of these hills in Central Spain. Monogamous, we are fierce defenders of our nest against attack by other raptors.

We continued tearing the rabbit meat into small pieces for the chicks. Rabbits are abundant here now and no humans are anywhere nearby. Eagles have been shot, poisoned, caught in traps, and electrocuted close to extinction.

I was a bold young eagle with intolerant parents. Thrown from the nest at six months I’ve somehow escaped electrocution, the most dangerous threat we face. The live wires on the pylons almost always kill juveniles and females, keeping the population low. You might think there are tens of thousands of us, but there are just 230 pairs left in Spain. Why are we in such danger?

One reason is the ripping down of habitat with groaning metal machines. Roads, farms, buildings grow from nowhere and so we flee to new nests, in trees far away.

Humans turn the land upside down. No breeding and hatching will happen. Rabbits simply disappear. In the nineties a deadly viral disease hit the rabbit population and it was as if rabbits had suddenly become extinct. A catastrophic shortage of food for eagles, and our numbers plummeted.

In open areas, people who run game breeding farms deliberately poison eagles. We might find small animals recently shot. Lead hunting ammunition is used which we swallow without knowing it. Those who eat die painfully and slowly from lead poisoning.

So life is not luxury in the shady trees. Life is a flying emergency.

I left the perch after awhile, making a long slow swoop to my right to see what had happened below. In the dark shade under the leaves I found our friend Madero, on her side, completely still. My guess is she brushed a pylon while hunting, was badly shocked and it threw off her balance and navigation. Almost at her nesting tree she hit a low branch hard, and went down. High up I heard the familiar call of her mate, Novio. “Owk!” “Owk!”

Caught! El Jefe

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I am the only jaguar in the United States. No others exist. My name is El Jefe. I roam around the Santa Rita mountains near Tucson Arizona, mostly at night, and mostly in secret. No human has ever seen me. Except with their little hidden  cameras. I live with a single threat. People who want to kill me. Mainly cattle ranchers. Looking down over there at herds of livestock when I’m up here and hungry, I’m going in for a kill. Cows don’t even fight. For me that’s a big piece of meat.

I am the most powerful of all the big cats, and only the lion and tiger are bigger.

I kill my prey in a different way. I bite deep into the skull right between the ears, crushing the brain. My jaw power is fearsome. The ranchers regard me with terror. My fear is getting shot.

I remain alone, I don’t want friends or need members of my tribe. All I want is immense space, hundreds of square miles. Jungle or desert, same thing.

I settled in these Arizona mountains by wandering off from the others in Mexico. When a group of jaguars are together it’s called a jamboree. You might see that in Mexico and further south, Honduras, Guatemala, and the Amazon. Those places have their problems too. In my area they want to build a giant copper mine. That will destroy the  habitat.

I am a great tree climber of trees and can settle on a limb for a nap. If I find a pool I’m a proud fast swimmer and I will kill a fish with a slap of my paw.

I eat eighty kinds of prey. And if it’s the kind that puts up a fight and starts kicking, they kick me in the belly where I have soft, loose fur. I don’t get hurt.

People have done the most damage. There is one story you should know. Before I arrived on the scene there was just one jaguar here in Arizona. His name was Macho B. The Fish and Game Service, who are supposed to protect us, set a trap for Macho B. They caught him and shot him full of tranquilizers. A collar was put around his neck.  Some weeks later they noticed that Macho B was not moving, not walking. It turned out that their trap had mangled his leg so horribly he could not walk, He was also suffering from the side effects of the tranquilizers. So they hauled him into a plane, flew him far away to a hospital and killed him.

As for me, I’m young and healthy and may start wandering again. Remember my name, El Jefe. School kids gave me that name. It means ’The Boss’.

Caught! The Marine Iguana

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I’m waiting for Hurley to come out of the water. It’s freezing in there today and he stays in so long.  I watch him, the big iguana, he’s tough, but he’s old, slowing down. We all have to wait to warm up after the water. We stand still for quite a long while. Then we head to the rocks.

But today we have a problem.

Here comes Hurley now, one, two, three steps and stops. A slab of red seaweed is sticking out  the side of his mouth. He stops chewing. One heavy bad-mood eye fixes itself on the visitors.

Two girls and three boys are here from the hotel. Their idea of fun is to use a lot of beach. It’s too much energy on this nesting ground. We have our eggs buried like a minefield, under a thin layer of sand. So people playing here is never good. More stress. An egg is going to crack. Just wait.

Day before yesterday a hawk must have been high up there, circling. Suddenly we heard this rushing sound, and here comes the hawk, headlong down like a bullet. Hits the sand like a bomb all monster wide wings and massive feet, pounding the nest sucking up three babies  from smashed shells and he’s gone, woo-woo woo-woo with the wings, a well-fed, fearless climb. He came so fast, just terrifying.

The stress is wiping us out.

We swim to get the best food. People swim for no reason whatsoever. It’s not only the people that scare us — it’s the dogs, the cats and rats, scratching away the sand, crushing the baby shells, and eating our Galapagos children. At night, when the stars are bright and we look like shadows, the old iguanas tell their tales. Once this beach had ten thousand lizards. Now we are eight hundred. Every egg is a new baby, tiny and black and each one lost is forever. 

The night gets blacker, the stars turn away, there is no moon. It begins to rain.

David Attenborough’s Planet Earth ranks as one of the all-time great nature documentaries, an epic journey that took viewers to ice worlds and rainforests and down into caves to reveal the stunning biodiversity of this planet. And now, the BBC is out with a sequel, aptly titled Planet Earth II, which promises even more spectacle—and shiny new technologies to pull viewers deeper into the action.

Above you’ll find the first of six behind-the-scenes videos the BBC is releasing as companions to the new series. But not just any videos: These are 360-degree films. Click and drag on the picture and you can actually look around as the crew works its magic.