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 book 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. This coloring book joins in this mission. The working title is Caught!

This project stands alone, I believe, in being issue-driven, perhaps the first coloring book to connect with global crises. Action and participation are built into the book. The activity of coloring world-class illustrations combined with a short, fact-based story, lends authority and meaning to the art of coloring and is impossible to ignore.

It should break the reader’s heart in under five hundred words.

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.

To color an animal is to fall in love.

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 a venue to add to the conversation and benefit the collective — to participate in a new consciousness.

Coloring books have, up to now, not entered this domain of possibility. The audience is the very same that oohs and aahs at amazing animal pictures and unbelievable videos. 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!”


Also published on Medium.

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