PREMIERED at the RHODE ISland school of design summer 2016

The goal of “Wildlife Trade Art & Science” is to consider the role of global wildlife trade in species extinction and to empower the viewing public to take part in conservation. Organized by Creature Conserve, the exhibition features work by artists studying the impact of global trade on endangered species. Participating artists interviewed experts, including biologists, ecologists, veterinarians, park rangers, zookeepers, sanctuary managers, and policy-makers with the international Fund for Animal Welfare, in creating highly personal, emotionally-charged, artwork that is informed by the facts.


Each artist was given the opportunity select from a list of the most heavily traded wildlife species and start with their own self-directed research. The animal list included chimpanzees, elephants, grey parrots, lions, pangolins, red and green macaws, rhinos, sea turtles, sharks, and tigers. Next, they collaborated with show organizer Dr. Lucy Spelman to explore the topic in depth. 

The artists discovered what scientists and wildlife law experts know all too well: the trade in wildlife is driving dozens of species toward rapid extinction. This is a heartbreaking topic for many of us; it is also far more complex than we realize. Human lives and livelihoods are at stake, as well as animal lives. It is also a problem we know how to solve: we need to decrease demand for the animals being traded, stop corruption and illegal trade, and increase the amount of money we spend protecting endangered species. 


Hover on each image for more

The exhibition premiered in July 2016 at the RISD Illustration Studies Building Gallery in Providence RI.  It then moved on to the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson WY where was on display for three months during the summer of 2017 (June 24-Sep 24.)  

VIDEOS from Wildlife Trade Art and Science

Moving Object by Angela Hseih, Animation

A topic as expansive as conservation is greater than the sum of its parts, yet it must be broken down in order for us to understand it. Our conversations with IFAW experts gave me a glimpse into what I now see as a monumental and complex effort to save the pangolin. Each of the staff at IFAW has their role to play, but we as members of the public also have a responsibility. The importance of consumer education and the recognition that conservation is culture-specific has become increasingly evident, as has the understanding that ignorance can be a greater driving force behind poaching than greed. We need to make a greater effort to ensure consumers understand that while wildlife traders are making a profit because of the high price of pangolin scales and meat, the real price is the loss of this species and the damage to the ecosystem in which it lives.  

Species…Not Status by Carissa Abatabilo, Animation

The beauty of the pangolin—and the need to protect it—was my inspiration for this piece. Animals have been part of my life since I was young, and conservation is something I have been interested in since I discovered the work of Dr. Jane Goodall. As an artist, I have been eager to bridge my love of making art with my compassion for animals, but did not know how to get involved, until this exhibition. The opportunity to collaborate with IFAW has been unique and wonderful. Weekly calls with scientists and conservationists have enabled me to understand the challenges they face in the field on a daily basis, and greatly enriched this work. In this animation, I explore the texture of the pangolin’s hide, and contrast that with the texture of the environment in which it is hunted and consumed as a healing commodity in Eastern medical practice.  

Swimming in Shark Fin Soup by Lee Fearnside, Video

The process we followed for this exhibition was especially compelling for me as an artist. Often, I make my work in isolation, but the connection to scientists and IFAW staff allowed me to see how each piece fits together as part of a holistic approach to animal conservation. Listening to stories of anti-poaching activities and efforts to curb the demand for exotic species made me feel like my work was connected to something larger. Moreover, hearing a marine veterinarian talk about his own experiences with whale sharks, and hearing his passion for aquatic life, helped shape the direction of my piece. My goal with this photo-based animation is to make the audience aware that the whale shark’s life cycle is affected by not only human predation but also by human behavior. My hope is that art in this exhibition helps all of us hold on to our childhood fascination with creatures and their powers. 

Wildlife Trade Art Science Ten Animals in Trouble.jpg

PHOTOS FROM OUR OPENING RECEPTION at the rhode island school of design, JULY 15, 2016


Our postcard for the RISD opening featuring examples of some of the artwork in the show.

Our postcard for the RISD opening featuring examples of some of the artwork in the show.

Two southern white rhinos in Pilanesburg National Park, South Africa.

Two southern white rhinos in Pilanesburg National Park, South Africa.