|Be Fruitful and multiply: Ornithoptera victoriae||
These recent paintings illustrate one of my ways of dealing with the appalling destruction of environments and wild life that humans are presently causing. It is not new. It has been happening throughout history.
A few examples:
The Assyrians wrote of the many thousands of Asiatic Lions they hunted
to prove their prowess. That hunt continued through the following 2700
years. Now fewer than 200 remain in the Gir Forest in India and are expected
to be extinct in the wild in 20 years.
The Romans affected many areas around the Mediterranean through intensive agriculture and more recently the Europeans exterminated most of their larger animals by felling the forests including those that covered most of the British Isles. The last British wolf was killed in Scotland about 1750.
In 1805 in America Lewis and Clark reported unending herds of Elk, Antelope and Bison, with the accompanying predators and smaller animals, covering the vast western prairies. By 1880 over 75 million American Buffalo hides had been traded leaving only 300 animals alive. The wolves, grizzlies, Elk antelope and hundreds of millions of other animals had also gone. The North American grizzly, which is now confined to areas of the Pacific Northwest, used to roam over most of Western North America as far south as Texas and Mexico.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic the European Bison or Wisent was reduced to a total of 6 animals in 1923. Fortunately a society was formed to breed from these remaining animals and save them from extinction.
However even that destruction has seen a horrific
acceleration in the past fifty years. In the earth’s last wilderness
areas many animal species that numbered in the hundreds of thousands,
or millions, at the beginning of the twentieth century can now be counted
in the dozens world wide. Lesser species become extinct every day.
It is probable that we have reduced larger animal numbers worldwide
by 98% over the past one hundred years.
It is believed that we are presently loosing up to 100 species of plants
and animals a day and that within the next 30 years most of the larger
species will be extinct in the wild.
Queen Victoria’s Birdwing
These butterflies are restricted to the Solomon Islands where there are seven subspecies most of which are named after the specific island on which they are found. The males have oval shaped wings with the rear wings being very elongated and wrinkled. The most similar species is the Queen Alexandria’s Birdwing.
They fly high in the canopy, and in 1885 when a naturalist with a Royal Navy expedition was keen to capture one, a Royal Marine shot one down with a shotgun. That very butterfly is still part of the collection in the Natural History Museum, London.
It is classified as indeterminate in the ‘Red Data Book of Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World’
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|Acrylic on birch ply|
84cm x 61cm