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The “Thylastream” effect

This is the post excerpt.

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I start this blog by writing about a random idea, that I had one random morning which turned into something highly influential on the subject of modern extinction. With its devastating consequences both environmentally and socially.

(For those that want to learn more about the thylacine in general, or what a thylacine actually is. Here is a link to a blog post by “Twilight Beasts”: https://twilightbeasts.wordpress.com/category/thylacine/)

With having too many files on a PC it soon becomes a problem, so I decided it was time for a clear-out. Scrolling through hundreds of folders that I squirreled away for safe keeping I came across my “Thylacine file”. Back when I was an illustration student I went through a deep obsession with thylacines, their enchanting ghost-like faces peering at you from the grainy photos that were around long before I was born. It was an echo from the recent past, an echo that still shatters the souls of many today when thylacines grace any conversation.

Looking through my photographic collection I decided that others should see/share these images. Many of these photographs were only viewed by “thylacine fanatics” that would search for hours trolling the internet for hidden forums and web pages. I uploaded my first photo, then another and another. People began to talk about thylacines then suddenly it exploded and I found myself sharing as many images as possible. This one of the positives of social media it’s a platform for education which allows people to see content that would usually remain unseen to most audiences.

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(Thylacines pictured at Hobart Zoo in 1933)

Everyone started to get caught up in the excitement sharing images, newspaper articles and blogs on my feed, then somewhere in the mass of conversation my feed became dubbed as “The Thlyastream”.  The name has since stuck, then it became a permanent feature on my Twitter page, allowing people to immerse themselves in thylacine content. Learning more about this amazing species, perfect examples of convergent evolution that now is lost to us with very little field research on their natural behavior.

I was particularly surprised at the number of people who came forward stating that they didn’t believe the thylacine was a real existing animal. This misnomer is mostly linked back to thylacines taking route in the realms “cyptozoology” alongside mythical animals such as “Bigfoot”.

thylacine-trio

Another topic that was raised on a number of occasions during the “Thylastream” was “why all of the photographs featured thylacines in captivity?”. With deep regret, I informed that this was due to sheer lack of scientific interest in the species whilst it was alive (In fact many people quoted them to be dull and boring animals). Despite global interest in the thylacine ,we know very little about them only partial bits of information, which makes their rapid extinction more criminal.

In captivity they were treated cruelly evidence of this features in some of the photographs, many had parts of their long tails missing due to in-house aggression and many died of exposure to the elements.The thylacine never successfully bred nor reproduced in captivity. Despite it’s “dog-like” nature and it’s tame behavior around people, these characteristics weren’t enough to save the species.

thylacine-in-the-sun

I have recently taken on the task of creating a public domain folder that features all of my collected photographs of thylacines. They act as invaluable references to artists in particular! I will certainly blog about this mammoth task once it reaches completion.

thylacine-family

(Thylacine family at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, 1909)

The “Thylastream” teaches us about the importance of mourning an extinct species so that the same mistakes can be avoided at all costs. Social media gives us a platform to share this knowledge, and I hope that the “Thylastream” inspires people to share their own thoughts and feelings on not just thylacines but with many extinct species that we have lost due to human-related causes.

thylacine-2

Isle of Dogs: A beautiful, emotional and political rollercoaster.

I have just arrived back home from watching ‘Isle of Dogs’ on it’s first release date in the UK. this is latest instalment from the marmite director Wes Anderson. You either love his films or you don’t. But even the most critical towards Wes may appreciate this film. I have tried my best to avoid spoilers as much as possible in this review.

Ever since the trailer was dropped in 2017, I personally decided to not read any reviews or comments towards this film until I saw it for myself. Upon seeing this movie, I am quite shocked at the heavy handed criticism it has received. Among this criticism are mentions of cultural appropriation and sexism.

I am not Japanese nor a voice for them. I can only review this from my point of view. I see this film as a heartfelt homage, not a ‘white wash’ of western actors, directors and story tellers that some critics claim it to be. Japanese actors, directors and artists all play a huge role in this film and they are certainly not sidelined. Sure, it is a Wes Anderson film but it has a different flavour. This is not a western creation with Japanese culture as a gimmick.

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There are only parts of the human dialog translated throughout the film, the dogs themselves speak English. Some critics appear to have missed the point of this artistic decision. The reason why the viewer is not handed a translation on a plate, is that it forces us to be in a position that the dogs are in. It is a deliberate communication barrier.

Even though I couldn’t understand the language, I was no less sympathetic to their plight and you feel no decreased emotion when Atari pours his heart out to his dog. The Japanese language is the most important part of the film, it is vital to the storytelling. As ironic as this sounds, the American voice actors and the dogs are not the most important part of the film, it is the people and their relationships.

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The only character that is slightly problematic is the American exchange student ‘Tracy Walker’. She may fall into the ‘western saviour’ trope to some and I did find her character a little over aggressive. However, her character placement does not warrant the bad criticism the film has received. She doesn’t have a lot of screen-time and you’ll find that one of the Japanese students is the real hero of the ‘Pro Dog’ student movement. If this character is the only ‘sin’ within the film then they have done a very good job.

As for the ‘sexist’ criticism, I found nothing to warrant it. I don’t know why people made a big fuss over the female dog ‘Nutmeg’ wearing a pink collar. I am female and I found no issues or bug bears. Poor Yoko Ono who plays a female scientist does fall into a deep depression, but who can blame her? That is all I will say on the this topic to avoid spoilers. I am sure everyone will have a character that they connect with, gender doesn’t really hold importance in this film. It simply doesn’t have to.

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As for the rest? The artistic direction, music and mix of animation styles keep your attention. The emotions are raw and hold true, I was even caught shedding a tear. There are serious messages within the film that mostly centre around political tyranny. The true heroes are the ‘underdogs’ both literally and metaphorically.

This is a fun film that I am sure you will enjoy, there are so many other points that I could cover in this review but It would be a long essay. All I will say is this, appreciate it for what it is and that is an artistic triumph, a sympathetic homage to traditional Japanese culture and art.

 

Year Of The Hyena

Hello blog readers,

I was meaning to write this blog in January to kick the year off, you can tell how that went…

But never mind, here is the first official blog of the year. This year I want to push my illustration into new directions, I want to finally get my hyena book published and to officially stop procrastinating about life in general. I am perhaps the world champion when it comes to procrastination, I need to have every aspect of my life timetabled otherwise I verge off course and things get messy.

During the winter months I am more prone to procrastination, the weather is poor, prospects and sales are usually low. But as we enter deeper into March, it is time for some spring cleaning, physically and mentally. I strongly feel that 2016/17 were ‘life lesson’ years…I desperately want 2018 to be the year where at the end of it I feel like I’ve started a new phase of stability within my early adulthood.

Onto the juicy stuff, in 2017 I created the hashtag #woopcackle and it ended up being really popular. From this I was able to establish a close relationship with the ‘Hyena Project’ research team, who inspire me every day and keep me working. It occurred to me that hyenas needed an art book and more of a ‘spotlight’ in popular culture as well as scientific circles. I found my niche and decided to work really hard to create products and illustrations that can be sold and directly benefit hyena research.

Unfortunately, it will be awhile until I can fly to Ngorongoro to see these beautiful animals in the wild for myself (unless a millionaire chances upon my work, likes it and sends a couple of thousand my way). I have many romantic ideas of whipping out my sketchbook, painting them and capturing their personalities on paper from life. I am sure if I continue to work hard, this will be a reality for me someday.

Until that day, I will do what I can to work directly with the ‘Hyena Project’ and push hyenas further into the public eye using my scicomm and artistic ideas! Luckily there are captive hyenas in the UK, I intend to visit them very soon to film them. All I can say is that this will be an exciting year in my life and within my professional career.

As we speak I am putting the final details onto tote bag, tee and pin badge designs! Watch this space!

PS A blog will be posted at least every two weeks from now on, I want to formally document my journey and the progress of my future work.

Hyena Illustration Master Project

I want to officially announce this via a blog post. I have started on the biggest illustration project that I will ever do. For a long time, I have always wanted to illustrate the individual hyena characters that feature within the “Hyena Project”. When I finally had the time to dedicate to this large undertaking I built up the guts to email Oliver Höner who is the co-founder of the project.

Oliver has very kindly sent me photographs and physical resources to help me with this large project. So I am hugely indebted to him! Hopefully, he and the rest of the members will approve the illustrations that I will create based on their research.

The original paintings/drawings that I will end up creating of the individual hyenas will be auctioned off and all funds will be directly given to the Hyena Project’s valuable research.

But it won’t stop there…

Alongside this, I am working on a huge tome dedicated to the spotted hyena. A fully illustrated natural history book dedicated to their behavior, anatomy, and beauty. Which will be created with the help of the hyena project. I intend this project to be a lifelong ambition and that I hope people in 100 years will look back on it with adoration. This tome/book is aimed to be produced in a similar way to the famous “Audubon: Birds Of America”…so I hope that brings the right amount of hype. I am truly dedicated to this, and I will share updates via social media, this WordPress blog and my website as I go.

This is the start of something big.

The Thylacine: 81 Years On

On this day in 1936, the last captive thylacine, humbly known as “Benjamin” passed away from exposure to the elements, caused from being locked out of their enclosure. The remains of this once gracious animal were then disposed of in the bin. Usually, when icons representing the last of their kind die they are preserved, however, this was not the case with Ben. So little was understood about the condition of populations of the thylacine in the wild that the true impact of this event was not properly recognized until months later when no more wild thylacines were captured, seen or documented. It was a sad, undignified end to a controversial but charismatic animal that now has a pedestal in our hearts and imaginations.

The thylacine as a species is still making an impact long after its extinction, in fact, just yesterday primary to the thylacine 81st extinction anniversary. More, grainy footage was produced by keen amateurs wanting to prove once and for all that the thylacine still exists…I am yet to be convinced. I believe that until the end of time, people will stalk the silent forests chasing after the ghosts of these long dead creatures. Unlike other extinctions, even the most hardened of skeptics will find it hard to let the thylacine truly go. I believe, that this is down to how the extinction was orchestrated, it was quick and clean which left us with many unanswered questions about the thylacine. Despite my own reservations, my imagination runs with me and with every footage still, every scat sample and every photograph I wish that I could be proved wrong…that one day we find proof that thylacines did against all the odds, both environmentally, biologically and socially made it through to our modern world.

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(“Ben” photography by David Fleay)

The #thylastream will also soon come to a one year anniversary! Of which I will be celebrating with more thylacine events, art, and photographs. I created the thylastream because I wanted to use social media to educate, share a history of the thylacine. As well as, install inspiration back into people without the facts presented being too heavy but in manageable bite-sized chunks. It has been so rewarding to see it still be successful today and being used as a free educational resource worldwide. I have learned a lot in the past year, especially towards social media management so I wish to expand my knowledge and improve the #thylastream for future audiences. Which will include an accessible database with all of the photographs and educational resources that I have collected.

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(Abstract thylacine artwork created by myself)

Thylacines have opened many doors in my life and I owe it to the species to carry on educating, creating and sharing. I have my presentation at Tetzoocon2017 on October 21st which will include new thylacine themed artwork that I have been rigorously creating and keeping a firm secret until now. There is much yet to look forward to!

I will end this short but sweet blog post on the fact that, the thylacine will forever remain in my heart and today the 7th of September 2017 I will remember them and pledge to continue using them within my career of scientific communication.

 

To Catch A Ghost: Is The Thylacine Still Alive?

Another big question that I get asked when producing content for the #thylastream events on Twitter is this “Do thylacines still exist?”. Despite the thylacines official status as being extinct, many people still cling to the hope that somewhere out in the Tasmanian/Australian bush the thylacine still prowls. Only captured on grainy film and photo, slinking off into night shadowed forests and roadside undergrowth apparently learning from their previous mistakes of trusting and going near people.

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(Thylacine Bronx Zoo)

Firstly, we have to look at the possible human reason behind the thylacines new residence as a cryptid alongside mythical beings such as Big Foot. Despite the thylacine being a real life animal, back in the early 19th-century thylacines were seen as mundane and bland even by most scientists. They were a “prehistoric relic”, something that should have died out along with the mammoths. Sheep farmers feared them, cross compared them to wolves and they were outright scapegoated into the frame as a vampire, a blood-sucking menace and sheep killer. They weren’t liked very much.

Fast forward to the 1950s, many years after the last wild thylacine was captured and Ben’s death in 1936. Suddenly thylacines gained notoriety, they became mysterious, a symbol for Tasmania’s/Australia’s untamed wilderness. When humanity suddenly cannot have something we long for it with the deepest of passions, we desire it and we romanticize it. People found it suddenly hard to believe that the thylacine was truly gone, a coping mechanism was perhaps, the primary reason why the thylacine became a majestic cryptid.

Ol’Stripey now sits on a pedestal alongside the mythical beasts that reside in our imaginations and cultures. The impossible dream of an animal that had once existed, and still exists in the living memory of our species. Gone. But are they?

dead thylacine

(Hunter poses with dead thylacine, 1869. Collection: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.)

Go anywhere in Tasmania today, and you are bound to see a thylacine. The thylacine image is on their coat of arms, on beer labels, on signs for bars/hotels. You would also hear stories of thylacine sightings by a number of sources and different walks of life. Hushed murmurs of a thylacine catching someone’s eye or slinking off into the night disappearing from their view.

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(Suspected “thylacine” film still, shot at a farm by a woman southwest Victoria in 2008.) 

Most skeptics will not give these stories a second chance. The thylacine has been absent for more than one hundred years, no DNA evidence and no decent photographs (despite accessible high definition camera equipment) has surfaced. The stories from mainland Australia are even more outlandish, as the thylacine was deemed extinct long before Western settlers arrived. Many grainy photos and films show what appear to be red foxes suffering from mange and feral dogs. This I shall further explain…

All of the footage and photographs that I have reviewed over the years show me no thylacines just mistaken identity. To begin with stark differences, I shall review how the thylacine moved. The thylacine gait was highly distinct and very different from modern canids. Unlike a dog, it’s hind legs were longer than its front limbs. This made the highest point of its pelvis slightly higher than its shoulders. Overall thylacine limbs were comparatively shorter than any equally sized dog.  This together with its stiff tail which it held out behind in a rigid fashion, made its movements quite different from any canine. It had what looked to us like an awkward walk and a weird ungainly trot.

This intimate knowledge of thylacine anatomy is often gleaned over by most when they capture a “thylacine” on film or photo. Another mistaken identity point is a disease quite prevalent in foxes, dogs and other wildlife called “Mange” caused by skin parasites namely mites. Without going into too much detail, it’s a nasty infectious disease that causes the fur to fall out and animals to lose large amounts of weight as they slowly die from it. Mange can severely alter the appearance of what is usually a recognizable species such as a red fox, pair this with bad lighting, a poor quality film and bad equipment…then you just might have yourself a “thylacine”.

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(Fox with a severe case of mange, source unknown.)

mange fox thylacine comparison

(Thylacine/Mange infected Fox “thylacine” footage comparison, source “Thylacine? No! Mangy Fox? Yes!” by WDGHK on DeviantArt)

Even though fox populations are not confirmed in Tasmania. Foxes certainly exist in many parts of mainland Australia, so I can safely say that film/photo taken on the mainland is mostly related to mangy foxes. Considering that feral dogs and other animals from Tasmania can suffer from mange, it is not impossible to assume that most accounts could be linked to mistaken identity thanks to mange distorting our view of what should be recognizable animals.

As for countless eyewitness accounts, expert witnesses and people’s stories. They are merely just that. No meat on the bone to further prove the thylacine’s existence. Frustratingly a story/eyewitness account is only as accountable as the word itself, which to me simply isn’t enough. Even the most skilled of bushmen and scientists can convince themselves of seeing something that they want to see. Example “What is that?”, “Is that a thylacine?”,”I think it is a thylacine!” and then finally “I know it was a thylacine”.

Regardless of this people will still cling to the idea that the thylacine exists, even though time and time again footage and photos have been declared as a false identity or a blatant fake, alleged sightings turn up nothing and the forests remain silent of the famed and very loud thylacine mating calls. But one day I would love to be proved wrong. All I want is a high definition photograph of a thylacine, a confirmed scat sample, modern bones found in the bush, DNA evidence! When I visit Tasmania next year I do plan to go hunting for thylacines. But I do firmly believe that we are simply chasing ghosts, led on by the fact that we just cannot believe that they thylacine is truly gone.

sunbathing thylacines

(Sunbathing thylacines source/date unknown.)

 

Cloning Ol’Stripey (Thylacine)

The most frequent question that I get during the #thylastream events on Twitter, is something similar to this, “But can’t we just clone the thylacine?”. It’s a hard question to answer in the very few characters that Twitter provides, so please let me explain in this blog post. I will try to keep it simple, even though the very concept of cloning is complex and can be a subject that I could write about for hours on end. But I will try to condense this.

“Can we successfully clone the thylacine?”

In theory: Probably

In reality: No

Firstly, cloning is not a “get out of jail” card in regards to extinction. It’s not as simple as bashing genetic codes together and then ending up with a fully functioning animal at the end of it. It’s been plugged by the media as a “cure-all” our one last hope of seeing a thylacine alive. Sadly nothing is ever this simple, and even though we have plenty of perfectly preserved thylacine specimens, DNA even over one hundred years is highly fragmented, degraded and contaminated with other traces of alien DNA through years of handling and storage. Basically, it’s as if we had the thylacine jigsaw puzzle, but then someone chucked the pieces on the floor, took some pieces away and put other pieces from other puzzles in there with it…for good measure. It will take billions of dollars, thousands of hours to even start to put it together and that’s to say if there is enough original DNA left in the first place to successfully clone from.

Another hurdle for the thylacine cloning is that thylacines don’t have any close living relatives, as well as becoming extinct they took a whole lineage down with them. They only have distant relations in the Tasmanian devil and Numbat but those relations are so distant it would be comparable to using a Lemur as a surrogate mother for a human being. Gestation timing/differences between species would be extremely difficult to calculate due to our lack of knowledge on thylacine biology, the pouches of a Tasmanian devil or Numbat will not be able to conceal a thylacine pouch young for long enough and of course, you have the blatant issue of logistics.

thylacine clone 1

But let’s imagine that we somehow made it through to the cloned thylacine reaching adulthood. Despite the downfalls with contaminated/fragmented DNA, lack of an appropriate surrogate mother and of course, fabled super aging of clones and clones suffering from disease/illness due to poor immune systems. We have one alive and well.

Firstly, this animal is going to be worth billions of dollars, and we plonk it in some sort of highly secure exhibit with a bodyguard for us to ogle at. It looks like a thylacine, it moves like a thylacine but is it a thylacine as we once knew them? No. Whenever we think of cloning, we like to imagine that we are bringing back an animal that is exactly the same as the original. Genetically speaking we have a carbon copy of the original, but it’s not all there. Our cloned billion dollar lab pet will have the same instinctual behavior, but we severely downplay the nurture aspect of any social carnivore when we talk about cloning. Nurture V instinct is a debate for another day, but on the subject of thylacines, they heavily relied on it. In my formal opinion, some animals are more led by nurture than instinct and visa verso.

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(Thylacine taxidermy mount at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery)

We know from historical accounts that thylacines were highly social animals, they stayed within family groups, hunted as these groups and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that they learned a lot about how to be a thylacine from this social structure. They would learn how to hunt properly and how to communicate by taking social cues from their parents. Unfortunately for our clone, it will have no idea how to do these things and it will simply just exist to look like a thylacine or develop different behaviors due to being so closely linked to humans. We know very little about thylacine behavior so even we wouldn’t be able to work around this issue.

All we have is a thylacine shell. So is it really worth it? Is the question that we should be asking ourselves. Cloning is good in concept, as well as trying to understand thylacine DNA because it can help to further our understanding of thylacine genetics. But in regards to bringing the thylacine back from extinction, it is an impossible dream.

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(Thylacine exhibit at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery)

We all need to come to terms with the fact that the thylacine won’t be coming back. If billionaires somehow manage to clone one, it won’t be a thylacine. We lost the thylacine on September 7th, 1936 and there is no “get out of jail” card for that. But what we can do is learn a valuable lesson from this, these feelings and thoughts that you have about never being able to see a live thylacine, are what the next generations will feel when they find more species on this planet are gone.

Think about it.

 

 

Private Bone/Taxidermy Collection: The Good, The Bad and The Illegal

This blog has taken a while to write. It’s a complicated subject that can be hard to condense into a simple blog post. However, I feel that it is now necessary to write about it due to growing, worrying, illegal, and unethical trends that are resurfacing due to a private natural history collection resurgence in recent years. Aside from this, I am aware of the positive aspects of private collections and therefore I do not want to come across as too preachy or completely ridicule those with private collections who work extremely hard to promote conservation and education. But I feel that some things now need to be said, as well as how these new problems need to be fixed with realistic solutions.

I am writing this from both sides of the coin, I have been collecting skulls/skeletons since childhood, and I work for the museum industry/science communication as a formal job. Back then I never purchased anything, everything was naturally found in the countryside. Needless to say, it was one of the elements that planted the seed that inspired my curiosity for the natural world and biology. I’m sure that the same can be said for many other scientists and artists. Many of which, have used their personal collections to directly educate others and actively promote the conservation of the natural world such as; Ric Morris, Jakes Bones, Paolo Viscardi, Ben Garrod to name a mere few.

Firstly, we need to understand why people collect taxidermy, bones, skulls, and skeletons in the first place. Humans have been collecting things since the beginning of time. We are a curious species and this is a way to directly connect and to understand the world around us. I feel that this is still the main element for those merely collecting for personal reasons, it’s a way for someone to connect directly to a particular animal. It’s also a safe way to connect to an animal who would in life…probably kill you. There are other elements, such as exploiting wealth, showing off and simply having something that is out of reach to someone else.

As much as collecting modern animal specimens privately can be positive, it can also be problematic and negatively impact the natural fauna/flora indirectly. This, unfortunately, prompted me to write this post.

In recent years a new trend/sub-culture called “Vulture Culture” took off in younger generations. No more was taxidermy/natural history collection exclusive to the gloating rooms of old men and rich aristocrats. Teenagers and young adults now had a hold over the market, taking to social media spaces such as Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook to show off their collections and processing methods. In a way we can rejoice, the natural world and biology suddenly became trendy and with that will come people willing to conserve the natural environment and will have the burning passion for pursuing research to better our understanding. But…

With the positives must come negatives. Bones, skulls, and skeletons have to come from somewhere and that is from what was once a living being. For some members of the Vulture Culture craze, they took to processing roadkill and other bodies naturally found in the wild. Luckily local wildlife law is fairly easy to access for the average member of the public, and soon understanding of dead animal body collection took off. What I’ve found is that these people who find their own animals to process from corpse to collection rarely have an issue with the local law department. Most disputes are often easily solved, and wildlife law officers seem to keep tabs.

But what if you want something more exotic? What if a dead deer just won’t do it for you. The answer to this problem would be online auction sites such as Ebay, and soon people started to pay large sums of money for rarer items that you probably wouldn’t find bumbling around the British countryside. Lion skulls, wolf skulls, pickled lemur and lion claws ripped off from a vintage 19th-century taxidermy skin, the possibilities I’ve seen really have been endless. But unfortunately, money is problematic, once you pay for something you give it a monetary value, therefore you open up a potential market/trade. What was once just a Lion skull, for example, is now an item worth up to £500. You may not see the £500 as it’s main value, but anyone who wants quick and easy cash will.

The illegal wildlife trade and the unethical wildlife trade is still a growing problem and the negative side of vulture culture and other similar trends are that consumers, directly and indirectly, cause these problems…you don’t even have to break the law to cause them. Because of recent trends, I have seen more online and physical shops open up across Britain promising people the dead wildlife item of their dreams. Want a cheetah skin, we got it! Want a snarling tiger head we got that too! A lot of these sellers boast ethical collection and law abiding care, however, how can the general public tell when a seller is lying or telling the truth? The truth is they can’t. Wildlife law on exotic species can be complicated and a lot of the laws are not written in lay language. In fact, there are many debates among vulture culture members/collectors on what the law actually is, and even someone who truly tries to find an answer cannot as it’s stuck in a legal quagmire. I want to avoid going into individual laws and loopholes (that’s a blog post for another day), this blog post is here to raise awareness for what I see to be growing problems.

What I think may be one of the solutions to the problem, is if a rough lay-guide is published every year by dedicated a wildlife law rep. Stating what paperwork may be required for what, what species are a total no-no for private ownership, what are antique wildlife item laws, what questions you should be asking and how to spot an illegal wildlife trader on online auction sites. I feel that internationally this will be a great benefit, I do strongly feel that most members of vulture culture and private collectors do try to abide by the law where possible. There are few who willingly go against it. However, all consumers good or bad drive this market. Once an illegal/unethical item is purchased that money has been exchanged intentionally or not and therefore fueling the market and trade.

Case in point:

What made me finally publish this blog is a previously convicted seller recently targeted vulture culture members (mostly young people) selling brown hyena skulls. He has promised more hyena skulls and has taken reservations expecting more in the next few weeks. This is NOT normal and certainly not legal. The skulls are not antique and have been recently exported out of Africa. Even though hyenas are not protected by the Annex A category in CITES, they are protected via other laws and any wildlife item exported out of Africa must have a paper trail/documentation specifying it’s legal release and origin. You are supposed to keep the documents with you as proof of its origin and those may be important in the future if the law changes as skulls cannot necessarily be aged like “worked” items such as taxidermy. (Even items traveling within the EU must have some documents to prove it’s origin, including captive-bred animals.)

This is deeply worrying. Hyena remains are now desired/wanted by private collectors and vulture culture members alike. This is probably due to their new western popularity, and other large carnivores such as lions and tigers recently becoming protected and therefore their remains rare to obtain and trade on.

Being someone who has worked for hyena conservation and has studied them I understand why people want to get close, I understand why people want to hold their hugely powerful skulls in their hands and to have one on their shelf. But this growing trade and market will only lead them to the same declines that big cats are facing, be extremely careful with who you buy from. Only buy from accredited sellers and sellers with the correct origins and paperwork. Where possible only purchase from captive bred animals who have no impact on wild populations. Thank you.