Extinct & Almost Extinct: Chinese Pangolin

This is a painting and text of one of animals in my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings —Chinese Pangolin. 12" X12", acrylic on paper, 2015, Mark W. McGinnis

Chinese Pangolin–

critically endangered–

The Chinese Pangolin is a scaled anteater ranging from 19 to 23 inches long and weighing 4 to 15 pounds. It is found from the Himalayan foothills to Southern China and Northern Indochina. The solitary and mostly nocturnal animal has adapted to many varied terrains and is largely terrestrial but is also a good swimmer and has been known to climb trees. Its diet consists of termites and ants. It digs the soil or tree with its long claws and uses its long sticky tongue to extract the prey from the ground. It makes its home in burrows it digs itself or enlarges from termite passages. Its scales, made of bone, form strong protection and it rolls into a ball to protect itself from predators. Females give birth to a single young and carry it on their backs.

The Chinese pangolin’s rapid demise is being caused by demand for its meat, which is considered a great delicacy in China, and by demand for its scales which are used in a variety of traditional Chinese medicines. With increasing affluence of the Chinese, a poacher can be paid $50.00 for a pound of pangolin meat. The sharp decline in the Chinese pangolin has led to heavy poaching in Java, Sumatra, the Philippines and the Malaysian peninsula where the Sunda and Philippine pangolins are found. In 2010 Chinese custom officials seized a ship with 2,000 frozen pangolins and 92 crates of scales. In 2013 a Chinese boat crashed into a coral reef in the Philippines. It was carrying 400 boxes with tons of pangolin meat. While protection laws for the pangolins have been instituted in nearly all the affected countries, the high monetary value for the meat and scales continues to drive the pangolins to extinction.

Chinese Pangolin. 12″ X12″, acrylic on paper, 2015, Mark W. McGinnis

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit

This is one of the paintings and text from my ongoing project Extinct and Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings —Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit, 12" X 12", acrylic on paper, 2014, Mark W. McGinnis

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit
— extinct with surviving hybrids —

The Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit is the smallest rabbit in North America. An adult pygmy rabbit weighing under a pound, can hop up to fifteen miles an hour. However, they rarely range more than 200 yards from their burrows. They do not hibernate and can withstand temperature from below zero to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The Pygmy rabbits have evolved a large liver that enables them to digest sagebrush found in dry deserts. The decline in the sagebrush deserts due to the growth of agriculture, cattle grazing and wild fires is a major reason for the reduction in their populations. Pygmy rabbit sub-species, with characteristics distinct from the Columbia River Basin pygmy rabbits, live in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada.
Pygmy Rabbits breed from February to July, producing from one to three litters each year. For protection, the females bury their litters of kits in shallow burrows, returning once a day to dig them out, feed them, and cover them again. This practice stops after two weeks when the kits are ready to fend for themselves.
In 2001, a Washington State survey found only thirty surviving Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits. Sixteen of those were taken into a captive breeding program. In 2004, pygmy rabbits were brought in from Idaho to broaden the genetic pool. The last purebred Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit died in 2008. After failures in releasing captive animals into the wild, a ten-acre fenced reserve was established in 2011 and fifty rabbits were released in the enclosure resulting in the first kits being born into their natural habitat from captive-born animals. More sub-species of pygmy rabbits were brought in from Nevada, and Utah to strengthen the population. Even with concerted efforts of zoos, universities and wildlife organizations, the future of the pygmy rabbits in the Columbia Basin is uncertain. However, additional enclosures have been established in Washington and there is cautious optimism for the hybrid rabbit’s survival.

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit, 12″ X 12″, acrylic on paper, 2014, Mark W. McGinnis

Extinct & Almost Extinct — Peregrine Falcon

The following is one of the paintings and text from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings.

American Peregrine Falcon, 12" X 12", acrylic on paper, 2015, Mark W. McGinnis

American Peregrine Falcon, 12″ X 12″, acrylic on paper, 2015, Mark W. McGinnis

–American Peregrine Falcon —
–saved from extinction —

One of the fastest birds in the world, the Peregrine falcon can reach speeds of 200 miles an hour as it dives toward it’s flying prey, snatching it from the air. This spectacular hunting style has made it a favorite of falconers and biologists alike. Peregrines are one of the most widely ranging birds in the world inhabiting all the world’s continents but the Antarctica.

The crow-sized falcon mates for life and the females are about a third larger than the males. They do not build nests but lay their eggs in depressions called scrapes often on the ledges of cliffs.

There may have been as many as 4,000 nesting pairs of American peregrines until the 1940’s when the extensive use of DDT as a pesticide began in many countries. This chemical was used to eliminate insects in agriculture and also to control mosquitoes and lice that cause the spread of disease. As the chemical accumulated in the birds that the falcons ate, the egg shells of the peregrine became thin and nesting failure became endemic. By 1975 the American falcon had lost 90% of its population with only 324 known nesting pairs. Concerted conservation efforts including the ban of DDT and extensive captive breeding and reintroduction efforts in the U.S., Canada and Mexico has led to the increase in population to 2,000 to 3,000 nesting pairs in North America. The bird was removed from the U.S. endangered and threatened list in 1999. In their search for prey some peregrines have moved into cities to hunt pigeons. Artificial scrapes on high buildings have been created for the birds by welcoming city dwellers who encourage the falcons to lower pigeon populations.