Extinct & Almost Extinct: Sumatran Orangutan

— This is a painting and text is from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings — extinct - sumatran organutan - 2015-06-10 at 09-45-35

Sumatran Orangutan

critically endangered

The Sumatran orangutans are found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Most of the surviving 7,000 orangutans are found in the north of the island and most of them in the remarkable Leuser Ecosystem. This ecosystem is the home to a large number of threatened Asian rainforest species but is gradually being diminished by agricultural development.

Orangutans are the only great ape of Asia. Their diet consists primarily of fruits, but also leaves, termites and ants. Females, weighing around 100 pounds, rarely if ever leave the trees. Males, weighing up to 200 pounds, occasionally leave the trees but spend most of the time where their food and safety is — in the trees. Their evolution in the trees has led to them have “four hands” rather than two hands and two feet. The length of their lives can range from 40 to 58 years. Females give birth first at the age of 15 and have offspring every eight or nine years producing about four babies in their lifetimes. Males are solitary unless breeding.

The Malayan name “orangutan” means “person of the forest.” This is apt as they share 96.7% of our DNA. Their intelligence is on par with all the great apes. They can learn sign language, they can control computer touch screens, they are skilled tool makers and fine escape artists. But their true intelligence is in natural harmony with their environment.

The capture of orangutans for the pet trade continues continues despite its illegality, but the elimination of their habitat through logging and establishment of vast palm oil plantations is driving the Sumatran orangutan closer and closer to extinction.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Honshu Wolf —

This is a painting and text is from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings —extinct - honshu wolf - 2015-05-23 at 15-45-07

Honshu Wolf —

extinct cira 1905 —

The Honshu wolf of Japan was the smallest of all wolves, measuring about three feet in length. It inhabited the mountainous areas of the islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku.

Unlike the perception of wolves in the west, most Japanese villagers of the wolves’ territory did not see them as problem but as protectors. Stories abounded of the wolves protecting night travelers, the young and the helpless. Many farmers saw the wolf as their ally in that the wolves hunted boars, rabbits, and deer that could damage the farmer’s crops. There were cases of villagers hunting wolves they believed to had taken livestock, but the hunters risked great misfortune from the retribution of the wolf’s spirit.

The beginning of the end for the Honshu wolf was in the mid 18th century when rabies was introduced in Japan. The spread of the disease killed the majority of the wolves and deforestation and changes in agricultural practices reduced their habitat drastically.

The last known Honshu wolf was killed in 1905. Since then reports of sightings of the wolf have been continual up to the 21st century as is the case with many extinct species. But extensive searches and experiments to locate the wolf have all failed and experts are skeptical of any survivors. There has been talk of reintroducing wolves of other subspecies to the mountains of Japan but no action has been taken to do so.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Northern Pacific Right Whale

This is a painting and text is from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings — extinct - northern pacific right whale - 2015-05-23 at 15-43-32

 

Northern Pacific Right Whale

critically endangered

Right whales were given their names by 19th century whalers who considered them the “right” whales to kill due to the plentiful oil in their blubber and the demand for their baleen, long bone-like plates made of keratin that extend down from the upper mouth used to filter their food, that was used for corsets, buggy whips and other things.

Northern Pacific Right whales are a newly designated subspecies of Right whale that are found in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea and have been sighted as far south as the California coast and the waters of Hawaii. They can weigh up to 70 tons and range from 45-55 feet in length. Their enormous head takes up a third to a quarter of their length. They eat primarily zoo-plankton and live 50 or more years. The females do not mature sexually until ten years of age and their gestation for a single offspring takes a full year.

The fierce whaling of the 18th and 19th centuries nearly led to their extinction with many thousands of whales killed. While prohibitions on whaling were begun in the 1930’s, notably Japanese and Russian whaling continued for many decades. Today the Northern Right Whale is the most endangered of any whale species with only one or two hundred surviving. Continued threat to the few remaining whales include ship strikes with the heavy transpacific shipping lines, entanglement in enormous fishing nets of commercial fisheries, high decibel sonar testing of the U.S. military and even continued poaching.

Northern Atlantic Right Whales are similarly endangered with only approximately 400 whales surviving.

Extinct & Almost Extinct: Formosan Clouded Leopard

This is a painting and text is from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings —extinct - formosan clouded leopard - 2015-04-15 at 15-47-32

Formosan Clouded Leopard —

extinct cira 2010 —

This beautiful sub-species of clouded leopard was three to five feet in length and weighed 35 to 50 pounds. Native to the island of Taiwan it lived mostly in forests of a thousand feet or more above sea level. Spending much of its time in the trees, it hunted monkeys, birds, squirells, and deer. Its average lifespan was about 11 years. It was a secretive animal, avoiding human contact. It had a keen sense of sight, smell and hearing. Little is known of their social systems but males and females probably only met for breeding. The females had an average of two kits who were weaned at 10 weeks and were independent in 10 months.

The beauty of the Formosan clouded leopard was a primary reason for its demise. Its gorgeous coat was sought by poachers for its value and the leopard’s bones were used in traditional Chinese medicine. The loss of habitat due to deforestation was also a factor. A 13 year search for the cat was mounted in 2000 and after the use of 1,500 infrared cameras, hundreds of catnip-bated hair traps and field hours beyond number, no cloud leopard was to be found in Taiwan.

Other subspecies of clouded leopard found in Southeast Asia to the eastern Himalayas are all at risk. Deforestation and poaching have the potential to drive them all to extinction.