Ecological tragedy in Vietnam: not a children's story


Wildlife of Vietnam, by Brendan Wenzel

This bundle of exotic animals by Brendan Wenzel is whimsical, yet unsettling. On the one hand, it would be perfect for a children's book; I imagine a tale in which the animals overcome their natural animosities, cooperate to free themselves, dump a hapless and ineptly nonthreatening poacher in the river, and return safely to their various homes, in the happiest of ecological endings. But we all know that's not how the story really goes.

Wenzel, a New York illustrator who until recently lived in Vietnam, says his work was inspired by the worsening destruction of rare species:

In April rangers at Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam found the remains of a critically endangered Javan Rhinoceros. The animal had been shot and killed for its horn, which was probably sold for a ridiculously high price for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, despite the fact that study after study has shown that neither rhino horn nor bone have even the slightest medical benefit.

This event has really inspired me to work a lot harder. Vietnam is the last place in mainland Asia these rhinos survive and when I arrived in the country in 2008, despite much speculation that the small population of animals had already been wiped out, the species was in fact hanging on by a thread within a hundred miles of where I slept.

The optimism that there are Rhinoceros still out there in the park and the frustration that one of the last was poached within the short period of time I called the country home, really brings to light the urgency needed to address this issue and those like it. Right now, the opportunities to do good with my work are limited but are certainly growing. Though this is a terrible event, it has lit a fire under me to raise awareness and really give what I can. (source)

Wenzel's print is one of a series offered by a charitable organization called The Working Proof. Each Tuesday, they release a new limited-edition print to benefit a specific charity. Wenzel's print benefits the Jane Goodall Institute, but the complete list of beneficiaries includes many other organizations, such as Scienceblogs favorites DonorsChoose and Medecins Sans Frontieres:

The Working Proof marries art and social responsibility. Each print is paired with a charity of the artist's choice, to which The Working Proof donates 15% of the sale of each print, creating a product with not just aesthetic, but social value. . . .The interest of The Working Proof is to promote a variety of charities and expose them to new supporters through the appreciation of art and creativity.

If you'd like to support Wenzel, The Working Proof, and the Goodall Institute, there are still a couple dozen of his prints available at $30 apiece. (FYI: no doubt for some strange legal reason - Working Proof notes that "state restrictions make the donation offer void" in MA, ME, HI, AL, & SC. So be aware of that before you buy.)


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