By Judith Kahn
“Creative Conservation: The Art of Endangered Animals,” now at The Walt Disney Family Museum, features paintings by actual rescued and rehabilitated animals alongside artwork by human friends who were inspired by the wild animals.
Panthers, tigers, chimps, vultures, and bears have all contributed to this exhibit, and these artists currently inhabit five wildlife sanctuaries and conservation organizations around the world. Visitors to the exhibit can also see wildlife watercolors by Disney animator Andreas Deja, and all artworks are available for purchase through the museum’s website.
The paintings in this exhibit, with styles best described as “abstract” and “pawprint art,” were created using non-toxic paints applied with the animals’ paws, claws, snouts, and fur. The “wild” artists are animals in danger of extinction, which is why they are not present in their natural habitats and are instead living in protected environments.
In a press release from earlier this year, The Walt Disney Family Museum stated: “… it’s important to note that while some wildlife rescue facilities have been known to force their animals to paint for profit, this is not the practice of sanctuaries involved in Creative Conservation – they provide artistic activities to their rehabilitated animals as an option only for their enrichment and enjoyment.”
The show is co-curated by Tracie Timmer, public programs manager, and Marina Villar Delgado, director of exhibitions and collections for The Walt Disney Family Museum.
“With the upcoming opening of Walt Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book: Making a Masterpiece,’ we wanted to bring awareness to the plight that so many of the beloved animals featured in this film are facing today,” Timmer wrote in a statement. “We hope that Creative Conservation not only brings much-needed funding to these five wildlife sanctuaries but also a broader understanding of the many ways endangered animals are being threatened in their own habitats, along with what we could all do to help.”
The animals’ works are abstractions of intense color. The work of the five organizations that are saving these animals from extinction, however, is concrete and vital. Proceeds from the sale of the artwork will support the work of the sanctuary partners described below and, hopefully, further public awareness of the plight of animals featured in the exhibit.
The organizations and sanctuaries involved with the project are Animals Asia, FOUR PAWS International, Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary, Wildlife ACT, and the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center of the Jane Goodall Institute.
Animals Asia is a registered charity dedicated to ending bear bile farming and improving animal welfare across Asia. Founded in 1998, it now has bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam, headquarters in Hong Kong, and offices in Australia, China, Germany, Italy, the U.K., U.S., and Vietnam. Its website is animalsasia.org.
Wildlife ACT is a nonprofit organization established in South Africa in 2010 that seeks to prevent the extinction of Africa’s many endangered species. Its mission is to “implement professional and strategic monitoring and research to enable and inform effective conservation management of wildlife; identify and develop programs within surrounding communities to support wildlife conservation; secure existing protected areas; and support range expansion of African wildlife.” Learn more at wildlifeact.com.
FOUR PAWS International, founded in Vienna in 1988 by Heli Dungler and friends, is a global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence. It rescues animals in need and provides protection. Its focus is advocating for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. To learn more, go to fourpaws.org.
Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary is a nonprofit, environmentally friendly sanctuary, the inspiration of Lizaene Cornwall and Catherine Nyquist out of their passion for four types of panthers: the lion, leopard, jaguar, and tiger. These animals live in a true sanctuary for captive-bred rescued big cats where no hands-on interaction, breeding, or trading takes place. The land has many large trees, a natural spring, and a panoramic mountain view. Panthera wants to increase awareness of the conditions big cats face in captivity and how it can be ended. Panthera is the first South African sanctuary run entirely on solar energy. Learn more at pantheraafrica.com.
Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center (Jane Goodall Institute) has provided care to more than 200 individuals. Founded in 1992 in the Republic of the Congo, it is one of the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries across Africa. Tchimpounga takes a holistic approach in its effort to save chimpanzees, tackling such drivers of illegal trade as poverty and a lack of available information. The center invests in locally grown fruits for the animals, supports law enforcement agency confiscations of endangered wildlife, and offers school-based educational programs for youth as well as information billboards. The center has also rescued, rehabilitated, and released groups of mandrills, pangolins, and other animals. Learn more at janegoodall.org.
Each of the sanctuaries makes the point that, due to climate change and illegal wildlife crime, the Earth’s population of wild animals is decreasing at an alarming rate. As this is happening, wildlife sanctuaries worldwide are tireless in their work to stop the threat to these species. All these sanctuary organizations need and would appreciate your involvement and financial help as they continue in their efforts, whether for a big cat, tiger, vulture, or bear. The creature art can be viewed or purchased at the Creative Conservation exhibit, through fall 2022.
The Walt Disney Family Museum is located at 104 Montgomery St. in the Presidio of San Francisco. For more information, go to waltdisney.org or call 415-345-6800.
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