Amusing Monday: Artistic students inspired by endangered species

In celebration of Endangered Species Day on May 19, more than 1,400 students from across the country submitted their artwork showing threatened and endangered plants and animals. The contest is under the direction of the Endangered Species Coalition.

“Protecting nature is critical to keeping our planet thriving for future generations,” states an introduction to the art contest. “What better way to do that than by engaging youth to put their imaginative skills to work for wildlife in the 2017 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest.”

Art by Rajvi Bhavin Shah, 7, of Roseville, Calif.
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

The annual contest is open to any student from kindergarten to 12th grade. I have to say that I’m always surprised at how environmentally oriented competitions attract young artists able to express themselves in interesting ways.

One of my favorite pieces in the endangered species contest is a drawing of a mother polar bear and her cub on patches of ice — the first picture on this page. The artist is 7-year-old Rajvi Bhavin Shah of Roseville, Calif., who was able to bring a unique artistic style to a scene used before.

Polar bears, by the way, are the first vertebrate species to be formally declared at risk of extinction because of climate change. One of the primary concerns for their survival is a loss of sea ice, essential for their hunting of seals.

Art by Ryan Ng, 13, of Belmont, Calif.
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

The second picture, by 13-year-old Ryan Ng of Belmond, Calif., shows a group of Alabama red-belly turtles, which were listed as endangered in 1987 when it became clear that significant predation of both adult turtles and their eggs is driving the species toward extinction.

The grand-prize winner is another 7-year-old. The judges really liked the portrayal of the rusty-patched bumble bees by Sanah Nuha Hutchins of Washington, D.C. Rusty-patched bumble bees were historically found in the grasslands and tallgrass prairies of the Upper Midwest and Northeast, but the bees declined as their habitats were converted to farms and housing developments.

Art by Sanah Nuha Hutchins, 7, of Washington, D.C. // Image: Endangered Species Coalition

Judges for this year’s competition included marine life artist Wyland; Jack Hanna, host of Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild; David Littschwager, freelance photographer and contributor to National Geographic magazine; Susan Middletown, a photographer who has collaborated with Littschwager and whose own work has been published in four books; and Alice Tangerini, botanical illustrator for the Smithsonian Institution.

The contest is organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Coalition, Association of Zoos and Aquariums and International Child Art Foundation.

One can see the winning artworks on the webpage of the Endangered Species Coalition. To see all 40 semi-finalists, you can scan through the coalition’s Flickr page. A higher level page shows the semi-finalists organized by grade level along with previous years’ semifinalists.

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