I have being doing the Endangered Dave project for a number of years now. My aim is to highlight the many species that are endangered or protected in Ireland, as well as the destructive practises that have contributed to habitat and biodiversity loss.
It’s important to highlight the plight of the many species in Ireland that are under threat from habitat loss, climate change, and invasive species. During peak economic growth in Ireland, construction was at an all-time high and this, combined with poor planning and industrial expansion, has led to a loss of habitat for many species.
I highlight these issues by placing paintings of animals considered to be under threat, or of conservation concern, in urban areas with a note on the back offering the painting to the person who finds it. I hope that by placing the paintings in locations where wildlife is unlikely to be seen or where attractive habitats have given way to concrete, that people will think about nature and its role in our environment.
Some of the species highlighted so far are bees, the Kerry Slug, the Crescent Bluet Damselfly, the Small Blue Butterfly and the Common Frog. In Ireland, 30% of wild bees are threatened with the honeybee population declining by a staggering 37% in 2013, and 18% of the butterflies in Ireland are also under threat of extinction. This isn’t a specifically Irish problem, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 30% of known invertebrates are at risk of extinction and the UN have reported that we are currently in the midst of a mass extinction with anywhere between 150 and 200 species going extinct every day.
Social media is integral to this project. When I complete a painting, I place it in an urban area and take a picture, which provides a small visual clue to the location, and I then share it on Facebook and Twitter. Each painting has a note on the back that describes the project, and gives an email address and the address of the project’s Facebook page. I ask the person who takes the painting to email me a picture of the art in its new home, which I then share on Facebook. With followers creating content themselves I hoped that activity on the page and interest in the issue will grow.
Although species and habitat loss can seem insurmountable, there are many things that people can do to encourage biodiversity. One of the best things to do is to provide a good habitat. If you have a garden, this can be as simple as allowing an area in your garden to go wild. The long grasses and native plants will provide the perfect shelter and home for many insects. Plant a variety of flowers for bees, the brighter and more colourful the better. If you live in an urban area, you can introduce potted plants, hanging baskets, or window boxes full of bright and attractive flowers.
It is also important to support organisations that are working to promote conservation and biodiversity. Look for groups in your area, sign up and help out. Do not let our government ignore biodiversity; it is not only essential for the species themselves, but also for a healthy planet.
In Ireland, Government policy is focused on boosting the economy, encouraging industry, and job creation. This means that wildlife and conservation are often pushed down the list of issues. I hope that by highlighting the many species in danger, through a combination of art and activism, that more people will become aware of the importance of nature and biodiversity.
So far the project has been successful in spreading the work of conservation with paintings popping up in many countries such as Brazil and South Korea. It has also been included in the Galway Fringe Festival and has been featured the Irish Times, in an online German magazine called Low-Magazine and on the Kilcoole Little Tern Conservation Project Blog run by Birdwatch Ireland.
Engagement with target audiences has been high, with photos and tweets being shared across social channels and people contacting their friends who may be near the painting. Students in a primary school in Wales were inspired by the project and started painting endangered animals themselves and sharing them on my page.
I chose the title Endangered Dave because I the felt project was about highlighting endangered or threatened species and did not want the project to be about myself, so I felt Endangered Dave would give me a level of anonymity, because of this the project has become known as the Endangered Dave Project.