What do we understand when we read or hear Endangered Species?
A clear example in Chile is that of the red bumblebee or also known as the Chilean bumblebee (Bombus dahlbomii), which is the southernmost and largest of its species in the world –impressive, isn't it?–. This beautiful bumblebee had a presence from Coquimbo to Tierra del Fuego, covering a large part of the territory of our country. Yes, you read that right, I HAD!
As conservation biologist Tyler McFadden explains in the article "The Tragedy of Common Animals: It's Not Just Pandas and Rhinos Marching to Extinction": Until thirty years ago, the blowfly was abundant and an extremely important pollinator for agriculture and wildflowers. It is now endangered and already absent from much of its historical range. How can such a common species have reached the brink of extinction in so few years? Since the 1980s colonies of European bumblebees have been imported for the stated purpose of supporting the pollination of agricultural plants. To this end, yes, they contribute to the production of blueberries and tomatoes, but they also harm other crops, for example smaller raspberries. While the results for agriculture have been mixed, the introductions represented the beginning of the end for the bumblebee. European bumblebees compete with the native species, bringing new parasites and diseases, factors to which the bumblebee has no resistance.
The fascinating `Map of the World of Animals in Danger of Extinction´ created by the digital illustrator Paz Soffia, shows us the large number of vulnerable animals at risk and invites us to become aware of the importance of the ecological balance of our planet and its contribution to the conservation and protection of these species.
In this very important map we wanted to delve into its creation, species research and learn more about the artist behind it:
What is your training as an artist?
I went to Italy to study graphic design and advertising, and the truth is that I never really liked the world of marketing or design in general, the purpose of always working in sales or products made me a bit uncomfortable. So I wanted to learn something different and I stuck to the things I like to do the most, draw. I enrolled in a course in a small town near Florence on "Digital Illustration led to children's books". This course opened the doors to tools, different worlds and above all, to learn to express ideas and stories in an illustrated format.
Tell us your story behind digital illustration, from how you got there to its professional application.
As I mentioned before, I first arrived thinking of illustrating children's books. But my teaching as a graphic designer motivated me to implement all my new skills in this other professional world. That meant that a world of possibilities opened up for me! I managed to work with scientists, teachers, writers, entrepreneurs from the gastronomic world or all kinds, including Mappin, which was my first public project where I show 100% of what I like to do the most.
What is the reason for your decision to illustrate digitally vs. analogue?
I liked the idea of not using many resources to be able to illustrate, also taking advantage of technology and its new tools for artists, which are tremendous! Also, before I painted in acrylic, and I threw away a lot of material, which is super toxic and I used an impressive amount of paper.
How did you come up with the theme to illustrate the World Map of Endangered Animals?
The truth is that it was an idea together with Felipe! He saw that in my previous projects I had worked on the theme of animals in danger of extinction due to human interventions, and he proposed me to do the project of illustrating the main animals that are vulnerable worldwide. In this way, you could also have a project for children that touches on a super important theme, which is the safeguarding of our ecosystems.
What is the main objective of the map?
My objective was to highlight a large part of these animals through the use of illustration, to raise awareness about the importance of the ecological balance of our planet, and that we must contribute to the conservation and protection of these species. I think my intention was that when you put your eye on the map, you would not only see drawings, but also the large number of endangered animals and that we all know the vast majority of them. How sad would be his disappearance!
Where did you lean to collect this type of information?
I relied on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species page, which is an updated registry and inventory of threatened species. It is the most comprehensive inventory of the conservation status of animal and plant species worldwide. It is accessible to everyone!
Based on the research you did, which endangered animal stood out to you the most, and why?
The one that caught my attention the most and makes me feel sad, is the Vaquita Marina, an endemic cetacean of Mexican waters. I think that up to now there are no more than 10 specimens left in the world. It is sad to see and understand that its extinction was 100% caused by humans (its hunting, boat accidents, irresponsible fishing, etc).
What was the main challenge in creating the map?
The main challenge in creating this project was having the stomach to collect the information, but once this difficult and heart-breaking process was finished, I took the information to a drawing plan, to later paint it digitally. It was a very cool collaboration with the dry ones from Mappin and above all, a job of a lot of learning and affection.
Tell us how was the experience of making this map and if something changed in your way of thinking-illustrating
It happened to me right in the middle of the pandemic and total confinement, it was my salvation during that time! The way I use my tools has changed, as well as the way I express everything. I am constantly learning, but this project helps me remember why I like to do what I do.
You have had to cover one of the most sensitive topics that has been dealt with in Mappin, such as endangered species. A topic in vogue in our country and with international views as a result of the installation of the Dominga mining and port project that threatens the ecosystem so unique in the world, such as that of the Humboldt Archipelago. Given this, what is your opinion in this type of situation?
I believe that there is not, nor should there be, an economic or social justification for the destruction of ecosystems. These places are the lungs, hearts, veins and antibodies of our planet, destroying them is like filling our bodies with acid, smoke and cement. Not respecting them, not loving them, turning a blind eye and planting projects like these, implies that we are all in danger of extinction.
Do you think that art, design and illustration are key tools when it comes to creating profound changes in our societies?
I believe that there are many ways to create an impact, but design, illustration and art have the power and duty to make instant attention calls that many other disciplines cannot achieve with the “naked eye”. This "view" is instantaneous and capable of creating a strong impact! Why not take advantage of it to raise awareness?
Do you work or collaborate in more projects on ecological conservation? If not, would you like it?
I'm not currently involved in any conservation projects, and I would LOVE to!
What are you currently on?
I am currently working on an illustrated book for children, it is a psychology book, written by a dry psychologist who is opening my head about the inner world of 7-8 year old children.