Three short films about extinct animals

Urania Sloanus
Urania Sloanus — described as the most beautiful moth in the world

How to raise awareness about recently extinct animals? We need to know and see what we’ve lost, both to remember and celebrate them even as we mourn them.

There’s something about an image – a photograph or even a film clip – something that recreates the likeness, that helps to bring the subject alive.

Here are three short films from my book, “Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals: An Extinction Reader” (available at the Pen and Anvil website).

  1. The Song of the O’o. The Kauai O’o was known as one of the finest singers in all of the Hawaiian Islands.
  2. The Laysan Rail. This rail, from the island of Laysan, in the NW Hawaiian Islands, is one of the few extinct birds for which film footage exists.
  3. Urania Sloanus at Sunrise. Urania Sloanus lived in Jamaica and was often described as the most beautiful moth in the world. This film, based on eyewitness reports, hints at why.

More about my book can be found here.

More films to come soon!

Reviews of “Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals”

Two reviews have been published of my book, “Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals: An Extinction Reader,” with more to come.

Over at Neon Books, writer and publisher Krishan Coupland lauds the “sheer poetry” of the writing and “the power of these vignettes… to render these animals real.”

Read the whole review at neonbooks.org.uk, and while you’re there, check out the other cool things that Krishan is up to at Neon Books.

A second review was written by biologist and writer, Mike Shanahan, who asks, “Can eulogies for lost species help prevent future extinctions?” Read Shanahan’s thoughtful response at his e-home Under the Banyan.

Other reviews are forthcoming. Get in touch if you would also like to review my book.

Now Available: Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals

Announcing my new book: BRIEF EULOGIES for LOST ANIMALS: An Extinction Reader.

Since the year 1500, nine hundred species have become extinct, yet their stories are not being told. This loss is a crisis in human values as our relatives on the tree of life are disappearing under our watch and because of our actions.

There are no historical parallels here. Aldo Leopold said, “For one species to mourn another is a new thing under the sun.”

BRIEF EULOGIES for LOST ANIMALS: An Extinction Reader fills an important niche by remembering these animals in lyrical but factual stories that allow us to celebrate, grieve, and memorialize what is now gone.

In terse yet evocative writing, one hundred extinct animals from around the world are brought to life, from the freshwater mussels of Appalachia to the shrub frogs of Sri Lanka, and from the honeycreepers of Hawaii to the hopping mice of Australia, bringing the enormity of the present biodiversity crisis within our grasp.

BRIEF EULOGIES for LOST ANIMALS: An Extinction Reader is available from the publisher’s website: penandanvil.com/brief-eulogies, where you can also find excerpts of the book.

“Forgetting is another kind of extinction,” artist Todd McGrain has said about his Lost Bird Project. These animals deserve to be remembered, and with this book we can not only remember and mourn them, but honor them as well.

Order BRIEF EULOGIES for LOST ANIMALS: An Extinction Reader today from penandanvil.com/brief-eulogies or Amazon.

Artists and Extinction V: Brandon Ballengee

How can artists convey the idea of disappearance and extinction of species?

This has long been a question for Brandon Ballengee, a visual artist, biologist and environmental educator based in Louisiana, whose many art installations have been inspired by his ecological field and laboratory work.

Initially, Ballengee wanted to use silhouettes to show something as there but disappearing. But while experimenting with blacking out extinct animals in old nature magazines, he recalled that Robert Rauschenberg once created a work that was an erased de Kooning drawing. So, rather than erase extinct animals from books, he began to cut them out with an Exacto knife (as long as there were multiple copies of the book).

This led to the creation of his installation, “Framework of Absence.” Ballengee created the works from real historic artifacts that were around while the animal was fading into extinction. After the animal was excised from its source, the depiction was burned and the ashes were placed into black glass funerary urns etched with the names of the lost species.

At installations, viewers were asked to scatter the ashes, an act that Ballengee hoped would connect participants to the lost species and help prevent further extinctions.

A few examples show the power of the exhibit. Here is the Great Auk, missing from the North Atlantic:

2008Ð9. Extinct by the late 19th Century. Artist-cut print from the Bowen Editions Royal Octavo Birds (1840Ð71). Eighth edition printed and hand-colored in 1871 (just prior to plates being burned in warehouse fire). 6 3/4 x 10 3/8 inches. Photography by David W. Coulter.
2008Ð9.
Extinct by the late 19th Century.
Artist-cut print from the Bowen Editions Royal Octavo Birds (1840Ð71).
Eighth edition printed and hand-colored in 1871 (just prior to plates being burned in warehouse fire).
6 3/4 x 10 3/8 inches.
Photography by David W. Coulter.

Here is the Spectacled Cormorant, missing from the Kamchatka Peninsula:

1869/2014. Artist cut and burnt hand-colored stone lithograph, etched glass urn, and ashes. 30 5/8 x 74 5/8 inches. Species last observed 1850s. Photo by Casey Dorobek.
1869/2014. Artist cut and burnt hand-colored stone lithograph, etched glass urn, and ashes. 30 5/8 x 74 5/8 inches. Species last observed 1850s.
Photo by Casey Dorobek.

Here is the Guadalupe Caracara, missing from Guadalupe Island:

1860/2014. Artist cut and burnt wood engraving, etched glass urn, and ashes. 9 1/8 x 11 1/8 inches. Species last observed 1860s. Photo by Casey Dorobek.
1860/2014. Artist cut and burnt wood engraving, etched glass urn, and ashes. 9 1/8 x 11 1/8 inches. Species last observed 1860s.
Photo by Casey Dorobek.

And here is the Sea Mink, missing from the rocky coasts of New England and Atlantic Canada.

1849/2014. Artist cut and burnt print hand-colored stone lithograph, etched glass urn, and ashes. 13 5/8 x 16 inches. Species last observed 1870s. Photo by Casey Dorobek.
1849/2014. Artist cut and burnt print hand-colored stone lithograph, etched glass urn, and ashes. 13 5/8 x 16 inches. Species last observed 1870s.
Photo by Casey Dorobek.

More of Brandon Bellengee’s work can be found at his website.

Previous entries for my series on artists and extinction can be found starting here.