Unidentified = a wider story

To determine the conservation status of each specimen I relied whenever possible on the Red List within the database of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).


"Established in 1964, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species. The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity."

The majority of this project was photographed in partnership with the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. While almost all the specimens were clearly catalogued within the extensive collection of some two million, I was also drawn to a few of the creatures used for class demonstrations. Some of these were well studied and worn, and thus slightly less rigorous in the maintenance of their identification labels. Reference down to order or family or genus sometimes appeared but never quite made it down to the single species. For efficient time management in the lab - and pleading artistic license - I resolved to "shoot first and ask questions later".


Working through the negatives back in the studio, when coming upon the first image portraying an unidentified species, my "citizen-science" research began to work towards a more specific determination, assuming I would engage with the collection curators to confirm.


Not so fast...

Using Monkey as example, the search on the IUCN database returned the following:


Search for "Monkey" + "Animalia-Kingdom" + "Cordata-Phylum" + "Mammalia-Class" + "Primates-Order" =

Results (442)

Sort by Red List category =

EX - Extinct (1)

CR - Critically Endangered (52)

EN - Endangered (109)

VU - Vulnerable (110)

NT or LR/nt - Near Threatened (46)

LC or LR/lc - Least Concern (101)

DD - Data Deficient (22)

NA - Not Applicable (regional category) (1)


This result offers an alternative awareness of the situation than if I pursued the identification down to the singular species; of the order of primates 52 are critically endangered! - 110 vulnerable! - and so on. I immediately welcomed this wider story...one that offers glimmers of hope within the current extinction level event we are now experiencing.


No matter what the future brings, it remains that the very gift of existence requests a reciprocal response from humanity - the encouragement of all life is forever a worthy endeavour.


- D.E