Extinct and inked

By Dan Kelly

The Oblong Rock Snail.  Photo / Supplied.
The Oblong Rock Snail. Photo / Supplied.

Nearly everywhere you look these days there is some publicity being given to the environmental plight of "the charismatic mega-fauna": large, cute and cuddly creatures we so readily identify with and want to help. But the world's environmental problems extend beyond polar bears and orang-utans to the bevy of less charismatic species also needing our love and attention.

It was this realisation that spurred American illustrator Samantha Dempsey to produce her Extinction Empathy tattoos, a collection of three temporary tattoos designed to commemorate some of our less-loved, but recently departed, species. "Everyone hears about the giant panda's plight, but I came to realise that you never hear about the ugly animals," Dempsey said. "They are all equally important for the planet's biodiversity."

The three tattoos focus on the St Helen's Giant Earwig, the oblong rock snail and a species of shrimp previously found in the drainage basin of Los Angeles river. Dempsey deliberately choose creatures that aren't known for their photogenic qualities, but is quick to point out that they each have their own features and are all beautiful in their importance to the biosphere.

Originally inspired by Dempsey's studies in genetic diversity, the temporary tattoos haved proved hugely popular, running out in the first 20 minutes that they were given out.
Dempsey has plans to expand her range to include other species from lesser-known areas like the deep sea hydrothermal vents and, while not extinct, the precarious nature of our own kiwi piqued Dempsey's interest too.

The tattoos have been so popular that Dempsey has been contacted by people who want to get permanent additions, suggesting an interest that goes beyond mere fascination with their nautical inspired tattoo style.

Her focus on the often forgotten members of the living community helps to remind us of the rich interactions that sustain life across the biosphere, mixing sailing sensibility with eco-chic to produce a product that not only looks great, but helps us question the limits of our moral sphere.

These guys might not look like us, but their survival is closely tied to our own - so why not get inked to commemorate it?

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