Street art is coming to the rescue of endangered wildlife
An exciting street art project is raising awareness of threatened species by transforming railway arches in East London.
Some of the world’s most endangered species will be on view in London from mid-April. But they won’t be in the city’s famous zoo next to Regent’s Park, or even in the hallowed halls of the Natural History Museum.
ENDANGERED 13 is an ambitious street art project that aims to use a somewhat bleak stretch of railway arches in Tower Hamlets, East London, as a blank canvas for a series of larger-than-life murals.
Thirteen artists will transform the brickwork into a dazzling array of feathers, fur and scales to raise awareness of the growing threats facing endangered species.
Wildlife being painted includes orangutans, blue whales, tigers, bateleur eagles, polar bears, hummingbirds, bees and coral reef fish.
The vibrant murals will be a short stroll from Mile End underground station, and when complete will stretch for 120 metres – equivalent to ten of Boris Johnson’s new double-decker buses.
Street art by Dr Zadok and Jim Vision © Dr Zadok and Jim Vision
Louis Masai, one of Britain’s new wave of wildlife street artists, is co-curating the project together with environmental art organisation Human Nature. “With ENDANGERED 13 we’re uniting many creative minds, building a community around an ever-increasing global concern: the environment,” he says.
“Each artist will bring their own approach, but we are united in calling for change,” says Masai. “We want to see these species rise in number and their natural habitats saved within the next 10 years. It’s one of the most critical issues for our generation.”
Fellow artist ATM said: “The great virtue of street art is that it is available to all and brings colour and vibrancy to our towns and cities. Art then becomes more than a rare pleasure requiring a special visit to an art gallery, but instead forms part of the fabric of our everyday lives.”
Street art by Xenz. 2 © Xenz. 2
In his monthly column for BBC Wildlife Magazine, TV presenter Chris Packham hailed the unique power of street art to influence people.
“At last street artists are exploring natural history in a more interesting and controversial way,” he wrote. “I like this a lot. I like it because it is genre-crossing, nature-connecting and brings environmental issues into the lives of those who may otherwise be unaware of them.”
“Controversy can be beautiful,” Packham added. “We could do with more of it.”
ENDANGERED 13 begins with an afternoon of live painting at 12–7pm on Sunday 10 April, and will remain on public view. Find it at Ackroyd Drive, Tower Hamlets, London E3 4JY. For more information visit www.humannatureshow.com/endangered13 or on Twitter follow #endangered13
Ben Hoare is a wildlife writer and editor, and proud to be an all-round ‘nature nerd’. He was features editor at BBC Wildlife magazine from 2008 to 2018, and after that its editorial consultant. Ben writes about seasonal natural-history highlights in every issue of the magazine, and also contributes longer conservation stories. His latest children’s book is 'Wild City', published in October 2020.