New York/Vienna, 1 August 2023 – Wildlife advocates and supporters gathered in Lower Manhattan on 31 July to celebrate the installation of a large-scale new mural raising awareness for endangered tigers and other big cats. Commissioned by global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, the mural, titled Beyond Borders: The beauty and peril of the tiger, was painted by renowned wildlife muralist Sonny Sundancer. It is a part of the organisation’s #BreaktheViciousCycle campaign calling for the end of the commercial trade of all big cats in South Africa. The country farms big cats for international trade, including indigenous species in South Africa such as lions and leopards, but also exotic species like tigers and jaguars.
"The tiger holds a very special place in our hearts and now, as a 3-story dedication to the US Endangered Species Act, and our work to save this wonderful species, we can bring this message of hope and activism, dedication and grit to the world,” said Danika Oriol-Morway, Country Director, FOUR PAWS USA. “The message is, if we work together, we can save species, we can protect the planet, and we can make this world a hopeful place for all living things."
The three-story mural in New York is the first in the FOUR PAWS #YearofArt series featuring big cat murals painted and displayed around the world. Another mural will be revealed in due course in Cape Town, with more cities yet to be announced.
Mural artist Sonny Sundancer is widely acclaimed for his large-scale wildlife murals and intricately detailed oil paintings. His work can be found in galleries and streets worldwide, from South Africa to New York.
“Through my work painting large-scale murals around the world, I have seen firsthand the incredible power of art to captivate people and spark conversations, both online and in the streets,” said Sonny Sundancer, mural artist. “With a deep passion for wildlife and big cats, I am truly honored to be a part of this impactful campaign and hope that my art can help bring awareness to this amazing initiative.”
The Manhattan mural also honors the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), as a part of the larger ESA at 50 movement. The ESA is a landmark piece of legislation that institutionalized America’s national commitment to conservation and the protection of imperiled fish, plants and wildlife and the places they call home. 99% of species protected under the ESA have been saved from extinction, including the humpback whale, grizzly bear, and bald eagle. ESA at 50 celebrates half a century of protecting, conserving, and recovering wildlife from the brink of extinction.
More tigers in captivity than in the wild
In its Second-Class Tigers report published in 2020, FOUR PAWS revealed that there are just 3,900 tigers left in the wild compared to an estimate of 5,000-10,000 captive tigers in the United States and 1,600 in Europe. 7,000-8,000 captive tigers are estimated in Asia, with zero tigers left in Vietnam, which is a country of origin. There is no exact number for South Africa but according to information from other NGOs, the estimate is at 1,500. FOUR PAWS considers this as just the tip of the iceberg, as no authority really knows how many tigers are kept in zoos, circuses, and privately in a specific country.
“Big cats have historically been iconic species to be revered and respected. Today, the way we treat big cats has drastically changed. Rather than protecting their species and natural habitats, people treat them as commodities, kept captive in inadequate zoos, as exotic pets, exploited for entertainment, or killed for their body parts. In many cases, the breeding of big cats is far from any real conservation efforts; and whilst the wild populations of tigers are slowly growing again, the murals highlight the need for global change if we are to truly reverse the demise of the world's big cat populations,”
Vanessa Amoroso, Head of the Wild Animals in Trade unit at FOUR PAWS
Sonny Behan, also known as Sonny Sundancer, is an acclaimed artist renowned for his magnificent large-scale wildlife murals and intricately detailed oil paintings. His art, which seamlessly blends realism with abstraction, can be found in galleries and streets worldwide, from South Africa to New York. Sonny’s passion for using his creativity to highlight the need to protect and preserve the natural world has earned him the reputation of being an artist who is deeply engaged and driven to make an impact. To this end, he has collaborated with prominent non-profits and organisations, such as World Wildlife Fund, United Nations, UNICEF, IFAW, Global Citizen and Discovery Inc., to create public art installations and campaigns to raise awareness for conservation efforts.
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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org