Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Have you seen this bird?

Over the past 10 years House sparrow numbers have declined dramatically in the city of London. I recently provided the illustrations for an awareness campaign by Westminster City Council.

Please send your sightings of this bird to Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL):


Friday, 12 December 2008

SWLA Visitors choice award

I was thrilled to learn that my pastel of a Sumatran orangutan and baby was voted third in the visitors choice award at the Society of Wildlife Artists exhibition, out of 400 other works.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2009

I would like to encourage artists from around the world to enter the 2009 Wildlife Artist of the Year competition, put on by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation in aid of wildlife.

Click on the following link to submit your work:


Closing date for entries is the 31st January 2009.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

ARTwarming news

As winter approaches and those familiar aches and pains start to resurface, keep in mind that art can actually serve as a painkiller (it's scientifically proven!).....

In pain? Take one masterpiece, three times a day.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Society of Wildlife Artists exhibition 2008

45th annual exhibition 2008 (September 24th - October 5th)

Open every day from 10am - 5pm. Admission £2.50 (Consessions £1.50)


My passion for wildlife art developed in Africa, stimulated by the continent's sharp tropical light and dramatic colour palette. With zoologists as parents, my early years were spent with a sketchbook to keep me quiet in the back of the Land Rover, as a real “Life on Earth” show paraded outside the window. Hours without a television were occupied instead with my personal zoo of bugs and beasties – snakes, chameleons, antlions and many others. Crusty and scaly creatures later became the focus of my first solo exhibition “Metamorphosis”. Living in the shadow of the Virunga volcanoes, mountain gorillas were in the backdrop to my childhood. I saw them only once, accidentally on a forest walk, but I was hooked.

Back home in the chilly English winter I learnt to focus amidst distraction as the only boy in an art class of seven girls, and had my creative abilities stretched by Sculptor Oliver Barratt. Gradually I noticed that primates were starting to predominate in my mind and artwork, especially the great apes. I had grown up with tales from the forests of Sumatra, of the red ape – the “man of the forest”, of gibbons swinging and calling through the canopy, and of the people who lived in and around their habitat. I became obsessed with travelling to Asia, seeing orangutans in the wild, learning about their conservation, re-tracing my parents footsteps in Sumatra and seeing what had transpired for orangutans in the intervening years.

The Society of Wildlife Artists bursary turned this dream into reality, and I am extremely grateful to the SWLA and CAPMARK Europe for their crucial support. In January this year I spent two weeks in Bukit Lawang, on the edge of the Gunung Leuser Reserve. I stayed with Samsul, whose father and grandfather had led my parents on many forest treks, and who has set up a small ecotourism business alongside the fast-flowing Bohorok river. It is an artists paradise and, although you have to work for your wildlife moments in this hilly and humid habitat, the light, the forest, the sounds are inspiring and my sketchbook filled up rapidly. The ultimate aim of this trip was to harness that inspiration and gather research for an illustrated book – a collaboration that reflects on the past, present and future of orangutans and the people who are part of their conservation story. Making this into a published reality is now my focus. My two pieces in this year's exhibition, of an orangutan and a Thomas’s leaf monkey, are contemplative of the future too – who will survive and how?

Thomas's Leaf Monkey

Pastel Pencils

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Safaricom Lewa Marathon - Team AV

Above is a cartoon I did for the Africa & Asia Venture Safaricom Lewa Marathon fundraising page.

The AV Foundation works in poor, rural areas of Africa, Asia and Central/Southern America, awarding bursaries to children who could not otherwise get even a free education. It also helps build, rebuild or improve facilities at these schools, working with Africa & Asia Venture staff and volunteers who give support where needed.

This year a team from the Kenyan office are competing in the Safaricom Lewa half Marathon, one of the most challenging events of its type. They will be raising funds for the AV charity and the Tusk Trust (who organise the event). To make a donation to the cause, please visit the following link to their Justgiving page:


Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Responsible tourism in Bukit Lawang

There are currently only about 5000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild and Bukit Lawang is one of the few places you can see them in their natural setting. In doing so you can help protect them - a few tourist dollars into the local economy provides an added incentive to preserve both orangs and their habitat - and that habitat is facing critical threats.

Throughout their range forest is being cleared for oil palm and rubber plantations. This is widely documented and probably the major threat to the survival of this species and many others. But all is not well at the local level either, and visitors can really help orangutans by insisting on a responsible approach to local tourism.

Too many of the guides are not well trained, and some commit the serious error of offering food to orangutans encountered when on forest treks.
This is both irresponsible and dangerous, setting back the rehabilitant orangutans who are learning to become less dependent on human care, and increasing the risk of disease transfer. It doesn’t help the tourists either – one 30 odd year old female orang (“Meena”) has become aggressive and can be a risk to visitors. It is very tempting to touch the orangutans, but you would only be adding to the problem.

Take advice from the Park authorities and people like Samsul (of "Sam's Bungalows"), to recommend good and responsible guides who know and respect the forest and do not
put the orangutans in danger. Then you can relax, learn about the forest and leave only the imprints of your boots in the soft forest floor.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Sam's Bungalows – Bukit Lawang

You could quite literally throw a stone from the balcony of Sam's Bungalows across the Bohorok river in north Sumatra and it would land in the Gunung Leuser National Park. If you did you might startle a Thomas’s Leaf monkey foraging in the greenery, or disturb a water monitor basking in the sun on riverside rocks. Better than attacking the local fauna would be to sit with a cup of jungle tea and one of Sam's special fruit salads and watch the jungle move.

Sam's Bungalows are ideally situated up the river opposite the Park entrance, a short walk from the orangutan feeding site. There are currently 3 bungalows, all with their own balcony and shower room - beautifully decorated with rounded stones, smoothed by the river, and blending with the surroundings. The soothing sound of a nearby waterfall reminds you that this is rainforest, and you feel at one with nature.

Electricity has not yet reached this far up the river, but a generator provides power daily between the hours of 6pm and midnight. There is also only one temperature for the shower – Fresh! Daily rates range from between 80,000 – 150,000 IDR (£4.50 - £8.50) and the adjacent “Sam’s restaurant” overlooking the river below, is the perfect place to enjoy delicious home cooking from Ifat’s kitchen.

For bookings, contact Sam on: +62 813 7009 3597

I would like to encourage anyone who has stayed at Sam's Bungalows or been to Bukit Lawang to write a review in the form of a comment on this post to advise others who are thinking of travelling to this beautiful part of the world.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Joan Root (1936 – 2006) - Champion of African wildlife, friend and inspiration

Joan Root was passionate about Africa, its diversity of culture and landscape, but most of all, conservation of its astonishing wildlife. Joan was a kind and caring person; she was also a hugely talented film-maker, and along with her husband at the time Alan, made some of the most stunning and exciting documentaries about African wildlife ever produced. Among their various critically-acclaimed films were the likes of “Year of the Wildebeest”, “Balloon Safari over Kilimanjaro”, and the Academy Award nominated “Mysterious Castles of Clay”.

For the past 20 years or so, Joan lived at her home on the shores of Lake Naivasha in Kenya. A place of outstanding beauty, her home also acted as a refuge for orphaned animals, which Joan looked after. I remember visiting Joan here many times as a child with my family, and always being amazed by the mini oasis she had created. Gazelles and mongooses roamed carefree on her lawn; she could call up a porcupine from its underground burrow, or a lilac-breasted roller from the sky to her hand. Most memorable for me was meeting a tame aardvark and following it as it rooted around the garden. It was one of my favourite places, imbued with Joan’s peaceful and nurturing spirit.

Joan cared deeply for wildlife and the environment, and it was her innate desire to protect these that could have led to her death. She was campaigning to stop illegal fishing and poaching around the lake. She was shot through her bedroom window with an AK-47 assault rifle.

My 2006 exhibition "Out of Africa" was dedicated to the memory of Joan and her incredible achievements, and Working Title Films are currently producing a film about Joan's life with Julia Roberts portraying her.

Joan’s death was a waste, but the memories of the amazing life she led and all the good she did will never be forgotten. She has been an inspiration to so many people, and will be deeply missed.
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