Jean Donaldson Tiaki

  • Tauira / Student
    Jean Donaldson
  • Kaiako / Lecturer
    Jo Bailey

Aotearoa is a hotspot of biodiversity. Our long separation from other landmasses and extreme range of geographical environments has left us with one of the most diverse and unique ecosystems in the world. Along with that, we have one of the highest rates of endemism, over 70% of our animals are found nowhere else. From our highest mountains to the edges of the ocean, we have some of the most special creatures in existence. But our arrival on this land has left them on the brink of disappearing forever.

When Europeans arrived they brought many different kinds of introduced pests, deforested about 30% of the land and hunted many birds to extinction. Some of the most deadly introduced predators include rats, stoats and possums, all of which Aotearoa is still battling against today. This has completely devastated our natural ecosystems. 4000 of our species are at risk of extinction, the highest proportion of endangered species in the world, and 55 of our birds are now extinct. This was shocking and deeply saddening for me to learn. It prompted a lot of discussion with the people around me and most of them also didn’t know quite how terrible our native creatures were fairing. Most people knew of a couple of the more high-profile endangered species like the kākā or kea but very few I talked to knew many others. It got me thinking about the 4000 other species who are equally as important and deserving of our love and care.

This project took on its form through the conversations I had with my peers at university. I could see the young people around me were all eager to learn about the animals in their own country but didn’t know how to start. Many conservation groups are quite science-based and can seem scary and niche to someone on the outside. I could see there was a gap in the resources directed at getting young adults involved in conservation.

Illustration and visual communication have a unique way of sharing science with the world. it’s engaging and accessible. There are also hints of information design throughout Tiaki for more in-depth visual learning about the animals. Each of the illustrations has been hand-painted of procreate. Realistic illustration is able to communicate the animals in an almost scientific way while also being slightly magical and imaginative.

To avert this crisis we will need to adopt a much more holistic and integrated approach to conservation, which includes projects like this. It's about more than just saving these animals. When we lose a species we are losing more than just the animal. Along with the balance it creates in the ecosystem, we are losing all the traditional knowledge and history that animal holds. We can’t afford to lose another.