Animal likenesses are so common on kids clothing that we rarely think twice about the stories of the species themselves. At art and eden, we always try to keep things connected to their sources. So let’s take a closer look at the beautiful, sometimes dangerous, sometimes mysterious creatures that are on our shirts and dresses this season.
The largest feline on the planet, tigers span the Eastern hemisphere - there are indigenous subspecies in South and Southeast Asia, Russia, Nepal and China. The tiger plays important roles in Chinese myth and culture, Buddhist mythology and Asian folklore. Western Imperialism and Colonialism brought awareness of the species to the greater globe, and hunting them became extremely popular because of their distinctive striped coats for hunting trophies. Chinese medicine also calls for various parts of the tiger’s anatomy, further encouraging clandestine hunting for valuable ingredients.
Because of poaching and habitat loss, as well as local human retaliatory killings, tigers have been classified as endangered for a century. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, less than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild. Some subspecies are extinct like the Bali and Caspian, others are critically endangered, and others are enjoying success with increasing population size. While some tigers are rising in numbers, the smallest Sumatran Tiger is estimated to only have about 600 existing in the Indonesian wild.
Besides contributing to various wildlife protection funds, there are other ways to indirectly help tigers. Try to avoid palm oil unless it is certified sustainable (RSPO logo) - while we don’t usually purchase it by itself, it’s a common ingredient in processed foods. Not only is this create a market for palm oil manufacturers that have better agricultural practices, it helps tigers - it protects the habitat of orangutans, elephants, and hornbills, according to zoo.org documentation. Also related to Sumatra wilderness deforestation, buying paper products that are Forest Stewardship Council certified or 100 percent recycled will also make an important impact. It’s an easily overlooked fact that your toilet paper could be made from the last refuge of these majestic and nearly extinct animals.
hummingbird feeding from lavender plant Photo by Andrea Reiman on Unsplash
The animal on this list that you’ve most likely experienced in their native habitat, the hummingbird is a magical sight. They’re tiny, extremely maneuverable, and only found in the Americas (from Alaska to Chile according to TreeHugger), 17 species of which nest or migrate through the US of 325 species total. But if you haven’t had the pleasure of being near one yet, they do really hum - the sound comes from its wings, beating 70-200 times per second depending on the type of flight.
While adored around the world, the hummingbird is vulnerable to many man-made threats. The Juan Fernández Firecrown is the most threatened of all hummingbird species by possible extinction. Listed as critically endangered, the eponymic Firecrown only currently exists on the Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernández Archipelago with a population of about 3,000. Cornell Lab of Ornithology lists threats to this particular species include invasive plant species, cats and competition from the more widespread Green-backed Firecrown.
Hummingbird feeders are a fairly common sight in bucolic backyards, but other ways to be more friendly are to eliminate pesticides and grow pollinate-able plants. Because of their small size these birds are the most vulnerable to toxic chemicals. Audubon also recommends setting overripe fruit or banana peels next to feeders to attract fruit flies for them as well.
Alligator birds-eye view Photo by Jen Palmer on Unsplash
While they were considered endangered from 1973 until 1987, American alligators made a remarkable recovery thanks to hunting prohibition and habitat protection - a welcome ecological success story. They are the largest reptile that lives in North America, and now so common that the hunting ban was lifted in all Southeastern states where they live except for North Carolina. They are hunted now for both their meat and skin, the latter of which is now a $60 million farming industry.
If you’re ever pressed to determine the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, you’ll be relieved to have these details: Alligators have wide U-shaped snouts, and crocodiles have pointed snouts. Crocodiles show more teeth when their jaws are shut - alligators don’t have any teeth visible when their jaws are together. And finally - and most useful for those who don’t want to get close, alligators live in freshwater and crocodiles are usually in saltwater.
Our animal inspirations come from around the world - hopefully they can inspire you too!