Do you like nature? Do you like mythology? Do you have an itch to draw something and are looking for inspiration? Check out this challenge list featuring endangered creatures and the myths, lore, stories that surround them. Snow Leopards as mountain protectors and spirits, Salamanders as creatures of fire and chimerical inspiration for medieval dragons, Seahorses the children of Poseidon's hippocampi: These are just some examples of the stories you can draw your inspiration from with this prompt list.

I will be exploring this list of species through the month of October 2020 and I invite any artist to join me in this celebration of nature in using these prompts and lore snippets, and tagging #UndyingTalesProject on Instagram.

100% of the profit from the sale of these 31 original drawings by Stephanie Law will be going to various environmental charities. (Scroll down for Charity List) Contact stephlaw@gmail.com if you are interested in purchasing one of the available originals, or to request being added on the daily mailing notification that will be sent out when each drawing is done in October.

 

1 Eld's Deer

2 Scottish Wildcat

3 Slender Snouted Crocodile

4 White-spotted Bush Frog

5 Balete Tree

6 Brown-eared Pheasant

7 Bee

8 Tibetan Antelope

9 Four-horned Chameleon

10 Golden Snub-nosed Monkey

11 Kapok Tree

12 Snowy Owl

13 Snow Leopard

14 Salamander

15 Moorhen

16 Ring-tailed Lemur

17 Seahorse

18 Hamerkop

19 Stingray

20 Imperial Pigeon

21 Short-nosed Sea Snake

22 Waling-waling Orchid

23 Alcathoe Bat

24 Narwhal

25 Rhinoceros Hornbill

26 Amur Leopard

27 White-spotted Char

28 Sacred Blue Lily of the Nile

29 Great Bustard

30 White Kermode Bear

31 Starfish

 


*CURRENT 2021 Challenge List*

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*Oct 2020*
*Feb 2020*
*Oct 2019*
*Charities*


Eld's Deer

 

Status:Endangered - Poached for hides and antler trophies, and limited protection of their habitat.

Highlighted species: Panolia eldii

The qilin is a creature from Chinese mythology that has the body and antlers of deer, the scales and whiskers of carp, the tail of ox, and the head of lung (a Chinese dragon). Though fierce to behold, they are gentle creatures, often depicted as walking upon clouds or across the surface of water so as not to harm grass or any other living creature. They are symbols of luck and prosperity.

Though descriptions of these chimerical beasts were woven from the traits of creatures in the Asian landscape for thousands of years, it was not until the 15th century in the Ming Dynasty when merchants presented giraffes from modern-day Somalia to the Emperor, that the qilin became associated with giraffes.

 

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Scottish Wildcat


Status:Critically Endangered in UK because of hybridization with household domestic cats

Highlighted species: Felis silvestris silvestris

Stalking through the thistles and heather of the Scottish Highlands, a traveler might glimpse a dark silhouette with a blaze of white fur upon the chest lurking at the edges of firelight. A sinuous tail weaving in the shadows would announce the presence of Cait Sidhe, a fairy feline of Celtic mythology. Cait Sidhe is thought to be inspired by sightings of hybrid descendants of Scottish Wildcats, and it was believed that if a body was left unattended a wake, Cait Sidhe might steal the soul of the deceased. To prevent this from occurring, those at the wake would offer entertainment to distract the playful cat, and play music for it to dance to, and pose riddles (because no fairy can resist such games).

 

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Slender-snouted Crocodile

 

Status: Critically Endangered - 1000-20000 population - hunted for bushmeat and for skin

Highlighted species: Mecistops cataphracus

As told in “The Secret of the Crocodile” - Namibia Oral Tradition Project:

Crocodile was once a beautiful creature. He had a glorious golden and smooth skin, and it was kept in this lovely state by his habits of diving into the muddy waters in the daytime where he was protected from the harsh sunlight, and only coming out at night.

The other animals wanted to see Crocodile’s lovely skin however, and he wished to show off, and so he began to show himself in the daytime to their envious gaze. Under their admiration however, he began to grow vain. He wanted them to look upon him more and more, and so he came up from the murky waters more often in the daytime. He spent longer periods of time under the burning sunlight. His attitude became unpleasant as knowledge of his beauty went to his head, and the other animals grew tired of being bossed around and eventually abandoned him.

But by now, Crocodile’s skin had been exposed to the brutal sunlight for quite some time as he continued to seek admiring eyes, and each day that he did so made his skin uglier, coarser, bumpier, and darker, until he became as you see him today, armored in thick scales, and humiliated that no one wishes to look upon him any longer.

 

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White-spotted Bush Frog

 

Status: Critically Endangered - 80% of the frogs in India are on the verge of extinction, due to habitat loss, and overall worldwide, a third of amphibians are endangered or threatened. Amphibians’ sensitivity to fluctuations in pollution makes them indicators of overall environmental health, and they are vital in the food chain.

Highlighted species: Raorchestes chalazodes

Why frogs have croaking voices: Agni is the Vedic fire god of Hinduism, and he is also a messenger. As such, when Shiva and Uma’s relations threatened to destroy the world, the other gods begged Agni to intervene. He did not wish to do so, and instead fled into the water to avoid the duty.

Agni’s fiery heat set the waters churning and steaming, boiling in his wake so that the creatures who dwelt in the normally cool and dark depths swam away in fear. The frogs swam to the surface and told the other gods where Agni was hiding. Angered at that betrayal, he cursed the frogs to croaking voices in retribution for their wagging tongues, so that no one would be able to understand them.

 

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Balete Tree

 

Status: Not endangered in themselves, however many native/old/iconic baletes are declared as heritage trees, and ficus trees in general are an exceptional resource for wildlife, including many endangered and threatened species in tropical forests.

Highlighted species: Ficus virens

In their natural habitat in the Philipines, balete trees grow by sending out long hanging aerial roots. When the roots touch the ground, they grow into new trunks, resulting over time in a tangled webwork of cascading root/trunks. As the balete grows older and these grow thicker, the tree gains a mysterious character, riddled with secret inner chambers where supernatural forest being dwell.

Mariit is a belief that the there are unseen creatures that live in all the parts of nature, and thus they need to be respected and cared for, because we exist within that very ancient framework of the land. Very old balete trees, hundreds of years old, or even over a thousand years old, are known to be a favored host for nature spirits, as well as providing shelter and food for the more physically real birds and animals and insects.

 

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Brown-eared Pheasant

 

Status: Vulnerable because of isolated populations, deforestation, and poaching

Highlighted species: Crossoptilon mantchuricum

Chinese mythology: The Fenghuang bird is often called a phoenix, but it is a very different creature from the Greek mythology concept of a “phoenix” (a singular creature that dies in flame and is reborn).

The Fenghuang is a beautiful and immortal being that has a pheasant’s head and body, peacock’s tail, crane’s legs, swallow’s wings. Sightings of it were seen as an omen of political harmony and world peace upon an Emperor’s ascension. The Fenghuang encapsulates both female and male energies within itself thus being a physical embodiment of harmony, yin and yang.

 

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Bee

 

Status:Globally, bee populations have been suffering due to climate change and pesticides and destruction of native habitat and flora. People often hear of the plight of honeybees, but those are not endangered. The native wild populations of bees are the ones that are at risk. These wild native bees are vital to our agriculture as crop pollinators, which is supplemented but not replaced by cultivated honeybees.

Highlighted species:Short-haired Bumblebee - Bombus subterraneus

16th Century Italian Poet Ludovico Ariosto wrote an epic poem “Orlando Furioso” (”The Madness of Orlando”), a tale inhabited by fantastic creatures, monsters, sorcerors against a backdrop of war and chivalric romance. In the poem is a good sorceress named Melissa, who is an acolyte of Merlin. The name “Melissa” has its origins in ancient Greece, where the priestesses of Demeter were called “Melissae”, meaning bees, and were creatures with the gift of foretelling. Through the Middle Ages, bees were associated with the gods, with magic, with prophecy, and with fairies.

 

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Tibetan Antelope

 

Status: Near Threatened - In 1980s they were endangered, but due to protective laws against poaching, they have recovered in the past decades. Even so they are still poached to make scarves from soft warm underfur. 3-5 of them must be killed to make one scarf.

Highlighted species: Pantholops hodgsonii

Greek mythology: Theophane was a beauty, nymph and grand-daughter of Helios the sun god. Poseidon, god of the sea, was struck by her loveliness. To have her for himself, he spirited her away to an island surrounded and protected by the cerulean swells of the ocean. Even there, her legendary beauty tempted suitors to come and seek her out. To keep the men at bay, Poseidon transformed Theophane into a sheep, one of many among the flocks, and took on the form of a ram for himself.

The offspring of Poseidon and Theophane in these forms was a winged ram with fleece of gold.

The golden ram was later sacrificed to Poseidon, and its Golden Fleece became an icon of power and kingship.

The ancient Greeks wove this tale around a creature of divine and distant origins, and it is possible that Tibetan takin was the inspiration for the golden creature, or Tibetan antelopes, who are even to this day sought out by poachers and killed for the golden fibers and woven into luxury shawls.

 

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Four-horned Chameleon

 

Status: Vulnerable - At least 35% of the world’s chameleons are endangered. Most chameleons are range-restricted, endemic to very small and specific regions, and so when those areas experience habitat loss, it has a devastating effect on these reptile populations.

Highlighted species: Trioceros quadricornis

The Bantu people in sub-Saharan Africa have a story about the origin of death. God gave instructions separately to both a chameleon and a lizard. He told the chameleon that he was to be a messenger to tell mankind that they would never die. He gave the opposite instructions to the lizard, who was to tell mankind that they would die. The two creatures set off on their paths, but the chameleon was easily distracted. He stopped to eat, and he walked slowly, not realizing that anything was at stake. The lizard on the other hand, sped along quickly and soon arrived to deliver his message first, and as a result, man was determined to be mortal and have a finite span of life.

 

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Golden Snub-nosed Monkey

 

Status: Endangered

Highlighted species: Rhinopithecus roxellana

The travels and adventures of the Monkey King, Sun Wukong, are best known from the 16th century book, “Journey to the West”. He is a trickster god, born whole and springing from a rock.

At first he went to live among the monkeys of the forest, and quickly attained status as their king when he proved his bravery by jumping from the great height of a waterfall. With the monkeys behind him, he lead them in exploits and mischief, gaining for himself in that time chain mail armor, cloud-walking boots, and a magical 8-ton staff.

But his pranks and stubborness escalated with his fame, and eventually he decided to challenge the Jade Emperor. This infuriated the Jade Emperor, and Sun Wukong was imprisoned under a mountain to reflect upon his misdeeds.

After 500 years, he was finally freed by a Buddhist monk, and he became the monk’s bodyguard. Over the course of their westward journey, he underwent a spiritual transformation from an empty and ignorant monkey, to an enlightened king.

 

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Kapok Tree

 

Status: Important in the Amazon jungle ecosystems, supporting many different kinds of wildlife. Due to deforestation, they along with other flora are being cut at an alarming rate.

Highlighted species: Ceiba Pentandra

Towering above other trees in the Amazon jungle, the Kapok tree is a giant guardian. It stretches pale green-striped branches to the sky. Its canopy spreads wide, providing shelter for many creatures, embracing the land with its arcing shade, and studded with the white petals of its night-blooming flowers that attract bats as pollinators.

The ancient Maya held the kapok tree as sacred, and as a tree of life, called Yaxche. It stands at the center of the earth as a conduit between the spirit worlds and the physical, its long vines being the channels by which the realms are interconnected.

Tucked among its roots are bats, who are representative of the underworld. The trunk is host to birds and insects and animals, providing them shelter and nourishment for life and growth. Perched at the crown, which points north, south, east, and west, is an eagle who represents the celestial.

It is the home for the Gods, as well as supernatural creatures, and it is also revered for its medicinal qualities, and the practical uses of the silk-like fibers from the seedpods.

 

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Snowy Owl

 

Status: Vulnerable

Highlighted species: Bubo scandiacus

A Menominee story, Origin of Night and Day:

Rabbit was walking along a path and came upon Owl, perched high up in a tree. Rabbit asked Owl, “Why do you like it dark? I don’t like the dark because I can’t see. If I had my way, I would make it light all the time.”

Owl told him, “Well, if you are strong enough to make that happen, I would like to see you try!” However, the two decided to instead have a competition to see who was the stronger.

In front of a gathered audience of all the other animals, some of whom rooted for Rabbit but were skeptical about desiring eternal light, and some of whom rooted for Owl, they each set about bidding the sky to do their will. Rabbit chanted “Light!” while Owl chanted “Night!” and the game was lost if one of them lost concentration and said the wrong word.

Owl was the one to slip up first, and as he uttered, “Light!” Rabbit was declared the winner. However, seeing that the other animals didn’t want it to be light all the time, he conceded and they decided to let time be split into cycles of day and night.

 

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Snow Leopard

 

Status: Vulnerable

Highlighted species: Panthera uncia

The Wakhi people know of a spiritual realm high in the mountains of Pakistan. The mountain ranges scrape the skies with some of the tallest peaks in the world, and nestled like gems among the ranges are pastures where blue sheep range. This alpine realm is called mergich, and spirits of the mountain live there, while humans can only dare to set foot at those elevations in the summer, after asking the resident spirits for permission.

Because snow leopards are only found in those mergich realms, the beautiful and elusive creatures are known to be vessels and incarnations for the mergichan.

More snow leopard legends can be found at:

https://snowleopardconservancy.org/text/myth/pakmyths.htm

 

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Luschan's Salamander

 

Status: Vulnerable - About half of the world’s salamanders are threatened or endangered currently. They are at risk because of habitat loss, victims of our roadways, and changes to waterways that prevent necessary steps in their life cycle.

Highlighted species: Lyciasalamandra luschani

The vision of a ferocious and deadly scaled, winged, and fire-breathing dragon came about in the Middle Ages. Dragons were mentioned in Greek mythology, as well as serpentine mythical creatures from Asia, but during the dark ages when there was little literacy, stories wove together into chimerical beings. There is a bit of the salamander threaded into the dragon mythology as well, for salamanders were long associated with fire. Perhaps because of their habit of choosing dry wood to nest in, when logs were set in the hearth and set ablaze, the salamanders would scurry forth, leading to a belief that they were the cause of the fire, or spirits of ember and flame.

 

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Moorhen

 

Status: Near Threatened due to loss of habitat, hunting, and predation from non-native species introduced to the islands

Highlighted species: Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis

The ‘Alae’Ula bird is an elusive creature, shy and quick to seek shelter when it senses the presence of another creature. It delves among the reeds and dense vegetation of marshes and wetlands. Their beaks have a distinctive bright red frontal shield, tipped with a golden point. In Hawaiian legend, the ‘Alae’Ula once had pristine white plumage. He flew to the heart of the volcano where the gods reside, and brought back fire for humans, and the fiery journey turned his feathers soot-black, and left his beak blazing red like the volcano’s flames.

 

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Ring-tailed Lemur

 

Status: Endangered due to habitat destruction and pet trade.

Highlighted species: Lemur catta

A Mahafaly man captured a tortoise one day, and brought it home to his two wives. As the first wife was preparing the tortoise for dinner, the second wife spied her. Jealousy flared in the second wife for her husband had not given the tortoise to her! She took a wooden spoon and began to beat the first wife. Under the beating, the first wife was transformed into a ring-tailed lemur. Angry at her aggressor, she snatched the spoon from the second wife and beat her back, and the second wife was transformed into a sifaka.

This story, telling of how these two primates were once humans and hence related to mankind, and the very human-like qualities of lemurs with their long fingers and expressive faces, is thought to be the reason why killing them is taboo and may bring bad luck to those who commit the crime.

More about this story at: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Mahafaly-origin-myth-The-first-wife-now-in-the-form-of-a-ring-tailed-lemur-grappled_fig11_242198127

 

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Long-snouted seahorse

 

Status: not enough data, but all seahorses are affected due to warming oceans and pollution, as well as trade for aquarium and Chinese medicine.

Highlighted species: Hippocampus guttulatus

From the ancient Phoenician city-state of Tyre, one of the earliest depictions of a hippocampus can be found showing the god Melqart riding upon a creature that has the head of a horse, tail of a dolphin, and wings. The name that we know this beast by, comes from later Greek mythology, the hippocampus. Poseidon of the sea rode in a chariot drawn by these mythic creatures who had serpentine coils, fish-fine manes, and a horse’s head. They cut through the waves of the sea with the swiftness of equines mounts upon land. When fishermen caught sea-horses in their nets, they were said to be the offspring of Poseidon’s hippocampi.

 

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Hamerkop

 

Status: Not endangered, but an example of a creature that is safe due to the protection offered by superstition and legend, and how one path of conservation can be to work with indigenous groups to explore the elements of their lore that may encourage cohabitation and saving of native wildlife. This can be a tricky endeavor as in some cases a legend that depicts creatures as dark omens can spark a desire to kill them, while at other times it engenders the opposite response of avoidance, letting-be, or even of bestowing sacred status.

Highlighted species: Scopus umbretta

Hamerkops reside in wetlands and near rivers, by lakes and mangroves and paddy fields. Their shadows are notably seen skimming waters’ surface or wading at dusk, when the sun’s disk is low in the sky and the air stills as day and night meld in an otherworldly boundary. Their cry is an eerie ululation. It sends shivers down the spines of those who hear it, and visions of death in the winged dance they perform as they feed at a pool.

Hamerkops are respected and feared in equal measure, for they are omens of death. The Hottentots believe that hamerkops can see the future reflected in a pool of water for a death to come, or see death in a falling star over a person’s house. When they see such, they fly to the dwelling place of the person and cry out with their strange song: a tangle of mourning, warning, and inescapable fate.

Superstitions of ill-fate befalling those who harm the nest of a hamerkop, as well as their often revered status as otherworldly creatures, have protected them from incursions of man, though they often live in close proximity to humans.

 

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Stingray

 

Status: Many rays are vulnerable or endangered because they have relatively long lives with few offspring and cannot recover easily when populations are impacted. They are under pressure from commercial and recreational fishing, pollution, and habitat alteration.

Highlighted species: Manta Ray - Manta birostris

In Maori lore, Punga is the son of the Sea god, Tangaroa, and is the god of ugliness. All the scaled, creeping, crawling, slimy, creatures of nature are his descendants. Punga had two sons: Tū-te-wehiwehi made his home in the on the land and under the arcing boughs of the trees to become ancestor of many terrestrial reptiles and insects, and Ikatere who went to the ocean to become ancestor for sharks, rays, and the aquatic beasts.

 

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Mindoro Imperial Pigeon

 

Status: Many species of Ducula are endangered because of habitat loss and predation, and they are among the most threatened of avian species.

Highlighted species: Ducula mindorensis

In the Chinese Guideways Through Mountains & Seas, one of the many creatures in the bestiary is the Jingwei bird, who lives upon Deaprting-Doves mountain.

Once there was a young girl named Nuwa. She was swimming when the Ocean rose up against her and tore her away from the shore, and she drowned. Her spirit however was transformed into a bird, who from that day on flew back and forth from the mountains, carrying twigs and stones which she dropped into the frothing waves. “To revenge my death, I will fill you up!” she told the Ocean, and is tireless in her daunting task. To this day, it is said that one has unbelievable endurance and perserverance, they are like the jingwei bird with her indomitable will.

 

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Short-nosed Sea Snake

 

Status: Critically Endangered - They breed in the reefs, and because of rising sea temperatures and fishing, their populations have severely suffered.

Highlighted species: Aipysurus apraefrontalis

Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime:

The Wagyl is a creature from Dreamtime, when the lands were new and inhabited by ancestral figures and creatures. Wagyl is a huge snakelike being, charged with the creation and protection of waterways and wildlife. Wagyl’s serpentine body, sliding across the land, carved out the passages for rivers, pushing aside the mud and rock to make way for the life-giving waters to spring forth and flow in his wake. When he grew weary and coiled to rest, the indentation of his body left room for lakes and bays, and the water pooled and gleamed and mirrored the sun. As his scales scraped fell loose on the land, they grew into woodlands, cascading into the valleys that his tail swiped from the earth.

 

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Waling-waling Orchid

 

Status: Endangered because of over-collection

Highlighted species: Vanda sanderiana

Endemic to the tropical forests Mindanao in the Philipines, this exquisite flower dazzles all who behold her. A fan of leaves cascade from where it anchors at the tops of trees, topped by magnificent clusters of blooms of purple, vermilion, and blushing pink. From its discovery by foreigners in 1882, a German taxonomist named Heinrich Gustav Reicheinback, it became in danger of extinction, as desire to possess its beauty seized hold of western collectors.

It is no wonder that within her native environs, the flower is known as the “Queen of orchids” or “beautiful goddess” or “beautiful lady from heaven”. In the animistic religions of indigenous Filipinos, diwata are spirits of nature. They incarnate the essences of plants, animals, and places, and the Waling-waling is revered as a beautiful diwata.

 

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Alcathoe Bat

 

Status: Not enough information, but considered threatened because of rarity and habitat loss. Bats are suffering for many of the reasons other pollinators do, and 26% of bat species are threatened with extinction in Europe.

Highlighted species: Myotis alcathoe

In Irish folklore, there is a fairy creature called the Phooka. It is a mischievous, shape-changing sprite. It can be very capricious in its dealings with humans, sometimes being benevolent and helpful, and other times maliciously pranking. In particular they like to wait along roadsides to find unsuspecting humans to play with. And if one comes across a Phooka, be sure to treat it with respect else earn its ire!i

Phooka can takes on the shape of various creatures, and even sometimes human form (though you can spot it by some animal attribute that might linger, like long furred ears, or a tail slipping under the clothing. One of the shapes it is said to take on is that of a bat, to flit through the night on silent leathery wings and slip through the tangled branches of forests.

 

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Narwhal

 

Status: Near Threatened - Climate change is quickly changing the environment of the Arctic and the ecosystem of the narwhal's habitat, and chemical pollutants in those waters also deeply impact large predators

Highlighted species: Monodon monoceros

How the Narwhal got its tusk: An Inuit mother had two children, a daughter, and a blind step-son. The son went hunting with a bow and arrow, and he shot and killed a bear, but the mother lied to him and told him his arrow had not flown true. So while the son was given but scraps to eat, the mother and his sister filled their bellies with the meat from the bear.

His sister had a kind heart however, and so sometimes when their mother was not present, she slipped him bits of the rich and delicious bear meat. One day, a pod of white whales swam by, and the son had realized how cruel his mother was. He lashed her to the passing whales, and as she was pulled away and drowned, her plaited hair twisted in the waters and formed the tusk of a narwhal.

More information about this Inuit myth and variations: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-narwhal-got-its-tusk-180964331/

 

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Rhinoceros Hornbill

 

Status: Vulnerable - Hunted for pets, and for their feathers, and endangered by deforestations

Highlighted species: Buceros rhinoceros

Hornbills can be found soaring through the treetops. Because they are large creatures, a pack of ten of them can be enough to blot out the sun, a majestic and chilling sight.

Their dark and graceful wings making a sweeping sound as they glide, accompanied by their loud barking calls that sometimes sound like laughter or anger ringing through the jungles. Their faces also have a human-like quality about them, with long and expressive eyelashes. These traits make it easy to anthropomorphize them, and thus many indigenous groups in Asia and Africa view them as sacred creatures. The Dayak tribe of Borneo tell of how hornbills guide the souls of the dead to the realms of the afterlife, and that the bestow luck upon the communities that they fly over. Hornbills are woven into their art, ceremonial garments, and dances. Iban tribes of Sarawak see hornbills as omens from the God of War.

 

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Amur Leopard

 

Status: Critically Endangered

Highlighted species: Panthera pardus orientalis

Xiwangmu, Queen Mother of the West, is a Chinese deity, a powerful goddess with dominion over fertility, health, creation and destruction. She is wife of the Jade Emperor, and guardian off the Peaches of Immortality. In the earliest mentions of her, she has a wild and ferocious nature, and is depicted with a feral cast, and only in later artwork is she shown in a more refined and cultivated vision.

In “A Chinese Beastiary: Guideways Through Mountains & Seas”, edited & Translated by Richard E. Strassberg:
“Three hundred fifty li farther wst is Jade Mountain. This is where the Queen Mother of the West dwells. The Queen Mother of the West resembles a human with a leopard’s tail and tiger’s teeth. She is adept as whistling and wears a Sheng-Crown on top of her unkempt hair. She administers calamities from heaven as well as five punishments.”

 

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White-spotted Char

 

Status: Endangered - Human interference in the environments make it difficult for fish to navigate the rivers and streams to spawn. Many ecosystems rely on the patterns of migratory fish to sustain the creatures who live in those coastal environments, and so the depletion of wild salmon, char, and trout populations can have severe impacts.

Highlighted species: Salvelinus leucomaenis japonicus

The Japanese name for this fish, Amemasu, means “rain trout”, and they inhabit rivers and lakes of Honshu and Hokkaido. It is said that they are shape-shifters that can take on the form of a beautiful woman. In this alluring form, they seduce young men leading them away to never be seen again. But the glamour can be pierced by touch, for their skin is cold as that of their fish nature.

The Ainu know that ancient Amemasu are guardians deities of lakes. These old ones grow so big that they can span the width of an entire lake.

 

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Sacred Blue Lily of the Nile

 

Status: While they have been propagated around the world, their native origins are in the Nile delta. But as the river is greatly polluted now, the flowers are rarely found there, and this is a reflection of the state of the entire wetlands ecosystem in the region.

Highlighted species: Nymphaea caerulea

The sacred blue lily of the Nile’s silken petals are a cerulean cup that grows up through murky waters to sit pristine upon the water’s surface. Originally native to the delta of the Nile, they were abundantly depicted in ancient Egyptian carvings and paintings, and it is speculated that the hallucinogenic and narcotic properties were utilized in rituals.

Nefertum was a beautiful and youthful diety. His dominion was over beauty and fragrance and cosmetics. He was born from a blue lily bud at the beginning of time. Because he was lone at the world’s dawn, he cried, and his tears fell to the earth and became the first humans. Each morning, he was reborn at sunrise, and each sunset he died as the sun traversed into the underworld.

 

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Great Bustard

 

Status: Vulnerable

Highlighted species: Otis Tarda

The Simurgh is found in Persian tales, and is a great avian creature as large as thirty birds, and who bears as many colors in its plumage. It lives in Gaokerena, the Tree of Life.

Descriptions of the Simurgh vary, sometimes having the form of a raptor, other times the claws of a lion, head of a dog, and feathers of a peacock, and sometimes with a human female face. The Simurgh is ancient and embodies purity and healing. When it takes off from Gakerena, the leaves and seeds are shaken loose to drift across the world and take root in a great diversity of healing herbs and plants.

 

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White Kermode Bear

 

Status: Not listed as endangered, however there had been a conservation push to save the Canadian rainforest habitat for the rare bear because of its cultural significance. Climate change is affecting the streams where salmon spawn (primary food for Kermode bears), as well as overfishing.

Highlighted species: Ursus americanus kermodei

Along the fjords and islands of coastal British Columbia, the rainforests of the region are home to the Kermode bear. A white variation is scattered in the population. They are not albino, but their white pelts are the result of a rare recessive gene.

The Kitasoo people call the white Kermode bear, Moksgm’ol, “ghost bear” or “spririt bear”. The Moksgm’ol are revered and sacred, and they are a crucial part of the ecosystem of the rainforests. Their primary food source is from the salmon that spawn in the rivers of the territory. They take the salmon carcasses that they eat into the surrounding woods, and thereby bring rich fertilizer to the forests and contribute to the growth and health of that whole system. They are seen as bringers of good fortune, and to lay eyes upon the Moksgm’ol is an omen of luck and power.

 

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Starfish

 

Status: Starfish are abundant in the seas, however rising ocean temperatures are decimating the populations of starfish particularly in the US Pacific coastal regions. The starfish are just one link in a food chain, from being critical predators in kelp forests, to being food for marine mammals.

Highlighted species:

Though the ancient title is thought to have originated translation errors by scribes who were transcribing scrolls, “Star of the Sea” gained widespread usage in medieval times in reference to the Virgin Mary.

From "Hail, Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star" is a Marian hymn written by Father John Lingard (1771–1851):

Hail, Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star,
Guide of the wanderer here below,
Thrown on life's surge, we claim thy care,
Save us from peril and from woe.
Mother of Christ, Star of the sea
Pray for the wanderer, pray for me.

 

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