Working Art and Conservation from Bhutan to Belize

Pollyanna Pickering - AFC
July 31, 2011 share
Artists for Conservation

Around 70km north of Hanoi, Vietnam, a beautiful Asiatic moonbear stretches to his full height and climbs up onto a high platform to examine a fresh bunch of wild grasses, leaves and branches.

But until January last year, this bear had spent years in a dark cramped cargo container on an illegal bile farm in the south of the country undergoing the unending torture of regular bile extraction through an open wound on his abdomen.

When I established my charitable Foundation in 2000, it was with the original modest intention of raising funds to purchase equipment for small wildlife rescue centres and sanctuaries rehabilitating British wildlife. I never imagined that a decade later our funding would allow a moonbear to be released from a life of torture - or that we would be helping to fund conservation projects from Bhutan to Belize.

My work as a wildlife artist always brought me into close contact with the animals I loved. Many years ago I began to visit wildlife sanctuaries in the UK to sketch and paint the creatures in their care - and became increasingly interested in the work they were carrying out. I became a licensed registered keeper to care for and rehabilitate injured and orphaned raptors, but soon discovered people would bring any wildlife in need of help to my door! This hands-on work was sometimes challenging, but also very rewarding - and I felt my way of giving something back to the birds and animals that made it possible for me to earn my living.

All the birds and animals I cared for were rehabilitated into the wild, unless too badly disabled to survive independently in which case they were given a home with us for the rest of their natural lives. I funded the hospital - including the treatment, medical supplies, feeding and rehabilitation work entirely through a percentage of sales of my artwork.

Eventually after fifteen years of hands on care, I had to make the difficult decision to scale down the sanctuary. My increasing success in the art world was taking me away from home for ever-longer periods of time, and I was unable to secure permanent expert help to care for my patients. However, I was determined to find a way of carrying on my conservation and rescue work with wildlife, and the Pollyanna Pickering Foundation was established.

The Foundation continues in its original aim to help British wildlife in need. I have always believed that in order for me to fully capture the realism of my subjects, it is vital to study and sketch them in their natural habitats, and so I have travelled into some of the most remote and inhospitable parts of the world to study and paint endangered species in their increasingly fragile habitats.

I saw firsthand the huge impact we have had on the natural world, primarily through destruction of habitat and poaching of endangered species. The Foundation's scope widened to raise funds for the protection and rescue of wildlife worldwide. We are helping to protect Rhinos in Africa, Wolves in Ethiopia, orphaned polar bears in the arctic, and we are helping to build a tiger orphanage in Nepal. We have helped to fund construction of enclosures at Born Free's big cat sanctuaries in South Africa and Ethiopia and purchased equipment for project tiger rangers working in India. Through our exclusive adoption programmes, we support a wild cheetah relocation programme in South Africa, the care of Giant Pandas in China, and the rehabilitation of orphaned wild dogs in Namibia.

Most importantly the Foundation never forgets the individual animal - we have helped fund the rescue of lions from a Romanian Zoo and their subsequent transfer to the Born Free sanctuary in South Africa - and of course we have committed to funding the care of the Asiatic moonbear, Polly, in the Animals Asia sanctuary for the rest of his natural life.

My painting and work in conservation have become inextricably linked - I can no longer imagine one without the other.

The Pollyanna Pickering Foundation :

Befriend Polly Bear:

Animals Asia :

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