Extinction Empathy Tattoos Commemorate the Extinction of Not-So-Cuddly Species

Photo: Samantha Dempsey

Extinction is forever, and so is a tattoo, so why not combine them together?

Design student Samantha Dempsey noticed that it's pretty difficult to get humans to notice extinction of animals that aren't cute or charismatic (it's much easier to raise awareness for, say, the giant panda, versus some measly insects). "It's upsetting that, though other animals are just as importnat to our genetic diversity as a planet, no one pays attention to them," she said to The Smithsonian.

So, she devised a clever and hip solution: a set of temporary (bah! Still cool though) tattoos to commemorate the extinction of the oblong rocksnail, St. Helena giant earwig, and the Pasadena freshwater shrimp.

In the project called, Extinction Empathy Tattoos, Dempsey created a set of posters featuring digitally tattooed models as well as temporary tattoos as giveaways. From the Smithsonian:

For this first foray into temporary tattoo production, Dempsey chose animals that, in her eyes, had at least one redeeming physical quality despite their otherwise homely appearances. For the Pasadena freshwater shrimp, it was its curly antennae, and with the St. Helena giant earwig, it was the sweeping shape of the insect’s pincers. “I tried to find what was beautiful about each of the ugly animals,” she says. Guided by this endearing feature, Dempsey determined the overall layout of the tattoo.

“Because they were extinct, there aren’t a lot of photographs of them, or the photos are hard to find,” Dempsey explains. Some of the tattoos are drawn directly from images but others are a blend of scientific illustrations she could find of both the particular species and of modern animals related to it. “It was a little bit of sleuth work,” she says. “There is slight artistic interpretation as well, because it had to fit into the tattoo style.”

Read more over at Dempsey's official Extinction Empathy Tattoos project page.

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