Ghost Of The Mountain

Ghost of the Mountains

How many times have I drawn and painted snow leopards in recent years? It’s easier to count that than to explain my motivations for doing so, but I suppose it can be summed up as a deep motivation to make a record of something that could, perhaps in my lifetime but almost certainly in my daughter’s lifetime, become extinct in the wild. The most positive estimates suggest that there may be fewer than 7000 snow leopards out there, clinging the brink of existence within a rapidly shrinking territory. Along with the decimation of the wild tiger, the fate of these creatures is a damning testament to our species’ failure to recognise its position on the planet, which is that of passsengers, not masters.We are, along with the slugs, the swallows and the snow leopards, all along for the same ghost train ride through a haunted universe.

The snow leopard – spoken of by those who share their traditional mountain terrains in Asia as ‘the ghost of the mountain’ – are dying because of the illegal trade in its skin and bones, which by weight are some of the most expensive ‘commodities’ on the international black market. As long a such a market exists these animals will continue to die, and the challenge of addressing that goes far beyond the resources of the appalled individual. It requires sustained collective effort of the kind being made by organisations such as Pantera, but on my worst days I cannot help but feel that it’s already too late, and that all my drawings and paintings will one day look like woodcuts of unicorns and gryphons – images of something that could never have existed, because we, with our atrophied five senses and severely limited imaginations, could never have dreamt of such a thing.

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