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Read more about Susan Shoemakers work!

Visit The Edge of Chaos now to view works by local Birmingham artist Susan Shoemaker on these one-of-a-kind creatures. Learn more about the animals themselves and current preservation efforts taking place to protect these endangered species

Why do I draw Sun Bears?

Sun Bears, native to Asia, are named for the golden crescent or “U” shaped patch on their chest.  These small brown/black bears are often seen with their long tongues hanging out which they use to reach insects hidden in trees.  I was first captivated by images showing this funny little bear with a big tongue a few years ago.  Then, I learned that the sun bear is one of the victims of the bear bile farming industry (and yes, it’s just as awful as it sounds).

Bear bile does have medicinal uses, but there are cruelty-free alternatives.

In the past, sun bears were hunted in the wild & would have their gall bladder removed after they were killed (the gall bladder was a rare & prized ingredient used in medication).  However, in the 1980’s, bear bile farming began to be practiced as a way of constantly extracting bile for the duration of the bear’s life.  As you can imagine, this is a painful existence for the bear.  In 2017 it is believed that more than 12.000 bears are kept on bile farms in Asia.

What can be done?

HELP SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SUN BEARS & PUT AN END TO BEAR BILE FARMING.   Support sun bear conservation programs (visit for a list).  The majority of Chinese residents disagree with bear bile farming, & the medical community is pledging to not stock bile products.  While bear bile farming is still LEGAL IN CHINA, Vietnam agreed to close all farms in 2017 (!).  There is hope! The efforts of those trying to end this practice are working, but there is still more work to do.  With continued efforts, we can save these creatures from a life of misery

Why do I draw Pangolins?

If you are unfamiliar with the pangolin (which is not uncommon), this animal is often described as a scaly anteater.  There are eight different pangolin species that can be found across Asia & sub-Saharan Africa.  Pangolins are covered in scales that are made up of keratin- the same protein that makes up human hair & nails – and this is why they are being poached extensively.  In some cultures there is the old belief that these scales provide mystical sure for human ailments (which is false).  Some cultures also eat pangolin meat.

Pangolins are THE MOST illegally traded mammal in the world today.

Human greed on the black market has resulted in all eight species of the pangolin being threatened with extinction.  All four of the Asian species are listed as endangered.  Recently pangolins were prohibited from all international commercial trade, but the poaching continues at an alarming rate.

Pangolins are secretive, solitary, & nocturnal.  So few exist in captivity & it is increasingly difficult to track them in the wild, so little is known about their natural history & behavior.  Conservationists & scientists are working to map the current distribution & range of the pangolins left in the wild. Their behavior & ecology is being researched as much as possible to try & ensure their survival.

What can be done?

HELP SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THE PANGOLIN.  Support pangolin conservation programs (visit for a list).  Help raise global awareness of the pangolin & the people fighting to save them from extinction.

Why do I draw Rabbits?

The rabbit may be the most personal subject that I draw. There are many reasons for this, but largely I think it’s because of how linked the image of a rabbit is to cruelty-free campaigns & awareness.  The rabbit is not the only animal used in cosmetic & product testing, but it is one of the most popular.  Rabbits are small, gentle & relatively inexpensive to maintain at a basic standard of living. A common way to use the rabbit is to put it in a full body restraint and then test the chemical on their shaved skin & in their eyes.  This results in painful & blistered skin all over the body while the eyes develop ulcerations & often, blindness.  Rabbits do not have tear ducts & the restrained animal is unable to get rid of any substances in the eye.

There are MANY alternatives to these tests & it is possible to live cruelty-free!

Human skin equivalent tests have been developed & new methods of using human cornea cells show promise as a replacement options in the future.  There are thousands of cruelty-free ingredients already in use that have a long history of safety.  Companies can choose to use these instead of needing new ingredients that require new test data.  Cruelty-free products can be easily found online & are often carried by local stores. **Look for the leaping bunny when making purchases, this standard guarantees that a product & its ingredients are cruelty-free.

What can be done?

HELP SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT RABBITS & CHOOSE TO BE CRUELTY-FREE. Put your money where your mouth is & buy cruelty-free (it’s better for you & the planet anyway).  Research the companies that you currently use.  Have a question? Contact the company.  Demand that other companies join the cruelty-free movement

More about the artist:
Artist Susan Shoemaker is a native of Birmingham, Alabama.  She received her BFA from the University of Montevallo in 2000, a degree that concluded in a double concentration in Printmaking and Sculpture with Painting not too far behind.  A former printmaker now without a press, she has returned to her first love, drawing, and created a studio called "pencil press".  Her subject matter is typically animals and her goal is that the animals are well represented, funny when intended, and always portrayed in an interesting way.

Dispatch from the Edge
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