Street artist Louis Masai tours America and paints endangered animals wherever he goes

Environmental street artist Louis Masai has embarked on his biggest project to date, a tour around America, using art to raise awareness of species local to the areas he is visiting who are in danger of dying out.

A successful Kickstarter campaign, which we featured on Inspiring City a few months ago, was the catalyst for the trip.   The money was raised and a road trip was born with each step of the way documented not only by the team Masai brought along with him but by the locals themselves.

Called ‘The Art of Beeing‘ it was inspired following the great reaction he received to his art campaign closer to home in London which raised awareness of the plight of the bee.  Painting bees around the city alongside fellow artist Jim Vision, the campaign drew attention from around the World, including the states.

The trip itself takes in the cities of New York, Detroit, Reno, Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, El Paso, Austin, New Orleans, Nashville, Atlanta and Miami and in each of the cities Masai has linked up with the locals to find a wall and to paint a mural.

Now, although we can’t be out there in America seeing this work for ourselves, there are plenty of other people closer to the action who can.  So, for this post we decided to follow Masai’s journey across the states as he works his way from sea to shining sea and back again.  Except we’ll do it through the eyes of the people on the ground such as the bloggers and the photographers much closer to the action.

The Art of Beeing Gallery

All pictures in this gallery have been sourced from the internet and are credited where known.  The text for each of the pieces is taken from the Art of Beeing website which has a lot more information on each endangered species.

New York – The New England Cottontail Rabbit

The New England cottontail lives in parts of New England and New York state. Over the last 50 years the range of this once-common rabbit has shrunk and its population dwindled. Today the New England cottontail is restricted to southern Maine, southern New Hampshire, and parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York east of the Hudson River – less than a fifth of its range in the early 1900s.

The New England Cottontail Rabbit by zurbaran1. Picture via Street Art United States

New York – Bog Turtle

Bog turtle populations are divided into two distinct areas separated by 250 miles. The northern populations are found in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. The southern populations are in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The Bog Turtle.  Picture via Urbanite

New York – Bees

Scientists know that bees are dying from a variety of factors; pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, global warming and more. In the U.S. winter losses have commonly reached 30-50 percent. In 2006, David Hackenberg, a bee keeper for 42 years, reported a 90 percent die-off among his 3,000 hives.  National Agricultural Statistics show a honey bee decline from about 6 million hives in 1947 to 2.4 million hives in 2008, a 60 percent reduction.The number of working bee colonies per hectare provides a critical metric of crop health. In the U.S. among crops that require bee pollination—the number of bee colonies per hectare has declined by 90 percent since 1962. The bees cannot keep pace with the winter die-off rates and habitat loss.

Bees in New York.  Picture by Tee Byford

Detroit – Gray Wolf

Gray wolves were once common throughout North America, but were exterminated in most areas of the United States by the mid 1930s. Today, their range has been reduced to Canada, Alaska, the Great Lakes, the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest. Thanks to the reintroduction of wolves in 1995, Yellowstone National Park is one of the best places to see and hear wolves in their native habitat.

Grey Wolf by Louis Masai

Reno – Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

The severe decline in range and numbers is attributed to a number of factors including; hybridization and competition with introduced trout species, loss of spawning habitat due to pollution from logging, mining, and urbanization, blockage of streams due to dams, channelization, de-watering due to irrigation and urban demands and watershed degradation due to overgrazing of domestic livestock.

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.  Picture by Mia Hanak

Sacramento – Coho Salmon

The Coho salmon population in the Southern Oregon and Northern California region has declined from an estimated 150,000 to 400,000 spawning fish in the 1940s to fewer than 10,000 adults today.  The traditional range of the Coho salmon runs along both sides of the North Pacific Ocean, from Hokkaidō, Japan and eastern Russia, around the Bering Sea to mainland Alaska, and south to Monterey Bay, California.

Coho Salmon by Louis Masai via Brooklyn Street Art

San Francisco – Island Fox

Predation by non-native Golden Eagles led to a catastrophic decline on the three northern islands (Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel) during the 1990s, but aggressive management actions have greatly reduced this threat. A decline on Santa Catalina Island was due to the canine distemper virus, probably introduced by a raccoon that “stowed-away” on a boat from the mainland.

The Island Fox by Louis Masai via Brooklyn Street Art

Los Angeles – Shasta Crayfish

This species has undergone significant habitat fragmentation as a result of water diversion and impoundments associated with four major hydroelectric dams. Their distribution is no longer continuous and the amount of occupied area within its range is significantly reduced. The population of this species is now considered to be highly fragmented and split into isolated subpopulations as a result of dam construction. Exotic and invasive species also pose another major threat as they are subject to increased predation from non-native species such as muskrats, bullfrogs, and several species of introduced game fish.

Shasta Crayfish by Louis Masai

Los Angeles – Yellow Legged Frog

Under threat due to non-native fish introductions, contaminant introductions, livestock grazing, acidification from atmospheric deposition, nitrate deposition, ultraviolet radiation, drought and disease.

Yellow Legged Frog.  Photo by @lmnotree

Phoenix – Jaguar

Fragmentation of forest habitat isolates jaguar populations so that they are more vulnerable to human persecution. People compete with jaguars for prey and jaguars are frequently shot on sight, despite protective legislation. An estimated 27% of jaguar range has a depleted wild prey base. Jaguars are also known to kill cattle, and are killed by ranchers as pest species. Commercial hunting and trapping of jaguars for their pelts has declined drastically since the mid-1970’s, however there is still demand for jaguar paws, teeth and other products.

Jaguar by Louis Masai

Austin – Texas Toad

Habitat conversion poses the most serious threat, with cars on roads a major problem. Converting woodlands to pastures or ploughed fields destroys their habitat. Other threats include prolonged drought and the presence of fire ants, an unwelcome species from Brazil.

The Texas Toad by Louis Masai.  Photo by Emil Walker

Tennessee – Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel

Because of habitat destruction, fragmentation, or alteration associated with clearing of forests, introduced pest species such as the balsam woolly adelgid, mineral extraction, recreational development, pollution and global warming. Declines may also be due to an increase in a roundworm parasite of the southern flying squirrels, which is lethal or debilitating to the northern flying squirrels.

Flying Squirrel by Louis Masai.  Photo by Emil Walker

Georgia – Box Turtle

Habitat destruction is a significant threat to box turtles. Other threats include habitat fragmentation and degradation, predation, inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms and incompatible use of herbicides in forest management. Intentional removal of large numbers of animals for the domestic and international pet trade has largely stopped, but incidental collection of animals as personal pets and for and ‘turtle racing’ continues.

Box Turtle.  Photo by Louis Masai

Miami – Manatee

The West Indian manatee has been hunted for hundreds of years for meat and hide, and continues to be hunted in Central and South America. Illegal poaching and collisions with vessels are both a constant source of manatee fatalities. Additionally, environmental stresses such as red tide and cold waters cause several health problems and even death.


Manatee in Miami – Photo by Tee Byford

Miami – American Crocodile

This species was hunted and overexploited for its hides in the 1930s until it was protected in the 1970s, however, illegal hunting still occurs. It is also threatened by habitat degradation from coastal development, including destruction of nesting grounds and mangrove swamps for shrimp aquaculture.

American Crocodile in Miami – Photo by Emil Walker

Miami – Coral

Coral reefs are being degraded by human activities. Overfishing, pollution and coastal development top the list of problems. Some coral reefs are covered with sand, rock and concrete to make cheap land and stimulate economic development. Others are dredged or blasted for their limestone or to improve navigational access and safety. In addition to this, climate change is causing long-term changes in the oceans, including rising sea temperatures, acidity and levels of CO².

Coral in Miami – Photo by Tee Byford

To read more about Louis Masai and the Art of Beeing, have a look at some of these links

Street Art United States  – Interview: Louis Masai

Urbanite – Louis Masai and the Art of Beeing

Global Wildlife Conservation – The Art of Beeing

Brooklyn Street Art – The Art of Beeing kicks off in NYC to save endangered species

Ecohuster – The Art of Beeing in Detroit

Art World – The Art of Beeing tour kicks of with a mural in downtown Austin

Huffington Post – One Mans Mission to save endangered species

Inspiring City – Interview with Louis Masai


Leave a Reply