By Anika Rice
“The unique power of art is that it can transcend differences, connect with people on a visceral level, and compel action,” says creative conservationist and 2014 National Geographic Emerging Explorer Asher Jay.
Through her cause-driven artistic projects and campaigns, Jay sheds light on the world’s threatened wildlife and the causes behind the madness that puts them at risk. For this reason, she designed the Hear Me Roar t-shirt, a stylish garment with a higher purpose that spreads awareness about declining lion populations.
A portion of the proceeds from the t-shirt will go to National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative which works to create awareness and implement change so big cats don’t disappear in the wild forever.
Lions in particular are a source of focus for the project. In the 1800s, there were an estimated 1.2 million lions, and they roamed every country in Africa, across the Middle East, and into India. Today, that number has dropped by 90 percent and lions are locally extinct through almost all of their former range north of the Sahara. Trophy hunting, habitat loss, and retaliatory killing for loss of livestock continue to lay waste rapidly to the remaining populations.
Jay creates the artwork featured on the t-shirt while explaining her passion for wildlife in the video “The Wild Creative,” above. The t-shirt has arrived just in time for Big Cat Week (starting on Nat Geo Wild November 28 in the United States) as well as the holiday season.
Since she can remember, Jay has been passionate about wildlife and the preservation of biodiversity. The fusion of her art and activism came to the forefront just after the BP Gulf oil spill in 2010. Scientists, researchers and campaigners come to her to give their work visual appeal that speaks to the individual citizen. Through art, sculpture, films, design installations, and advocacy campaigns, Jay helps advance everything from animal rights to environmental sustainability and humanitarian causes.
In 2013, she worked on a 31 by 55 foot canvas for a Times Square billboard to depict elephant slaughter, poachers and the contradictions inherent in fancy ivory jewelry. The ad, complete with looping sound effects, reached 1.5 million viewers.
The global conservation community has shared her images shining a spotlight on the illegal global ivory trade widely online, reaching tens of thousands of people.
Although she is working with global leaders and large-scale campaigns, Jay believes that everyone can be involved in conservation efforts. Her ultimate goal is to motivate individuals to take an interest in big cats, elephants, and any wildlife in danger of extinction.
How You Can Help Support Big Cats