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Where are they now?

used to drink in a pub Francis Bacon used to drink in. No great claim to fame, half the planet has probably drunk in a pub he drank in. It is to my eternal regret that I never met the bloke (although to say he was a perverse genius is being kindly understated). Some of his old cronies (at least they claimed to be) were still in the pub and they had plenty of tales to tell. It was a pub to remain sober in and keep your female company close, for your own safety rather than hers. The first night I went there I was with a chum and I suspect the locals saw us coming a mile off, how we clung together and camped it up in a brave effort not to be partnered off with one of those bohemian exiles. Quite why the homosexual populous would be lusting after us when most of the female population was running from us I do not know, still the human psyche and all that.

Anyway I doubt meeting Bacon would have been good for me. I admire his work enormously but I don't think he had a lot of time for mine. What would I have said to the chap, 'Nice, screaming Popes, Francis, er, Bacon, Mr Bacon, Sir....' Shuffling of feet would ensue and depending on how much I had drunk an attempt to cover my embarrassment by trying to stub my cigarette out on his back, to get in his good books. Unseemly scuffle results.

It would be a great story as long as you were not there to witness it.

The card notes in certain countries the crocodile is a protected species.

I don't know if he was any good as an artist really, honestly I don't care, I like the stuff. He might have cared then but I know he cares not a jot now.

You know I am going to drag all this round to cigarette cards, its a certainty, a bit like a born again Christian who suddenly brightens as the conversation can be shifted to a parable or two and a bit of scripture. No harm in that, it is just the regularity with which this trick is done. I forgive myself (talk about self-indulgence heaped on self-indulgence) on the basis you are reading this thing coz of my 'knowledge' of cards rather than what might have happened if I had met Bacon.

The link is rare species and in the first case artwork which is not appreciated by all.

You could argue the difference between cigarette cards and trade cards is like the difference between classical art and modern art. It is a useful analogy but I am not going to beat it to death.

Brooke Bond got a beating in the cigarette card press when it produced Brooke Bond, Vanishing Wildlife [1978] 40 cards. The card art was a bit too radical for some. One person did suggest the size of the card was at fault, the close-cropped art work being more suitable to large poster campaigns than little bits of card handed out in tea.

This set is a series of 40 cards. Many of the later Brooke Bond series were less than the standard 50 cards which probably represents a combination of factors, the very least of which will be the lack of vanishing wildlife.

I suggest an image of a tiger close cropped and 'washed-out' colour does justice to the idea of vanishing. Nice simple imagery for a nice simple mind. There are no numbers given on the reverse of these cards which is a shame, today less than 200 Siberian Tigers are thought to exist.

Golden Tarkin, obviously only seen the heads on wall, no idea what the body looks like

Having said nice things about the art work, I have chosen my card carefully, I am on a hiding to nothing when it comes to card 38, Estuarube Crocodile, status: Vulnerable. I should say it is by the look of the illustration. The card notes in certain countries the crocodile is a protected species. It does not mention it is one of the closest things we have left to the dinosaur on the planet, which strikes as odd as the set must have been aimed at a young audience.

Card 13 is the Golden Takin, found in China and rare. The reverse of the card gives a clue as to the quality of the illustration, 'strange and little known' I should say so, did the artist ever see one?

Finally the Green turtle, status, endangered. I am only glad the reverse of the card told me what to look at on the front otherwise I might not have guessed.

Perhaps I am being unduly unkind to the set, turning on it so quickly. but even I have limits as to how much I am prepared to defend a set (the fact it costs less than $5 has nothing to do with it, honest <g>). Without critique you might as well be browsing a wordy equivalent to a shopping channel.

Fortunate for me then that this was not the only set Brooke Bond put together on this theme.

In 1963 they produced a set called Wildlife in Danger [1963] 50 cards

You cannot really make a comparative study of the two sets because there are far too many random factors which affect the selection of the two sets. Potentially though you can get an idea of what has become the glamourous end of the extinction game. A brief examination reveals the earlier set had a more diverse mix of species, insects and birds make up a good proportion of the set. These representatives have been reduced, no sign of the Giant Fiijian Wood-Boring Beetle in vanishing wildlife for example, perhaps it vanished in the interim.

The Wildlife in Danger series obviously relied heavily on the Galapogas Island for inspiration. Ever since Darwin discovered the place and decided evolution was the thing, these most isolated of islands have had a place in everyone's hearts. The Galapagos Flightless Cormorant must wonder what the chances of success are and just how smart an evolutionary move it made way back when. Some species just seem hell bent on creating their own demise.

This brings me to the point about death being a natural part of the life-cycle, same for species as it is for individuals. Throughout history there is strong evidence for cycles of mass extinction and there are signs we are entering a period of mass extinction now. We are not helping but equally our society is moving into a period where accidents are just not allowed to happen, everything has to have a reason and somebody has to be blamed.

In Easter 1998 large parts of England flooded, people were badly affected and the television was full of angry faces demanding to know who was to blame for this. It seemed pretty obvious, a lot of rain. Not good enough though and various committees were set up to find out who was to blame. Finally they decided, it was not that it rained too much but the fact the Met. Office failed to adequately predict how much rain was going to fall. If we had known we would have made sure we dug a few decent canals overnight, or perhaps put in bigger storm drains. Things happen beyond our control, scary but true. Once we get control of everything, that is when it really is going to get wild.

For example what do you do about the Monkey-eating Eagle shown on card 11 of Vanishing Wildlife. Obviously feed it monkey's. Nasty claws tearing into cuddly monkey, hmm. The World Wildlife Fund chose the Panda bear as their international symbol, cuddly and cute (?) a meat-eater that choose to eat a variety of bamboo for some peculiar reason. Why not choose the Bearded Vulture (Lammergeir) (Vanishing Wildlife) as their mascot, coz they are not daft that's why. Interestingly, unless I have missed something pretty major the Panda does not appear on either set of cards, go figure.

Lets get right up to date and bring the matter of endangered animals to our present state of affairs towards the end of the 20th century. I am not going to use a set of cards to do this but rather the official statistics as a yardstick.

It has to be considered amazing there is any overlap at all between the two sets of cards as in 1996 a list of 5205 species were put on the 'red list', those threatened with extinction. Imagine that was a series of cards, it would rival anything Godfrey Phillips or Taddy's dreamt off. And those are the ones we know about. Developing countries seem to have the most animals at risk. The UK has relatively few (we killed all our animals off, a long time ago when nobody was noticing and now we can moan at others for doing the same, moral high ground its called).

Both African and Asian elephants are in trouble and have been for some time however it is only the Asian elephant which makes it onto the Vanishing Wildlife series. The gorilla is now endangered but did not appear on either set of cards.

The aye-aye (I don't know how to pronounce it but say a-a otherwise you can't take it seriously) has to be about as close as you get to saying good-bye. Appearing on the earlier of the two sets, its habitat is in Madagasca. They are now part of a captive breeding program in Jersey Zoo.

All rhino's seem to be in trouble and the cards reflect this fact with the White Rhino, Sumatran Rhino, Javan Rhino getting a mention on the cards.

The Blue Whale, (Wildlife in Danger) was my introduction to animals threatened with extinction when I saw an example hanging above my head in the Natural History Museum a good many years ago, it gave me an idea if what impending extinction was all about. It is estimated that the population is now 0.2% of its original size with an estimated 500 individuals left. The largest ever mammal might just disappear in our lifetimes.

The Kakapo (or Owl Parrot) appears in both sets and now only a very few examples exist, the majority being male.

The Japanese crested ibis (wildlife in danger) looks like going the same way, the only surviving examples being to old to breed.

Moving off the cards for the moment because not everything revolves around cards. People reading this page in Nevada give a moments thought for the Devil's hole pupfish (I'm sure you have). Probably between 200-500 left they exist in one small pool in Nevada. Recent pumping of underground water has not improved their chances of survival. Shame on us all.

Otherwise it is going to go the way of the White-toothed cowry, despite its obvious dental hygiene there are only two known specimens, the last being seen in 1960. Perhaps seen flashing its gnashers in the undergrowth.

I'm not going to leave on this note because the nene (card 28 Wildlife in Danger) became extinct in the wild but has been re-introduced to Hawaii after a successful breeding program at Slimbridge (UK), now some 500 individuals+ exist.