This world map is wild

This world map is wild

It started in Alaska, with a grizzly bear drawn in colored pencil. Three years and 1,641 species later, Anton Thomas’s map of the wild world is finally complete.

This is an excerpt from our weekly environmental newsletter Future Proof, brought to you by AMP. Register here.

Stuck at home during the pandemic lockdown, artist-cartographer Anton Thomas was, like many of us, desperate to escape. “I thought: This is my chance. I will draw the map of the world I have always dreamed of,” he says.

From his home in Melbourne, Thomas began his artistic journey in Alaska, where he sketched a grizzly bear with a batch of salmon in colored pencil. Three years later, Wild World was completed: 1,642 animal species depicted across land and sea landscapes in a complex and expansive world map. Thomas had three criteria for choosing which species to illustrate: they had to be wild (“No pets. No French bulldogs,” he says), as well as being domestic and currently living.

“It’s a celebration of the nature we still have,” Thomas says. “There’s a lot of very bad news to look at about the environment of this planet. But I want people – especially the next generation – to know that there is still a lot of wildlife on this planet. There is a lot to protect.”

Wild World creator Anton Thomas (Image: attached)

In New Zealand, a tui towers near Mount Taranaki, a black robin roosts on the Chatham Islands, and a long-finned eel swims toward its breeding grounds near Tonga.

Thomas grew up in Nelson, where the nearby mountains and ocean sparked a geographical curiosity. He’s loved maps for as long as he can remember. “People often get excited about fantasy world maps, but real world maps gave me the context I needed to understand that I was actually in a fantasy world of epic proportions,” he says.

The Wild World expedition allowed Thomas to discover nature in remote places: “surreal-looking” monkeys in the Amazon, and “scary” deep-sea fish. “There’s a fish called the giant oarfish, which literally looks like a giant eel,” he says. All the weird and wonderful species that inhabit the map are listed in an accompanying booklet.

The map itself ignores political boundaries, roads, and cities to focus on what Thomas calls the “underlying layer” of nature. “Mountains, deserts, forests, ice, oceans, millions of species – and we are just one of them. It is a map of nature, not of countries.” Labeled geographical features make the map not just a work of art, but a resource. This is part of Thomas’s philosophy: to use art to attract people, “ “But it’s like a Trojan horse: there’s a geography lesson inside.”

In the age of smartphones, where an app does the job of navigating maps for us, Thomas wonders if we are “losing our geographic grounding, our sense of place.”

“I think there’s a huge opportunity for cartographers to provide beautiful, informative and creative maps so people can continue to know where they are.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *