Looking for that special Tat? Bay Area Millennials inked with endangered species

November 22, 2011

The name of the project is Tatzoo. The game is a good-natured competition among Bay Area Millennials concerned about local endangered species, and not afraid to show it — permanently.

The competition presents young people with a challenge: engage 100 people in the conservation of a local endangered species over the course of 100 days. Winners got something many Millennials covet — a brand new tattoo. The tattoos feature the endangered species, accompanied by its remaining population number enclosed in an infinity symbol.

“If someone is dedicated to a cause, then having something permanent to symbolize it, like a tattoo, is really powerful,” said Amanda Go, an artist at Sacred Rose Tattoo in Berkeley who donated her work to the project.  “It’s like a statement saying, ‘I’m serious about this.’”

Tatzoo, funded by TogetherGreen’s innovation grants program, seeks to engage Millennials — 18 to 35 year olds — in a fight for biodiversity during the sixth greatest extinction crisis to occur in the last 25 million years.  The young people of this generation, whose childhood toys, games, and movies so prominently featured animal characters, will see the extinction of many of these creatures due to human folly, unless something is done.

With two hundred species disappearing every day, this was no light task.  But young conservationist Molly Tsongas, founder of Tatzoo, wasn’t ready to give up — on endangered species, or the Millennial generation.

Tsongas, 30, founded the competition because she felt there were not many exciting opportunities for young people to personally engage in the biodiversity movement.

“The people of our generation are the ones who are going to be experiencing this crisis, and it’s only fair to give them a chance to respond,” she said.

And thus Tatzoo was born: endangered species, crowd-sourcing, and tattoos, all rolled into one competition.  Participants were provided Flip cameras and required to submit weekly video updates.  No other guidelines were given.  Because of the open-ended nature of the challenge, Tsongas reports that she was surprised by the creative and interesting methods of crowd-sourcing.

 Methods ranged from brewing a microbeer called Spotted Owl Brew, to engaging local bakeries to put labels featuring endangered species on products, to hosting a huge cuddlemob in Dolores Park to mimic the cuddling habits of the Stellar Sea Lion.

“It’s a really special feeling to know I’m so connected to this endangered species,” said Ashlee Jenson upon completion of her tattoo, a Northern spotted owl.  “I will be a voice for them for the rest of my life.”

It turns out that tattoos and endangered species quite naturally go hand-in-hand. Artist Amanda Go said that animals and plants are the most popular subjects for her tattoos.  “Animals and nature never go out of style,” she said.  “They’re really timeless.”

Tattoos seem appropriate in a project that seeks to inspire the Millennial generation.  In an age when tattoos are a relatively common and acceptable form of self expression, they may very well be another aspect that permanently marks this generation.

Tatzoo’s competition will repeat in 2012.
About the Author

Elizabeth Proctor was a Bay Nature editorial intern before taking flight on a new global adventure. 

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