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Wildlife conservation: Forgotten illustrations from the WCS archives

The Wildlife Conservation Society has released to the public a digital collection of some 2,200 forgotten, historical scientific wildlife illustrations.
The drawings all come from its Department of Tropical Research (DTR), which it ran from 1916 to 1965. This illustration from 1919 shows the head of a boa canina (yellow-faced snake) and comes from an expedition to British Guiana (now Guyana).
Boa canina (Yellow-faced snake)WCS Archives
Like the Sir David Attenboroughs of their time, the DTR operated in an era when photography could not capture colour and movement. This Toucan drawing is from a Guyana expedition in 1916.
Toucan 1916-03-22 DTR British Guiana expeditionsWCS Archives
The illustrators were really important in documenting the species that the DTR studied and for introducing audiences to these species. This sloth drawing also comes from the 1916 now Guyana expedition.
Sloth 1916 and 1924 DTR British Guiana expeditions Department of Tropical ResearchWCS Archives
This illustration by Isabel Cooper in 1922 shows a Margay - a small wild cat native to Central and South America. The DTR was notable for including women among its staff at a time when there were few women artists who travelled on expeditions and not many women scientists.
Margay Tigrina vigens head 1922-03-19 Cooper, Isabel, 1892-1984 DTR British Guiana expeditionsWCS Archives
Isabel Cooper also drew this Green parrot fish in 1923 on an expedition to the southeast Pacific. The Department of Tropical Research was led by the naturalist, and first curator of the Bronx Zoo in New York, William Beebe.
Green parrot fish Cooper, Isabel, 1892-1984 1923-04-03 DTR Noma Expedition Pacific, SoutheastWCS Archives
On expeditions, scientists and artists worked together to document the species they were observing and collecting. Artists weren't illustrators for scientists’ writings, they were a central part of the team’s findings. Else Bostelmann drew this creepy eel (Saccopharynx mirabilis) in 1931 on an expedition to Bermuda.
Saccopharynx mirabilis : Bostelmann, Else (Else Winkler von Röder), 1882-1961 1931-06-11 n: DTR Bermuda expeditionsWCS Archives
The sites where the DTR worked include Guyana, the Galapagos Islands, the Hudson Canyon, Bermuda, the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Venezuela, and Trinidad. This dwarf metallic bee was drawn by Douglas Boyden in 1949 in the Rancho Grande, Venezuela.
Dwarf metallic bee Boyden, Douglas 1949 DTR Rancho Grande expeditionsWCS Archives
The DTR was part of the the Wildlife Conservation Society, then known as the New York Zoological Society. Douglas Boyden drew these butterflies on a 1949 expedition to Venezuela.
Butterfly plaque Boyden, Douglas 1949 DTR Rancho Grande expeditions VenezuelaWCS Archives
The DTR published scientific papers but the illustrations also appeared in newspapers and books which became bestsellers. This dolphin was drawn by George Alan Swanson in 1936 in Mexico.
Dolphin: Swanson, George Alan,1936 DTR Zaca expeditions MexicoWCS Archives
In 1965, the DTR became part of the Institute for Research in Animal Behaviour - which became today’s WCS Global Conservation Program. This gecko was drawn on a 1923 expedition to Eden Rock on the Galapagos Islands.
Gecko Murinae insularum Cooper, Isabel, 1892-1984 1923-04-02 Noma Expedition harrison Williams expedition to the Galapagos Small geckos from Eden RockWCS Archives
The DTR also gave presentations to public audiences which helped to shape US audiences’ understandings of the biodiversity of tropical regions. This orange and silver spider was drawn by Isabel Cooper in 1924 on a trip to Guyana.
Orange and silver spider Cooper, Isabel, 1892-1984 1924-05-25 DTR British Guiana expeditionsWCS Archives