Tattoos stay with you for life. If you get a tattoo at age 20, you might live until you're 90, and thus have the tattoo for 70 years.

The reason I bring this up is that I was looking at pictures of some amazing tattoos, done by P. Syrjälä at the Art for Life Tattoo Studio in Finland, and a lot of them are of animals. The most popular tattoo of 2008, at least at his studio, seems to be the tiger. I wouldn't be surprised if that were the overall trend, since the tiger was voted man's favorite animal in 2004.

I'd like to eat-- er, I mean thank the academy.
The tiger is an iconic species for conservation. Because people love tigers so much, they can act as the poster species for conservation efforts that focus on biodiversity in general. Tigers, wolves, and eagles are important, but so are the more unsightly (or unseen) creatures like plankton, fungi, and insects. With most conservation efforts, the money people donate to save tigers goes not only to saving tigers, but to saving their prey, their prey's prey, and fauna that provides a habitat for them.

There's a lot of interesting information on tigers, their biology, their cultural significance, and their conservation status on Wikipedia. Here's a site about tigers brought to you by the Woodland Park Zoo.
Not only is this amazing art, it's covering up an old tattoo.
I was marveling at these tattoos because wouldn't it be crazy if an animal, a significant poster animal, went extinct during our lifetimes? Three subspecies of tiger have already gone extinct in the past century. If the rest went extinct, we'd have people going around with tattoos of the animal that originally were tributes, but became memorials. It's a tad morbid. Mass extinctions do tend to be a downer, but there are ways you can prevent mass extinctions in your own backyard.
Please do, and while you're at it, can I have some of that venison?
I think wearing a big, beautiful picture on your skin is a good way to attract attention to conservation issues. The National Park Service, to which I'm applying for an internship this summer, has a uniform policy that employees have to cover their tattoos. I'll be more than happy to comply for the sake of the opportunity. Not everybody likes tattoos, and I wouldn't want to alienate anyone from visiting the parks. However, as the tools of the tattoo trade (and the tattoo removal trade) become more advanced, more and more people of our generation are choosing to get tattoos. As more people get them, the idea that they are inherently unprofessional will probably go away. It's already starting to in some workplaces.

How can you say "no" to that face?
While everyone has personal reasons for choosing a tattoo design, having a tattoo like the ones pictured here could be considered like wearing a "Save the Whales" T-shirt, except permanently. And not only permanently, but more evocative of the beauty and character of wildlife. Realistic tattoos such as these allow the animal to speak for its own conservation while showing that the person with the tattoo is committed. They can even show ecological relationships, emphasizing not one species but the whole system of interacting species. A well-chosen tattoo represents sustainable planning, in the sense that if one wishes to have a tattoo and never regret it, one will choose something for which the meaning and beauty of the image will last a whole lifetime.

Will I get one like this? Not anytime in the near future. Plus, it would be silly to fly all the way to Finland for a tattoo that's supposed to have a pro-environment message. I'd have to shop around locally, after I get a steady job with good income, choose an animal, decide on the placement, and know I really want it.

As I said above, these are from the Art for Life Tattoo Studio in Finland. The gallery is here (warning: some tattoos are NSFW).

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