6th Extinction: Tiger

6th Extinction: Tiger

Communicating extinction through motion


The world is currently undergoing the sixth mass extinction known to mankind. with dozens of species going extinct every day. In the future, animals such as rhinoceroses, sea turtles, and tigers may exist only within memories, photographs, and stories.

In order to better communicate extinction to a broader audience, MacQuarrie-Byrne Films, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Tennessee collaborated on The Sixth Extinction in Motion. The project was based on The Sixth Extinction by Richard Leakey, a renown paleoanthropologist, and students consulted experts in their field about specific species. I talked to John Steindecker, an expert about tigers, who provided many facts and the most recent figures about tiger extinction.


Research / Storytelling / Illustration / Sound Manipulation / Basic Animation 


3,200 tigers exist on Earth.

John Steindecker and the Global Tiger Initiative provided the most accurate statistics and narrowed down the causes of tiger endangerment to two things:

  1. Poaching for luxury commodities or mythical medicines
  2. Expanding human populations


How to visually communicate expanding populations and poaching?

The tigers stripes could be a metaphor for overpopulation. As the stripes grew, they would overtake the form of the tiger in the same way that human populations overtake tiger hunting grounds.

How to bring about a visceral understanding of extinction?

An early storyboard played with the idea of a child reading a storybook about tigers in a world where tigers no longer exist. The storybook setting worked because it urged viewers to imagine a future where our children know tigers only as imaginary creatures.


What is the essence of a tiger?

Early attempts to capture a tiger's form were experimental, drawing from pop culture and cartoons. A shift to studying real tiger forms was much more instructive.

The penciled illustrations allowed a familiarity with the form of the tiger-- high shoulders, facial proportions, joint-movement, etc. that later translated to the brush-paintings for the final tiger sequence.


Sound was a key element in communicating the emotion of the story. It provided both cultural context (Asian) and pacing.

The music was compiled from different performances of Asian instruments, from Korean daeguem (bamboo flute) to Japanese taiko (drums).