Tattoo artists helping turtles
Mike Austin holds an adult female spiny softshell turtle.
London Community News
When Mike and John Austin celebrated the 20th anniversary of their London tattoo shop, Austin Custom Tattoos, they didn’t just throw a party. Instead, the brothers used their clients-only gathering in August to raise money for a project that is helping to protect local reptiles at risk.
Mike and John, as well as their sister, Charlotte, have been long-time supporters of the reptiles at risk project led by Scott Gillingwater, a species at risk biologist with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority.
The Austins used their shop’s anniversary to raise money and awareness for the reptiles at risk project, donating five hand-numbered prints and a painting for auction at the event. There was also a display with copies of a turtle stewardship guide authored by Gillingwater, and photos of the tattoo artists assisting the researchers in the field.
“As we work toward long-term recovery goals for reptiles at risk, we need equipment for our efforts to be successful,” said Gillingwater, who, in a news release, said he was thrilled with their efforts. “The $500 dollars they raised for a new incubator will help protect more eggs of the threatened spiny softshell turtle.”
This unlikely partnership began at the tattoo shop when Gillingwater came in to get inked and the brothers took an interest in his work. Mike asked if they could join the researchers in the field and they began helping out in 2006.
In the early summer, Mike and John assist the researchers as they search for and protect spiny softshell turtle nests, and measure and mark adult turtles. In the late summer, they help release hatchlings along the river. Mike, John and Charlotte also provide turtle observations from in and around London, contributing to the project’s “report your sightings” campaign.
“In Mike, beyond the many tattoos, long hair and incredible artistic talent, you will find a humble, big-hearted and passionate advocate for species at risk in Ontario,” said Gillingwater. “With limited funding available for these programs each year, community members such as Mike and John Austin make a world of difference in conservation efforts.”
To help with turtle research and other local environmental projects, please visit www.thamesriverdonations.ca.