Amanda Stronza is an anthropologist, professor, and photographer, passionate about wildlife and the people who live closest to wild animals all over the world. If you visit her Instagram profile, you're gonna find hundreds of breathtaking pictures capturing the incredible lives of wild animals. However, you're gonna notice that some of the photos are a bit different.
Since Amanda adores and respects our Mother Nature so much, she created this little tradition for herself to make a memorial for each dead animal she happens across. The woman adorns the body of the animal in flowers and photographs it as a way of honoring its life. She's already made quite a few of these and they're all absolutely beautiful yet utterly heartbreaking.
Bored Panda invites you to look through some of the most mesmerizing animal memorials created by the amazing Amanda Stronza. Besides, we had a chance to ask the woman some interesting questions, so make sure to scroll down and look for her answers.
More info: Instagram
"Years ago, when I was doing my PhD research in the Peruvian Amazon, I found a field mouse outside my hut. He was clearly in some kind of distress. Maybe he’d been caught by a hawk and dropped? I don’t know. He was barely moving. I scooped him up and started to care for him as gently as I could. I took him everywhere with me, even to interviews. I fed him baby milk with a tiny blue ear dropper. For about a week, I watched him gain strength, and I started feeling confident he was going to be just fine, able to live on his own. Then one day, he started aspirating the milk through his nose. I had overfed him. Or I had fed him too quickly. He died in my hands. It was all so fast and awful and completely my fault. I was inconsolable. I could not stop crying. Days passed, and people started saying to me, “Amanda, he’s just a mouse!” and “They are everywhere. Why are you so upset?”
I understand what they meant. I get it. He wasn’t a rare or precious creature. He wasn’t a jaguar or a scarlet macaw or a giant otter. He was “just a mouse.”
But I also don’t get it. He was one mouse I cared for and loved. He was a sentient being, albeit a tiny one, with feelings and fears and pleasures and thoughts I could never know. He had a life. He was special. Because they are all special.
This little mouse is not that mouse from those many years ago in Peru. This is one I found in my yard in Colorado a few months ago. I don’t know what happened to him. Maybe he’d been caught by a hawk and dropped? It was too late to do anything. But I scooped him up and cared for him as gently as I could."
"We come spinning
out of nothingness,
I found this baby in my yard last night. No visible wounds or marks. Now wreathed in the beauty of his too-brief life in spring."
"It’s been a day to honor the dead. We found this squirrel on the trail this morning. Her body was still warm. Maybe hit by a bike? I pulled her under a tree and circled her little body with beauty. No one who sees her now will dismiss her as 'just a dead squirrel.'"
"A few people have asked me why I see so many dead animals. It might seem like I venture out every day looking for them. I don’t. I promise, I don’t! I do see something dead almost every day. I should say some being. Or someone. I see someone dead every day. It’s just as easy not to see. It’s normal to walk or drive by a dead animal and ignore it. It. Easy to ignore it," Amanda told Bored Panda.
"Every day. I’m sorry.
I found her just now, in the middle of a bright hot morning. She was in the far lane of a 6-lane highway, surrounded by suburban sprawl. Coyotes adapt so well to our concrete-and-cement, built-up spaces. They live among us, even when we’ve left them with so little. So little space to roam. Smart and fast as they are, it’s hard to beat six lanes. Do we really need so many?
I pulled her off the road, up a small hill, and over the railroad tracks to the shade of a tree. I, she and I, must have been a sight. It’s ok. I want people to see. How many drove by and left her there?
These pink flowers were everywhere. They made her only more beautiful."
"We found her on the side of the road. We couldn't leave her there. Cars and trucks were barreling past at 70 mph, within inches of her body, rustling up her still-soft fur. She deserved our concern and care. Some dignity in her death. She was just a fawn, still with her spots."
"My intention and hope in creating the memorials is to give attention and respect to the animals I find, as individuals, as whole beings who had lives of their own," Amanda explains. "I want to notice them, see them, really see them, not just as “dead animals.” Not as objects. They share the world with us. They once had beating hearts and memories, fears and follies. They had families. By creating beauty from their deaths, I hope to help us all see them. All of them. I share the photos and stories not to sensationalize, but rather, in a way, to do the opposite, to normalize."
"Rest In Peace, sweet grackle. It might seem like you are just one of countless, anonymous grackles in Austin. But we noticed you, and we honored you in your death."
"Where I live in Texas, armadillo jokes are as common as armadillos. There’s one about the chicken crossing the road “to show the armadillo how it’s possible.” There’s one about armadillos being “Texas speedbumps.” I get it. It’s ok to make light of dark things, to find humor in sadness. It’s kind of a beautiful, funny thing humans do.
But I’ve heard so many people say they’ve never seen a live armadillo in Texas, only dead ones on the road. That gives me pause. How many nonhuman beings do we see only when they’re dead? And then do we even see them at all?
Armadillos make me love living in Texas. Every time I see one, a live one, my heart skips a beat. They are like magic to me. The dinosaur tail. The squiggly ears. The exquisite armor--like tiny, noble knights. If only their armor could protect them from our cars.
My dear friend found this one on his bike ride to work (yes to biking to work!), and he texted me. Maybe that seems weird--a friend writing to tell me he found a dead armadillo. But he knew I’d want to go pull him from the road, give him a proper farewell, worthy of a knight.
Within minutes of circling him with beauty under a tree, a lone vulture came, ready to complete the cycle.
I’m sorry, little one. I wasn’t laughing."
"'Just another dead raccoon on the road.' No. They are all beings, with lives and life stories. She was still young, no visible wounds or injuries. She was killed at dusk. Maybe she was crossing the road at the first moment of cooling in this record-breaking heat. Her gray at dusk. I'm sure she was invisible to the driver. I'm sorry, little one."
"'I’m sorry' is what I say to each one. Not just for me, or for the drivers who hit them, but for all of us, our cruelties and harms, intentional or not, our indifferences and blind eyes to the other beings. I adorn them and take a photo each time, not just to honor them, the ones I find, with beauty, but to honor all of the beings we fail to see. My wish is that the color and light from the flowers, branches, weeds, and leaves surrounding them in death may help us to see them all. All of them," the woman told us.
"Matilda and I found another coachwhip on the road. It's heartbreaking to see a creature so strong and vital, looking somehow tossed aside, like trash on the pavement. I can't bear it. I like to think this is one way to show respect for all the living ones, even if it's too late and meaningless for this one.
I’m sorry. I hope in some way, on some level, some plane of existence, you feel honored now, too."
"Matilda and I found this little one on our walk. She seemed healthy, sweetly chubby even. No visible wounds. Maybe only in my heart."
"Here's the beautiful coachwhip Matilda and I found this evening. He had just been hit by a car, and he was still alive, but definitely suffering. I stood on the road and waved at about 10 cars to please go around. Everyone very kindly did. I put him in the shade, thinking maybe he could still recover or at least die in peace. When Matilda and I came back from our walk, I found him, no longer suffering. So, we brought him back to our house and paid our respects and circled him with the wildflowers that were growing where he died. Maybe the foxes will come tonight."
"Matilda and I found this little turtle on our walk. Of course, we carried her to a tree near the pond and created as much beauty in her death as we could find."
After seeing these beautiful memorials, we were curious to ask Amanda whether she believes in an afterlife or not. She told us this: "I am attentive to circles and cycles, and to the many life-giving and life-taking ecological and energetic natural processes that connect us as humans with nonhuman beings, as well as with the plants, trees, soils, rocks, waters, and air all around us. I am deeply aware that we are part of a system, though we may so often feel apart from it. We share cycles of birth and death, growth and decay, strength and senescence with other beings. I imagine the afterlife as a transformation or a transition to something else, to something physically, energetically, and ecologically different, perhaps on planes of existence and being we cannot fully understand. The mystery is both disquieting and comforting to me."
"Matilda and I found this little one on our walk this evening, somehow washed up on the bank of the river. I gathered the baby in my palm, tried to create some fleeting beauty from the death. I didn’t see a nest, but a female grackle watched me the whole time. Could be the mother. Could be one of the beings who will feed on the dead. Either way: circle of life."
"This little one. A tiny, perfect shrew. I don’t know why or how he died, but he was still warm when I found him on the trail. I encircled him with the beauty of his habitat, on the rocks by the rolling creek.
Many of the animals I find are not on roads, not killed by the steel machines we use to blast through the world. Rather, I find them on trails in the mountains, in urban patches of weeds and grass, in my backyard."
"Oh, little gecko. I’m so sorry.
I love these magical beings who live around my home, bringing life and movement to secret spaces and crevices. Clinging to my windows at midnight. Sometimes they come inside, too. I always try to find them as quickly as I can. I cup their fragile bodies in my hand, so exquisite and delicate, like I can see all of them, their beating hearts, through translucent skin. 'Hurry back out, little one!' My kitties. I have kitties inside.
I’m so sorry."
"Unless we work in the professions of medicine or dying, or unless we are artists, it seems so many of us are sheltered from death, resistant to even the idea of death. I understand why. But it’s odd, too. We are surrounded by death. If we are paying attention, we will see death everywhere, right next to life--decay giving way to growth, deceased bodies sustaining and nourishing vital ones," Amanda told Bored Panda. "Is it the dread of our own mortality or the fear of losing ones we love that makes us hypersensitive to human death, even as we are somehow impervious or blind to the deaths of others? If we found human remains in the woods or on the road (“roadkill”--would we even use that word for humans?) or brought in by a cat, we might be traumatized. Yet, the bodies and remains of nonhuman beings all around us. Do we not see them because we don’t perceive them as someone?"
"We found this bunny—impossibly tiny, away from her family, and unsheltered by any burrow. Lifeless. We honored her by the creek, in beauty and love. We placed a camera nearby to see who might come for her. Circle of life, and of death and nourishment. We thought maybe a fox or a hawk or a vulture, or maybe even one of the Great Horned Owl chicks still flying among us. But no. A magpie came, middle of the day, and carried her off. A moment of recognition, for the being she was, the brief life she lived, the new life she helped sustain, and the community of many hearts she knew as home."
"I found this squirrel killed by a car in front of my house last night. I brought her to a tree in my yard and circled her in beauty, in honor. I had a camera set up in my yard, always watching for mama armadillo. This morning, I discovered a fox found the squirrel and carried her away. Circle of life."
"I have been touched to learn how the animal memorials, the call to “see them all,” is affecting others. I have loved discovering how so many people do the same and have been honoring animals in under-the-tree memorials for a long time. It’s exciting and heartening to find connections with so many kindred spirits," the woman told us.
"Two squirrels, two hearts, killed by cars in my neighborhood. They were about 500 meters apart. I brought them back to my yard, so in death they could find some dignity and peace away from the road, and so maybe the fox could find their bodies later tonight."
"We sadly found another soul this morning. His body was still warm, and I could feel the last quiet beats of his heart as I lifted him from the road. May he rest In peace, having known a last moment of tenderness before he died."
"Oh, once again the little lion in my house found some real prey. Moremi was crouching in my closet, and when I looked under the dresser, I saw only one of his toy mousies. I thought he was trying to reach that. So, I pulled the dresser out, only to find he’d been eyeing the real thing. It was all over in seconds. I’m sorry, real little mousie."
"At least a few people have not been touched. They were rolling their eyes, incredulous that I would do that for a coyote, for example. “There are too many,” they said. “Don’t you know they kill elk and baby fawns?” “Do you realize they kill pets?” Maybe people see me as sentimental and naïve, not aware of the harsh realities of predators, or the hardships they can bring to people. I don’t mind the comments. I hear them so often. Caring for wild animals, and advocating on their behalf in policy realms and in communities, is my profession. It’s my life’s work. I do understand the challenges of coexisting with wildlife, and I have tremendous empathy for people who live in rural, wild spaces, close to large predators, elephants, and other species. I have seen firsthand how people suffer losses, dangers, and stresses many urban-dwelling animal lovers may have a hard time comprehending," Amanda told Bored Panda.
This is the third snake I’ve found in one little stretch of road in so little time. It’s a stretch only meters long, but it connects two rich patches of forest and savannah in an otherwise developed neighborhood of humans. I know there’s no such thing as a migratory corridor for snakes. But maybe this is a spot where snakes linger on the road, maybe to bask. Or maybe they just slow on the cooling pavement at dusk, staying tragically too long before the next car comes. I could imagine a sign here. 'Snake crossing.' I would add: 'Go slowly. Drive carefully. Be sensitive, please.' But I fear any sign would only make things worse. Snakes are so misunderstood, so maligned. Would people go out of their way to hit them?
This was a Texas Rat Snake. Beautiful, big, and benign.
I carried him back to my place to circle and honor him with the rosemary in my yard. I left him in a place where I knew it would be safer for the vultures to come and work their circle-of-life magic.
See them all."
"It might seem like I venture out every day looking for dead animals. I don’t. I promise, I don’t! I do see something dead almost every day. Some being. Someone. I see someone dead every day.
It’s just as easy not to see. It’s normal to walk or drive by a dead animal and ignore it. It. Easy to ignore it.
Unless we work in professions of medicine or dying, or unless we are artists, it seems so many of us are sheltered from death, resistant to even the idea of death. I understand that. But it’s odd, too. We are surrounded by death. If we are paying attention, we will see death everywhere, right next to life--decay giving way to growth, the deceased sustaining and nourishing the vital. Is it the dread of our own mortality or the fear of losing ones we love that makes us hypersensitive to human death, even as we are somehow impervious or blind to the deaths of others? If we found human remains in the woods or on the road (roadkill—would we even use that word for humans?) or brought in by the cat, we would be traumatized. Yet, the bodies and remains of nonhuman beings are all around us. Do we not see them because we don’t perceive them … as someone?
Matilda and I found these feathers on one of our hikes this summer. A Northern Flicker. We saw the beauty in the broken wings, and we wanted to honor the life, and the death."
"I’m sorry. It’s what I say to each one. Not just for me, or for the driver who hit her, but for all of us, our cruelties and harms, intentional or not, our indifferences and blind eyes to the other beings. I adorn her and take a photo each time, not just to honor her, this one, with beauty, but to honor all the beings we fail to see. May the color and light from the flowers, branches, weeds, and leaves surrounding them in death help us to see them all. All of them.
A mighty, beautiful badger. I think she was pregnant."
Amanda finished our conversation by saying this: "The truth is, I am unabashedly sentimental about animals. I am also a scientist. It’s possible—it’s easy—to be both. I care about the lives of individual animals. I also care about healthy predator-prey populations. It’s possible—it’s easy—to care about both. I have empathy for nonhuman beings, and I have empathy for the humans who share space with them. It’s possible—it’s easy—to empathize with everyone, to love all of them and all of us, too."
"Matilda and I found this one on our hike this evening. Now honored as a little snake should be, if only in death."
"I have learned, in the lore of some people, that snakes represent life, death, and rebirth. That would be the totality of existence. A circle of infinity.
Speckled King Snakes are my favorite. They are like jewels, with delicate yellow dots on smooth black skin. They are harmless.
This one broke my heart. I found him on a road near my house and brought him to rest on a bed of moss.
He had no marks. No blood. Just stillness."