Meet Artist & Wildlife Biologist Che Frausto
Che Frausto is a wildlife biologist and business owner on Maui, Hawaii. He grew up in Pasadena, California and had a bunch of pets growing up including 2 wolf hybrids, a bearded dragon, guinea pigs, and snakes. He always loved working with wildlife and spending time outdoors and since he was little he always dreamed of becoming a wildlife biologist. He went the University Colorado at Boulder and studied Biology/Ecology and Environmental Studies. He then worked for the US Forest Service and then was awarded an Americorp internship with the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project in Hawaii.
He started his business Advance Wildlife Education in 2016 and hasdone 22 books to date covering a wide range of wildlife including "Sharks and Rays", "Endangered Species", "Marine Mammals" to "Dinosaurs" to regional books including "North America" and "Pacific Northwest".
"I realized that everyone everywhere should know about their local species so my end goal is to become an International wildlife education business. I have my books in English, Olelo Hawaii, Spanish, and Japanese. All books have fun facts, diet, status, photos, custom stickers, sustainable vs unsustainable fishing, why sharks are necessary for a healthy ecosystem, and how people can help on a personal level. I believe that someone can't do everything, but everyone can do something and this is what I was put on this planet to do."
1. What is your favorite shark and why?
It is very difficult to pick a favorite, but my favorite shark is the Common Thresher shark. I find it so cool how they use their tails to herd and hunt their prey. Whipping their tail to stun schools of fish is so fascinating and unique!
2. What is one shark you would love to see/swim with?
I would love to see a Mako shark in the wild swimming at its top speed. That would be so awesome to see! They are one of the fastest fish in the world and can reach speeds of around 40mph!
3. Why did you start creating shark art? What inspired your coloring book?
I was first inspired to create and self-publish my own line of educational coloring books by working as a wildlife biologist on Maui. I worked with the seabirds here, mainly the wedge-tailed shearwaters which can dive up to 200 ft underwater and sleep and fly at the same time. These birds spend most of their lives out at sea but come back to land for nesting season where they dig their nests in the sand. I did a lot of outreach with the community on these birds, but people would still see these burrows and think they were made by rats and mongoose and would collapse them. However once these people found out they were actually dug by the seabirds they got really excited and wanted to help. That’s when I realized that people want to help but they cannot protect what they do not know exists so I combined my passions for art and wildlife and created my own line of wildlife educational coloring books. I realized everyone everywhere needs to know about their local species and having so many different sharks in Hawaii I wanted to make a “Sharks and Rays” book. The most common sharks seen in Hawaii are white-tip reef sharks, sandbar sharks, scalloped hammerheads, and occasionally tiger sharks.
4. In your opinion, is art important for conservation?
Art is a great tool to educate, advocate, and explain information, like they say “a picture is worth a thousand words”. I am a visual learner myself so I remember things mostly by sight and by drawing. So creating educational coloring books seemed the best of both worlds and I feel science and art really go hand in hand.
5. What message do you hope people take away from your shark art?
The main messages that I want people to take away is that sharks are necessary and play a very important role in the ecosystem by removing weak and sick fish, keeping balance with competitors, while maintaining species diversity. Sharks are fascinating, necessary, and must be respected. We need to protect our sharks and do what we can on a personal level to take care of our environment in order to create a brighter tomorrow. I believe someone cannot do everything, but everyone can do something to help, and education is the key.
6. Can you share a favorite ocean moment with us?
One of my favorite moments in the ocean would be when I traveled to La Paz, Mexico swimming with Whale Sharks. It was such an incredible experience that I will never forget. I have always seen pictures of these gentle giants before but seeing them in person was unbelievable. It was hard to fathom swimming with creatures so massive, reaching lengths of 40 feet long!