The street art raising awareness of endangered wildlife

An exciting mural project has transformed railway arches in East London, UK, to raise awareness of the world's threatened species. What was once a derelict site has become a glorious wild garden as well as an ambitious art space

A short stroll from Mile End underground station, sandwiched between a building site and a busy mainline railway, is a verdant strip of green space in London's East End. Once neglected and unused, it is now decorated with native saplings, snake's head fritillaries, primroses and self-seeded plants such as honesty.

This park on Akroyd Drive and the adjacent Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park now boasts more butterflies per square metre than anywhere else in London. This transformation is the result of years of hard work by a team of dedicated volunteers.

Now a group of passionate artists have added to this effect by transforming grey brick and render of the linking railway arches, which stand along the park’s perimeter, into a dazzling collection of murals.

We felt it was important to merge the worlds of public art and conservation issues, to reflect a growing concern on the lack of value we place on nature

Endangered 13 is an ambitious street art project curated by one of Britain’s leading wildlife street artists Louis Masai, together with the environmental organisation Human Nature.

“We felt it was important to merge the worlds of public art and conservation issues, to reflect a growing concern on the lack of value we place on nature,” explains Human Nature founder, Charlotte Webster.

Other artists taking part include Andy Council, Jim Vision, and the revered ceramic artist Carrie Reichardt, who is recognised for her political pieces. Reichardt has created a striking monochrome mosaic to highlight the plight of the bumblebee: “I think everyone should be passionate about bees” she enthuses, “As Einstein said, without bees, the human race has only four years.”

Among the polar bears, blue whales, and tropical fish that now adorn the arches is a beautifully depicted pair of curlews (Numenius arquata) painted by the artist known as ATM. “To me, curlews are incredibly special birds with their evocative calls,” he explains, “But their decline is very worrying; their numbers in Britain have dropped by nearly 50% in the past 20 years.”

Street art, by its very nature, offers its audience an engaging experience without the trouble of setting foot inside a gallery, surely an attractive proposition for any self-respecting artist.

But, as it turns out, it is often something else entirely which sets the pulse of a street artist racing.

"Walls are rarely even. Often they are a mix of brick and render, and so they create exciting problems to solve in terms of composition," acknowledges ATM with a smile, “And that’s why I enjoy it so much – it's never a simple rectangle like a canvas."

Take a look at some other amazing wildlife stories that featured on Springwatch Unsprung.

Be the first to know about new BBC Earth articles and wildlife programmes by signing up for the BBC's new personalised email newsletter here. You can also follow BBC Earth on Twitter and Instagram and like us on Facebook.