Menagerie


Just recently my husband has become a fan of the Carson Daily Show, but we’re the kind of people who are rarely awake at that time of the night, that time when it is so late, it is early. Solution? One of the small pleasures of our technological age: the DVR!

A few weeks ago, I happened to wander into the room when he was looking at an old episode. One of the segments featured Joel Sartore, a National Geographic photographer who has a project with the goal of photographing all of the endangered species on the planet. As his website states: “Joel is on a mission to document endangered species and landscapes in order to show a world worth saving.

In order to compensate for size and scale — so that an elephant, by its sheer size, does not seem more important, than a small endangered frog — Sartore does portrait style studio shots on a plain background. I’m not sure which would be more difficult: shooting a gigantic elephant weighing a few tons or a small poisonous frog who tips the scales at only a few ounces. Whether you are a photographer or not, take the time to look through Joel’s Biodiversity project gallery. As you look through the site, think about the same or similar animals that you have seen in your life — maybe a bird in your backyard when you were a child, or an elephant at a zoo. Maybe the animal you just thought of is not the same species on the endangered list, but is a related species. It may only be a matter of time before the animal in your memory joins that exclusive but unwanted list.

Time is one of the important things about Sartore’s project: worse than having an editor wanting to know if something is going to be done by the deadline, Sartore is running out of time because many of these animals are running out of time. For some, it may be too late to turn back the clock. These animals are fantastic and deserving of our time — time to look at the photos, time to learn about them and their habitats, time to learn what conservation programs are doing to help endangered and threatened species, and time to figure out how each can contribute in our own ways. Take time to look and learn about The Biodiversity Project.

““It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity. When we save species, we’re actually saving ourselves.” ~ Joel Sartore

I’ve always been a bit conflicted about zoos. Seeing animals in cages saddens me; seeing animals in ersatz environments that mimic their native savannah, or a harsh, hot desert, makes me realize how captive they are. The faux home is not their real home. The tigers in the zoo don’t hunt for meat; it’s brought by the staff. But, as Sartore points out on his website, zoos are on the forefront of research and conservation efforts for endangered species. In some cases, an animal may no longer have the natural environment to live in successfully and the zoo home may be the only feasible place for captive breeding programs.

One way to support the project is to purchase a print of Sartore’s work. I’m thinking about either the wise old elephant or the blue poison dart frogs.

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