National Geographic : 2013 Oct
Orange-bellied parrot Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia neoPhema chrysogaster IUCN statUs: CrItICally eNdaNgered Half of all the species on Earth could be headed irreversibly toward extinction by 2100. Not if I can help it. That’s the idea behind the Photo Ark: getting the public to look these creatures in the eye, then care enough to save them while there’s still time. My goal is to photograph as many of the world’s captive species as I can before time runs out. I’m at about 3,000 now, and just getting started. I work mostly at zoos and aquariums, today’s keepers of the kingdom. Many species would already be gone without their heroic captive-breeding efforts. Studio-style portraits on black or white back- grounds level the playing field: A tortoise counts as much as a rhino. The power of photography is that you literally freeze time with it. Long after I’m gone, these pictures are going to keep on working every day to save species. There’s no more important mission, because it’s folly to think that we can doom wildlife to oblivion and believe humans will be just fine. That’s a world I hope to never lay eyes on. Photographs by Joel Sartore A video interview with Joel Sartore can be viewed on our digital editions.