Each and every one of Earth’s creatures are precious. Even those that are covered in scales, have eight legs or are as small as a thumbnail. We saw the world’s uproar in 2015 when Cecil the Lion was killed illegally by a trophy hunter. But it does not matter whether majestic and beloved or forgotten about and slimy, half of the world’s plant and animal species will soon be threatened by extinction.
Each time we lose a species, we don’t just lose a curious sight, we lose opportunities for medical research and a greater understanding of ourselves, we lose a link in the chain of our fragile ecosphere that protects our food, our water and our air. Issues around endangerment and extinction are complicated and often polarizing. It is far easier to turn a blind eye than to care about the last remaining frog of it’s kind halfway around the world. Often times though it is not willful ignorance that causes inaction, but just simply not knowing. How can you know, care and connect to an animal that you may not have known existed or have never seen before?
In 1995, from his home in Lincoln, Nebraska, National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore embarked on a mission to solve this problem with his Photo Ark. His mission is to photograph all of the world’s captive species, roughly 12,000 and he’s now nearly halfway there.
“I want people to care, to fall in love and to take action,” Joel said.
Last week, while in Washington, DC, I made sure to visit the National Geographic Museum to see the Photo Ark Exhibit. This exhibit allows you to follow Joel around the world in nearly 5,000 photographs of different animal species. In a word, it’s fantastic! I strongly encourage everyone to go if you get a chance, the exhibit will only remain on display for less than a month, closing April 10.