EDIT: Everyone, I've got to go now, but I greatly appreciate your questions, and for caring about saving our planet. Please tell everyone you know that you care about the environment, and explain why they should too. Just thinking selfishly, we must have pollinating insects to bring us fruits and vegetables, and intact rainforests to help regulate rainfall in the areas where we grow crops. We need to cut back on our carbon outputs, from eating less meat/no meat to reducing fossil fuel use to keep our climate stable. We truly must have a healthy, intact planet not just for other animals to survive, but to keep humanity going as well. Stay hopeful, never give up, and thank you. Joel Sartore Founder, National Geographic Photo Ark

Hi my name is Joel Sartore. I’m a National Geographic photographer and Fellow. I'm also the founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark, the world’s largest collection of animal studio portraits. My goal is simple: to get the public to care and save species from extinction. Since the project's start in 2006, I've photographed more than 9,500 species in the world's zoos and wildlife sanctuaries for the Photo Ark and I expect it will take me another 15 years or so to complete the project. I'm looking forward to answering your questions in honor of this year's Earth Day theme of Protect our Species. Ask away!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/thk9qo3mips21.jpg

Comments: 67 • Responses: 14  • Date: 

N8teface32 karma

Hey Joel! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer questions today. It seems now days zoos get a pretty bad rap from the public. How important are they to conservation and what do you think their place is in modern day society? Are there things you wish more zoos were doing?

nationalgeographic71 karma

I work at good zoos and aquariums where there's abundant attention and care. The animals are doing well, have good enclosure space and are loved by those who tend them.

But let's think more broadly about zoos as well. Besides the in-situ work that zoos do, like supporting anti-poaching patrols and helping fund habitat restoration, without zoos and their captive breeding programs, many species would be extinct already. And don't forget that good zoos and aquariums do a tremendous job of educating visitors every day of the year. Without them, an increasingly urban public could very well lose their last connections to actually being able to see, smell, hear, and sometimes even touch education animals. When that connection is lost, I fear people will not be nearly as inspired to save what's left of nature. This is all very near and dear to me, obviously, so I appreciate your very thoughtful question.

Nature_Is_Grand19 karma

Joel - I helped you get photos of the Kirtland's Warbler on mother's day in Michigan. I had such a great day with you and the birds. I get so much positive feedback about the pictures you took when I use them in talks. Thanks for doing what you do !

What was your most challenging shoot and why ?

nationalgeographic22 karma

Great to hear from you, and very glad to hear of the good results. The Kirtland's warbler story is a great one, a real shining spot in conservation. By restoring the very specific habitat needs of this beautiful bird during nesting season, and having enough habitat intact, the bird has made a great comeback.

This is actually a GREAT time to be involved in conservation, by the way, because so many of us are connected now by the Web. I'm a firm believer in the fact that, when people understand there's a need, they rush in to fill it. The Kirtland's warbler story is a prime example of this, and gives me real hope.

In terms of challenging shoots, it's chimps, believe it or not. They're fast, aggressive, smart and strong. I still don't have a great shot of adult chimps, largely because I'm not working much with trained animals. Maybe someday...

7se7enty711 karma

Hi Joel. Thanks for doing this AMA. Your work is amazing.

Is there a "white whale" you've been chasing? Or a certain species that has been particularly elusive?

nationalgeographic25 karma

You bet; the Bornean bay cat. Came close last year in Indonesia but it was an older animal that passed away before I could get over there. This is a rare cat that very little is known about. Looks a lot like an Asian golden cat, but with a much more circular head. Please let me know if anyone out there knows of one that's captive anywhere, and thanks.

nationalgeographic10 karma

Everyone, I've got to go now, but I greatly appreciate your questions, and for caring about saving our planet. Please tell everyone you know that you care about the environment, and explain why they should too. Just thinking selfishly, we must have pollinating insects to bring us fruits and vegetables, and intact rainforests to help regulate rainfall in the areas where we grow crops. We need to cut back on our carbon outputs, from eating less meat/no meat to reducing fossil fuel use to keep our climate stable. We truly must have a healthy, intact planet not just for other animals to survive, but to keep humanity going as well.
Stay hopeful, never give up, and thank you.
Joel Sartore
Founder, National Geographic Photo Ark

JMJ50368 karma

Hello Joel! I’m a huge fan of your work and I love seeing your posts on Instagram. It’s great to learn new things about wildlife and be aware of what we can do to help sustain their environments. At what age did you start getting into photography and do you have any particularly memorable early experiences?

nationalgeographic14 karma

My parents had a lot to do with this. They cared about nature and were also very encouraging in terms of me taking pictures, so I started carrying a camera with me nearly all the time by the end of high school. By college I was shooting at the school newspaper, worked at the Wichita Eagle newspaper for a half dozen years, then started in with NG. Too many memorable experiences to count (when you're being the camera they all are interesting in some way) but I'm grateful each and every day for the life I've had, and hope my work has made the world a better place.

Diflicated6 karma

Hi Joel! I follow your Instagram and am a big fan of your work and your efforts to help animals. I have a few questions.

What's the most dangerous encounter you've ever had with an animal?

What's the most impactful thing one person can do to help stop large scale human interference with animal habitats?

nationalgeographic17 karma

I think most nature photographers get asked that, and for good reason; the job seems thrilling from afar, especially when dealing with 'charismatic megafauna' like big cats, sharks, etc. I've been chased by a variety of critters, but each and every time I thought, 'This is their home, and they've just made it very clear they're not comfortable having me around.' And so I backed away and came up with another way to get photos.' Today NG shooters use camera traps more and more in order to photograph great behavior in a way that doesn't disturb their subjects, and that's a great thing.

In terms of impact, there are many things we can do; eating less meat or no meat, not buying products made with unsustainable palm oil, making your home and vehicle are as energy efficient as possible, putting no chemicals on your lawn, and watching how you spend your money. After all, every time you break out your purse or wallet, you are saying to a retailer, 'I approve of this. Do it again'. That's the power to change the world, for good or bad. How you spend your money matters. It truly does.

amosjvd4 karma

What’s your take on the last turtle specie that just got extinct?

Do you believe love for animals and especially the environment should be a huge part of the curriculum in a school as well as financial literacy?

nationalgeographic15 karma

Though not extinct yet, the last known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) passed away a few days ago, making extinction more likely since there are only three others known, and at least two are males.

This species has been struggling for a long time; water pollution, habitat loss and poaching for their meat have really led to catastrophic declines in their population, and by the time heroic efforts were made to breed the last male/female pair, the animals were quite elderly (she was 90-years-old, he was older still) it was simply a Hail Mary pass right at the end of the game, and we all know those things don't work out, and my hat is off to the biologists who all worked so hard to pull the species right from the very brink.

In terms of mandating environmental education in schools, absolutely. In fact, until more people understand that, as other species and their habitats vanish, so could humanity, we just won't be motivated to do nearly enough to save the planet.

182nd3 karma

Looking back at the beginning of your photography career, what's something you feel like you should have done more of? Or what's the one thing you wish you had done differently?

nationalgeographic7 karma

In the back of my mind, I've always wished I hadn't worked all the time because I missed a bunch at home, especially of my kids growing up.

But that's the job, really. As a National Geographic photographer, we cover the world, and all there is in it.

Every one of the NG photographers I know well is on a mission to make the world better, either by increasing understanding among cultures, trying to save nature, you name it. I'm extremely proud to be a part of that.

freshandminty3 karma

Are there any species you are particularly concerned about but haven’t documented yet?

nationalgeographic12 karma

Yes, the saola, a recently-discovered forest antelope in Southeast Asia.

Also the Javan rhino.

Neither are in captivity, both are thought to be critically endangered.

Thanks for asking, and for your concern.

onemoremin233 karma

Have you ever met David Attenborough? Huge fan of yours, thanks for all you do!

nationalgeographic8 karma

Not yet but I would absolutely love to. He's a real hero of mine.

PhromTheBench3 karma

Good Morning Joel,

Thank you for doing this for all of us!

In your experiences what species of animal has made the most impact on your life? Mainly what animal struck you the most. Made you take a minute and say "holy cow, this thing is absolutely awesome!" Thanks you sir!

nationalgeographic19 karma

I think very highly of each and every animal I meet, but if I had to single out one that was particularly heart-warming it would likely be 'Toughie', the very last Rabbs' fringe-limbed treefrog. He died a couple years ago, at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and with his passing the species went extinct, largely due to an amphibian-killing fungus that's sweeping the world now. Toughie was calm, sweet and a great ambassador for his species, and I think of him often.

ErrantWhimsy2 karma

Your work is amazing!

What's the longest you've had to wait or the farthest you've had to trek to get the shot you wanted?

nationalgeographic9 karma

I think I waited for a total of ten days (over two trips) to get a photo of parrots flying past me at eye level in Madidi National Park in Bolivia. Worth it though as it made the cover of NGM.

In terms of farthest we had to trek, it was on that same shoot. Lots of time in transit just to get into the rainforest there. Gave me a great appreciation for the folks who live in that part of the world, and are trying to save habitat and species there, to say the least.

Tim_dotcom2 karma

Joel,

Have you read about Fiona the hippo at the Cincinnati zoo? What are your thoughts on certain zoo animals becoming social media stars? Who do you think is the most famous animal at any zoo?

nationalgeographic7 karma

I think it's great, and I'm hoping that Fiona continues her rise to stardom, perhaps becoming THE most famous sometime. People love character-driven narratives. By personalizing Fiona, hopefully more people will care about hippos, and the watersheds they need preserved in order to make it in Africa.

AmAttorneyPleaseHire2 karma

Hi Joel! Appreciate all of your hard work that you’re doing to bring recognition to these issues. Admittedly, my question is a little off-base, but I was wondering if you had any tips for people who may be interested in nature photography, I.e. certain things to focus on when getting started?

nationalgeographic12 karma

Two things: use your work to save nature (think of yourself as a conservation photographer, please) and also becoming a specialist really helps. Pick a topic that you care deeply about. Perhaps it's in educating the public about the dangers to native birds from house cats or window strikes, or it's in getting a new state park established. Then go to work. Become THE go-to person who knows the subject inside and out, and shoot pictures that can 'go to work' in terms of solving conservation problems. It's very satisfying.