Founder of the Photo Ark, a 25-year project to show the world the beauty of biodiversity in all its forms, and inspire action to save species.
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Meet King Max, a king vulture photographed at @GladysPorterZoo in Texas. Like other vultures, this species does not have a voice box and doesn’t make calls or sing songs. However, they are known to sometimes emit hisses or croaking noises while hunting or courting. Amazingly, the nostrils of a king vulture are situated in such a way that it’s possible to look through one and see right through the one on the other side!
The population of these birds is rapidly decreasing and could soon be in danger. The @GladysPorterZoo participates in the King Vulture SSP (Species Survival Plan, administered through the AZA) to ensure that the population of captive King Vultures remains vibrant and strong.
In human care, these incredible birds can live up to 30 years! King Max hatched at @GladysPorterZoo in 2006 and was hand-reared into adulthood. He is now an ambassador for his species in Belize, where people can learn about him up close and hopefully begin to understand the plight of the king vulture and in turn be inspired to take steps to conserve them.
Hearing the songs of the pileated gibbon in a tropical Southeast Asian forest is an extraordinary experience. But, unfortunately, many of these forests are going silent. Habitat loss, poaching and collection for the pet trade has caused the populations of this beautiful primate to drop significantly. They are now listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
This young Pileated Gibbon named Sokny was photographed at @ACCB_cambodia near Siem Reap, Cambodia. Sokny arrived at the ACCB last year weighing just 1.2 pounds (550g). He was so weak that he could not even cling to his caretaker. After his parents were killed by poachers, a well-meaning local family tried their very best to hand-rear him, but thankfully decided to hand him over into professional care when his condition worsened.
Over the last year, Sokny has improved significantly and now loves to climb and swing in his enclosure! Recently, he has been fully weaned off of milk and has been permanently introduced to two other young gibbons who were also taken from the wild to be pets as babies. The three of them are now forming a tight knit youngster group.
Check out @accb_cambodia to learn more about their wonderful conservation and animal rescue work in Cambodia!
In celebration of my newly released book, Birds of the Photo Ark, I’ll be doing a special speaking event on the National Geographic campus in Washington D.C. on March 27th! I’ll be speaking about the fascinating and unique birds that have been included in the Photo Ark and telling some behind-the-scenes stories about my experience photographing them. My new book will be available for purchase at the event and I’ll be there to meet you and sign them. You can get your tickets via the link in my bio. See you there! #NatGeoDC
Painted greenlings like this one photographed at @aquariumofpacific are a common fish species found in Southern California. They have wide geographic distribution from Alaska to Baja. Males are more brightly colored than females and they do an excellent job guarding the females eggs once they are laid. These fish can often be seen perched under the tentacles of fish-eating anemones, which are venomous to many sea creatures, but do not harm the greenling.
This yellow-bellied marmot is doing his part in helping biologists in the department of @csunaturalsciences at @coloradostateuniversity better understand hibernation, including bone metabolism and food intake regulation. While hibernating, these little creatures don’t eat for 6 whole months, and their body temperature drops to near freezing. Even the babies hibernate! For the first year they do so with their mothers.
When they aren’t in hibernation, yellow-bellied marmots take care of one another by communicating using distinctive alarm calls, a different one for each kind of predator. They can be found in the valleys, meadows and foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.
The Golden-cheeked warbler, also known as the goldfinch of Texas, is a small songbird that nests primarily in the oak and juniper forests of Texas. In fact, it’s the only bird species with a breeding range confined to the state. A significant percentage of the species’ habitat is found in the Austin metro area, including 1,800 acres of habitat within The Nature Conservancy’s Barton Creek Habitat Preserve.
I’ll be heading to Austin next week on March 20th to speak about my work to photograph the golden-cheeked warbler and other at-risk species at the Conservancy’s Austin Conservation Luncheon. Click the link in my bio for more info!
For beautiful photos of all the places and species they help protect, follow @nature_tx!
Remember these four week old Asian leopard cat kittens that were rescued from a burning field by @accb_cambodia? This was taken just a couple of days after their rescue, but they’re growing up fast! They’ve upgraded to an outdoor enclosure and are loving exploring it and exercising to build their strength. Even better-- they were recently joined by two other leopard cat kittens who were rescued from a local villager’s house last month! Now all four kittens get to grow up together and learn from one another before hopefully being released back into the wild.
Check out @accb_cambodia to stay updated on the kittens’ journey!
#NOTAPET #PhotoArk #SaveTogether #kittens
This variegated grasshopper was found in the wild while I was in Manjo, Cameroon. We quickly set up a background with which to photograph it and then sent it on its way. Though these grasshoppers are often perceived as pests by locals, they’re an important food source for many animals. Brightly colored grasshoppers like this one often snack on plants that can be dangerous to other animals like cattle and horses. After the grasshoppers consume the plant, the toxins will remain in their system, in turn making them poisonous to some predators. Their bright colors serve as a warning signal.
Fallow deer have quite powerful legs, making them excellent runners capable of speeds up to 30 mph (48 kph). These individuals, two females and a male, were photographed at @zoo_aquarium_madrid when they were just two years old. This young male’s antlers will soon develop into large shovel shapes that can measure up to 28 inches (70 cm) in height! This species is very common in Spain and several herds exist in Pardo Forest, a forest very close to the city of Madrid.
Along with educating the public about species like the fallow deer, @zoo_aquarium_madrid participates in many situ conservation programs including The Monitoring and Protection Program of the Monk Seal in Mauritania and the program of reintroduction of the Gray Titi in Colombia.
Yellow boxfish have tough, hexagonal plate-like scales that are fused together to form a triangular or box-shaped ‘carapace.’ Due to this bony body structure, they face little danger from predators in their adult life. This individual from @RipleysAquaCA is still a juvenile at approximately 1-2 years old and is very personable. You can often find it swimming to the surface of the exhibit during feeds, sometimes even seeking attention by spitting water at the aquarist!
In honor of the release of my new book, Birds of the Photo Ark, we are offering a limited time sale on these five hand selected signed prints! Click the link in my bio and use the promo code BIRDS2018 at check out to get 50% off any of these 20 x 30 prints. Only one print of each bird is available for the sale, and we’re operating on a first come first served basis so don’t wait to get yours! All profits from this sale will go directly into funding the Photo Ark. Thank you all for your continued support of the project and of these precious species.
This beautiful Ridgway's hawk is named Marta and she lives at @zoodomrd in the Dominican Republic. When she was just a hatchling, her nest fell to the ground. Sadly, her sibling did not survive, but Marta was quickly taken to the zoo where she was hand reared back to health. During this time, she became imprinted on her caretakers so releasing her back into the wild would be impossible. Today, she gets to educate children about her species and the importance of raptors by visiting schools, communities and as part of a daily bird show at the zoo.
Ridgway’s hawks are endemic to the island of Hispaniola. In the 80’s these birds started to become very rare-- their population was reduced to only 200 individuals by early 2000. It was at that time that the Ridgway's Hawk Conservation Program began, which focused initially on trying to learn the biology and the natural history of this previously under-studied species. 10 years later @FundacionPropagas joined the project and started an education campaign to protect Ridgway's Hawks in all the communities surrounding Parque Nacional Los Haitises. By 2017, the population of Ridgway's hawks had been estimated at 350-400 individuals and a second population had been established on the @PuntaCanaResort in the eastern Dominican Republic, an area they inhabited in the past.
Although still listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, these raptors are beginning to make a comeback from the brink of extinction!
This is Nerang, a two year old numbat photographed at Healesville Sanctuary, a part of @zoosvictoria. Numbats are picky eaters, feasting only on termites for their entire lives. Everyday, they consume about 20,000 of them! The gestation period for these marsupials is just 14 days, and they give birth to four young-- each just 2 cm in length. This is a rare instance where a marsupial does not have a pouch, but their young do remain attached to the mother for an extended time after birth. The four numbat babies attach themselves to their mother’s teats on her underside and remain there for five months after birth.
Numbats are an endangered species in Australia, but are thankfully protected by law. Areas where this species occurs naturally, and their reintroduction sites, are protected and a recovery plan is now being implemented. There is also a critical breeding program for these precious creatures at @PerthZoo, so hope remains!
This six-year-old Panamanian night monkey named Valerio lives at Nispero Zoo. Located some 2000 feet above sea level in a sleeping volcano’s crater on Panama's Pacific slope, the zoo is a sanctuary for rescued animals and a conservation center for many critically-endangered species. It was founded by two local Panamanians and has grown to encompass 30 acres, housing more than 90 species of local and exotic animals and hundreds of tropical plants.
Like most night monkeys, Valerio is quite shy, except when he’s dining on a feast of katydids. In the wild, Panamanian night monkeys live in groups of 2-8 and are considered primarily arboreal. They are nocturnal animals, but are most active during dusk and dawn as they forage for fruits, leaves and insects.
#NOTAPET #PhotoArk #SaveTogether
A purple swamp hen photographed at @zoowroclaw. These diminutive birds were once considered extremely regal creatures and were often kept in villas and expensive homes in ancient Roman times. Though they look very elegant while perched, they’re not the most graceful flyers. But they make up for their clumsy flight with excellent swimming skills. These birds tend to stay near the edges of ponds, foraging for reeds and insects, but they are also capable of swimming across lakes with no trouble. For a bird without webbed feet, that’s pretty impressive.
Japanese rat snakes are named after their favorite food- rats. For this reason, these snakes are tolerated, and often even welcomed by the people of Japan. Though most of the time they appear dark green like this one, there is a population in Iwakuni City consisting entirely of albino snakes. Because white snakes are seen messengers of good fortune in Japanese culture, this unique population is protected by law, which has helped greatly to increase their numbers.
Rarely seen in human care, the harnessed bushbuck is the smallest of the spiral horned antelope. It is widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, utilizing the safe cover afforded by forests and dense brush to hide from predators, such as leopards. This particular bushbuck has ornate spots and stripes, however, all harnessed bushbuck are not similarly patterned or colored. This individual is typical of what is found in the west Africa, while bushbuck in other parts may be more yellow or much darker and with much less distinct white markings. This shy, solitary bovid is the only African antelope that is non-territorial and solitary. The young male pictured here was born at the @GladysPorterZoo.
Named for its yellow head and breast, the saffron toucanet can be easily identified by its coloring. These birds are extremely inquisitive and often make interesting eye movements while scanning their surroundings. Because these birds are wide-mouthed fruit eaters, they are crucial for the dispersal of plants with larger seeds. Unfortunately, this species is suspected to be undergoing population declines owing to habitat loss, hunting and capture for the illegal trade in caged birds. The good news is that the @Dallas_World_Aquarium has maintained this species since 1995, and have bred them consistently over the past decade resulting in over 35 births!
At at the age of 20, this beautiful southern sea otter named Brook is the oldest female otter in human care. In fact, she’s likely the oldest female in the entire otter population as they generally tend to live about 15 years. Brook lives at @aquariumpacific and is often seen lounging on her pile of ice. Otters have the densest fur of any animal on the planet, and eat approximately 25% of their body weight per day, which explains why Brook weighs a healthy 40 pounds!
Because southern sea otters are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the conservation work of places like @aquariumpacific is essential in maintaining their species. The Aquarium works to raise and care for sea otters, and recently partnered with the University of California, Santa Cruz, to study hearing thresholds in otters-- the first research of its kind.
This image was taken with a Nikon D810.
These adorable Sumatran tiger siblings Sohni and Sanjiv were born to their mother Chelsea on July 5, 2011 at @ZooAtl. They were the first tiger cubs born at the Zoo in more than a decade. The smallest of the world’s tigers, Sumatran tigers are also some of the most endangered. The species is currently classified as critically endangered, with fewer than 500 individuals believed to remain in the wild. Their threats include habitat loss from human encroachment and unsustainable palm oil plantations, poaching for their skins and other body parts, and killing by humans over livestock predation.
@ZooAtl has supported tiger conservation projects in the field in Aceh, Sumatra as well as the Tiger Conservation Campaign. @ZooAtl is also a vocal advocate for encouraging the use of only sustainable palm oil and is a member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil(RSPO). To help save Sumatran tigers and other creatures living in areas where plantations are becoming uncontrollable, check product labels and avoid purchasing those that use palm oil.
Today is International Polar Bear Day, a time to recognize not only the beauty, but also the plight of these gorgeous Arctic predators. Did you know that polar bears are technically classified as marine mammals? This is due to their complete dependence on stable Arctic sea ice. Because polar bears spend 50% of their lives hunting almost exclusively for seals that are found underwater, they can often be found on the edges of pack ice, where it is continually freezing and melting.
The survival of polar bears is contingent on the preservation of sea ice in the Arctic. During times when sea ice melts, polar bears have always come ashore and relied on their fat reserves to hold them over until the ice refreezes and they’re able to hunt again. However, due to climate change, the time that ice remains melted is increasing, meaning the bears must wait longer and longer to hunt again. This often results in malnutrition and, especially for females with cubs, can lead to starvation.
Not only are polar bears crucial for the health of their ecosystems by maintaining balanced populations of their prey, but they are also important to the cultures of many Arctic peoples. Thankfully, it’s not too late to save them! Reduction of greenhouse gases is by far the most important change that needs to be made to save these magnificent creatures. Globally, animal agriculture, especially beef production, is responsible for a larger portion of greenhouse gas emissions than transportation, so cutting back on our meat intake is even more important than limiting time spent driving our cars in the fight to save the polar bear. Electricity and heat generation are also enormous contributors to climate change. Turning our thermostats down in winter, unplugging unused electronics and properly insulating our homes can make a huge impact in terms of maintaining Arctic sea ice and helping keep polar bears alive.
What changes are you going to make to save these incredible animals?
Even on a sunny day, long wattled umbrella birds have their heads covered. These birds are named after the distinct crests that hang over their bills as well as their 11-14 inch wattles that somewhat resemble a pinecone when inflated. Males of this species are known to be extremely flamboyant, constantly displaying throughout the day. To attract females during breeding season, they gather in leks, raise their crests, and inflate and swing their wattles while making varied calls and sounds.
Though this 16-year-old bird is safe and taken care of at @Dallas_World_Aquarium, forest loss and pressure from hunting has rendered this species Vulnerable, according to the IUCN Redlist.
To see a video of this bird, check out @natgeo!
This adult male Townsend’s big-eared bat named Bugsy was found on the floor of an old barn in Half Moon Bay, California. He was brought to the @SulphurCreekNatureCenter with a broken wing that was not repairable. He is currently the only known bat of this species living in human care and is part of a collection of animals that can be presented in native wildlife programs offered by Sulphur Creek. These programs are designed to educate the public about the important role that bats play in our ecosystem by being a natural pest control agent and a great pollinator. In 2017, Bugsy went out on 73 of these education programs and was seen by more than 1,600 program participants!
Bugsy gets his teeth brushed once a week by a specialized bat dental hygienist and the staff at Sulphur Creek hand feeds him twice a day. According to his handlers, when he sees that it's feeding time, he gets very excited, demanding, and starts talking up a storm.
Known as one of the oddest looking cats, the jaguarundi is native to parts of Central and South America, though a handful have been spotted in Texas, Florida and Alabama. Their slender, markless bodies and small, rounded ears give these cats an almost weasel-like appearance, but when seen in action they are unquestionably feline. Jaguarundis are very talented hunters, preying upon anything from small mammals to birds and reptiles. They’re quite agile climbers and have been seen leaping two meters off the ground to catch birds right out of the air!
This jaguarundi named Yoda was just 10 months old during his photoshoot at Bear Creek Feline Center. The center's mission is one of conservation breeding of selected species, feline rescue/rehoming and public education designed to illuminate the plight of threatened and endangered felines.
I’m thrilled to announce that my new book, Birds of the Photo Ark is now available for preorder! From armchair enthusiasts to full blown birders, the incredible variety of colors, sizes and personalities of birds from all around the world can now be enjoyed up close and personal. Every bird is unique, from the vibrant Himalayan monal to the stunningly huge California condor, and each plays a crucial role in their environments. All profits go directly into funding the Photo Ark project.
Click the link in my bio to preorder a signed copy of Birds of the Photo Ark!
The giant spider crab may look fearsome, but they are rarely-seen scavengers, spending their days on the seafloor eating plant and animal matter. They live in the cold waters of the Pacific and at depths of up to 2,000 feet. Giant spider crabs are the largest crabs in the world, reaching a maximum leg span of 12 ft and weighing up to 45 lbs. As juveniles, these crabs are known to decorate their shells with sponges, kelp or other items as a means of camouflage and protection. Although they are occasionally collected for food in Japan, harvesting of this species is illegal during the spring, allowing them to move to shallower waters to breed. During an annual phenomenon, thousands of giant spider crabs make their way into a giant aggregation to shed their exoskeleton, a process known as molting. Crabs are vulnerable to predation after molting. Doing so in a massive group helps protect them from danger.
Due to their shy behavior and deep habitat, exact population numbers of this species are not known, making it hard for scientists to study or protect them. The @AquariumPacific, where this crab was photographed, houses seven giant spider crabs, including this juvenile. Their exact lifespan is not known, but biologists estimate they live over half a century!
Check out @natgeo for a video of this crab!
Yucatan box turtles are unique in that the males have quite striking facial pigmentation. Some are pigmented so strongly that it is almost reminiscent of makeup. Because males are so ornate, scientists once believed that female Yucatan turtles were a completely different species than their male counterparts. These turtles can only be found in the Yucatan peninsula and are very elusive; they are rarely encountered by humans and are often only seen during or after rain.
This male Yucatan box turtle at @OKCzoo loves to emerge from his hiding place for an evening mist before retiring for the night. He, along with three others of his kind are housed together and get along very well.
Turtles and tortoises are the most endangered group of vertebrates in the world, with wild populations across the globe declining sharply as a result of harvesting by humans for pet and food markets. In addition to caring for and breeding endangered turtles and tortoises, the @OKCzoo partners with the @TurtleSurvival Alliance (TSA) to conserve turtles. TSA works in turtle hotspots in 15 countries, leading conservation efforts that include enforcing laws that protect turtles, rehabilitating and releasing turtles confiscated from traffickers, and breeding and releasing endangered turtle species.
Can anyone spot the heart shape in this birds feathers? This federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker was admitted to Florida Wildlife Care, Inc. in Gainesville, Florida as a fledgling with a severe infection after suffering a foot and lower leg amputation in the wild. After months of treatment, recovery and evaluation for long term captivity, he will be placed at a facility to be used for education. This little guy will soon have a permanent home at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center in Freeport, Florida, where he will serve as an ambassador for this species and the conservation and protection of the longleaf pine ecosystem.
Daurian pikas like this one at @mnzoo may look like mice, but they’re actually more closely related to rabbits. They have small ears, but rely heavily on sound for survival. The stiff, whisker-like hairs on their bodies can pick up on very subtle vibrations. Before leaving their burrows, these tiny creatures will often rise up onto their hind legs and listen for any potential threats. They’re also known to make loud barking and whistling calls to warn one another if a predator is near. Daurian pikas can be found in groups throughout Mongolia, parts of China, southern Russia and Manchuria.
During moonlit nights, off the coasts of southern Japan, Brazil and Argentina, you might get lucky enough to see a flower hat jelly like this one emit fluorescent lights from its tentacles. These invertebrates have no brain, heart or real eyes and yet, incredibly, they are predatory animals. To hunt, these jellies will hide amongst the seagrass, waiting for an unsuspecting fish to swim by. By stinging their prey with their venomous tentacles, they’re able to subdue it and will consume entire fish at a time. While a sting from this jelly will definitely hurt and likely leave a rash, it is not fatal to humans.
This flower hat jelly was photographed at @AquariumPacific, where they are displayed under moonlight conditions to highlight their fluorescence.