As a photographer, Joel Sartore traveled all over the world taking pictures for outlets like National Geographic, but he wanted to really accomplish something with his work.
While taking pictures of the animals at his local zoo, Sartore had an idea: by taking a portrait of every animal in captivity, he could make a modern "Noah's ark" that would preserve them forever.
It's a huge project, but since 2007 Joel has photographed more than half of the 12,000 species in captivity. He hopes the stunning pictures he takes will inspire people to do more to help protect endangered species.
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Joel's photos are already the last record of some of the species he shot, since he captured them just before they went extinct.
He also has to put up with a lot of uncooperative animals to get these shots just right. You know what they say about working with animals and children!
The photographer even admits he once squealed like a pig to get a distracted arctic fox to look at him. A little embarrassing, but the results are incredible!
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It's sad to say, but in a few decades these zoos might be the only place to see some of these wild animals. More and more species are threatened with extinction, and there's no telling how many will last.
Thankfully there are lots of caring people, including Joel, looking out for these poor creatures.
That's why these photos are so important: none of us will get the chance to see this many species up close, but Joel brings them to us with his pictures, helping people learn to appreciate wildlife before it's too late!
To learn more about The Photo Ark or to donate and support Joel, visit the project's website.
All photos copyright Joel Sartore and National Geographic The Photo Ark.
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