The National Geographic Society and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have launched a new wildlife conservation program to protect lesser-known animal species at risk of extinction. The Nat Geo Photo Ark EDGE Fellowships will support on-the-ground efforts to save some of the creatures featured in the National Geographic Photo Ark, Joel Sartore’s ongoing project to photograph every animal species in human care. Fellows will train with National Geographic and ZSL on essential conservation skills, as well as storytelling strategies that will help raise awareness of the global extinction crisis. 21st Century Fox expanded its media partnership with the National Geographic Society in 2015, enhancing the organization’s endowment and ensuring a portion of all future proceeds go toward the Society’s scientific pursuits.
The first round of Fellowships will be awarded to candidates based in Latin America, and the five nominated candidates have already the chosen the species they will work work to save:
- Jamal Galves, Belize: Antillean Manatee, Trichechus manatus manatus (IUCN Red List: Endangered);
- Marina Rivero, Mexico: Baird’s Tapir, Tapirus bairdii (IUCN Red List: Endangered);
- Vinicius Alberici Roberto, Brazil: Giant Anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla (IUCN Red List: Vulnerable);
- Daniel Arauz, Costa Rica: Hawksbill Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata (IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered); and
- Yaijaira Garcia Feria, Mexico: Volcano Rabbit, Romerolagus diazi (IUCN Red List: Endangered).
In January and February 2018, these five candidates will attend a four-week Conservation Tools training course in Costa Rica, where world-class National Geographic photographers, editors, and digital video producers will instruct them in effective storytelling techniques. They will also receive training from ZSL’s EDGE of Existence program on the necessary skills to undertake successful conservation projects. After the training, with ongoing support from the National Geographic Society and EDGE of Existence, the Fellows will embark on their two-year conservation projects.
The Fellowships represent an evolution of the Nat Geo Photo Ark’s efforts to protect the 12,000 animal species at zoos, aquariums, and wildlife rehab centers. Many of these species no longer exist in the wild and would have become extinct were it not for these human care centers. Satore’s photo project, which he estimates will take roughly 25 years to complete, serves to create a detailed record of animal life and inspire nature-lovers around the world to do their part in helping save these species.
“I’ve been a National Geographic photographer for 27 years, and I photographed the first 15 years or so out in the wild doing different conservation stories, on wolves, on grizzly bears, on koalas all in the wild — and can I say that moved the needle enough to stop the extinction crisis? No, no it did not,” Sartore said in an interview earlier this year. “So I just figured maybe very simple portraits lit exquisitely so you can see the beauty and the color, looking animals directly in the eye with no distractions would be the way to do it.”
Visit NatGeoPhotoArk.org for updates on the program as the candidates head into the field for their training course and begin developing their action plans. In 2018, the next cohort of Nat Geo Photo Ark EDGE Fellows will be selected from Asia.