A ‘Photo Ark’ That’s Leaving No Animal Behind

The goal is 12,000 species. The ’Photo Ark’ navigator and animal photographer is Joel Sartore. The mission is to document every captive animal species in the world using studio lighting and black-and-white backgrounds. So far, he’s traveled to 40 countries and has accomplished more than half of his target.

I’m sure the biblical Noah would have been simpatico and supportive of this 21st Century initiative . . . as would the Big Guy who was behind the first ark setting sail, all those millennium ago.

Saving Species

As many of my readers know — over the years — I’ve written extensively of endangered species and why mankind needs to be concerned about the ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ we are currently experiencing. So, when I learned about Sartore’s campaign to highlight this issue, I felt his story needed to be shared with other animal advocates worldwide.

As time is running out for many of the planet's species, National Geographic is working hand-in-hand with this photographer to find solutions that might help in stemming the tide of extinction for many of these 'Photo Ark' animals.

As noted on their website, they're "documenting every species in captivity to inspire people to care and help protect these animals.”

Their multiyear effort will create intimate portraits of an estimated 12,000 species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Once completed, Photo Ark will serve as an important visual record of each animal’s existence, and a powerful testament to the importance of saving them.

Studio Captures

Sartore feels that presenting the animals in the studio, rather than in nature, gives them equal importance in the eye of the beholder. It kind of puts them on a equal playing field. His portraits in the studio captures each species on either a plain white or black background. No matter its size, each animal is treated with the same amount of affection and respect.

"A mouse is every bit as glorious as an elephant, and a tiger beetle is every bit as big and important as a tiger," he says. "It's a great equalizer."

"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 says. "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."

Get Involved . . .

For many of Earth’s creatures, it’s up to mankind to help out in their time of need. So, I encourage all of my readers to sign up for the Photo Ark’s updates here and follow Sartore’s progress as he continually adds photos to reach his goal. You can also follow this initiative on Facebook and Instagram.

You may not be able to save the whole world, but you can make an impact in your own backyard. Here are other ways you can take action today:

  • Explore volunteer opportunities with local wildlife rehabilitation efforts in your community. 
  • Learn how to preserve natural resources—overuse causes species to become extinct.   
  • Learn as much as you can about your favorite animal so that you can form an educated opinion about the issues, and brainstorm how we can all coexist.


In addition, if you are in a position to give financially, you can donate to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to support on-the-ground initiatives like Photo Ark to protect all threatened animals.