Category Archives: Feature Story

Feature Story: 12 Stellar Animals Pose for Planetary Change

Joel Sartore’s larger than life images of animals – especially endangered species – have been made iconic projected on world monuments such as The Empire State Building and The Vatican in the documentary Racing Extinction, and an Atlanta-based foundation is honoring the anthropomorphic auteur for his work to capture and share portraits of every animal on earth and to mobilize people into action to protect them.

On the eve of being honored as Captain Planet Foundation’s “Exemplar,” for his life’s work, famed photographer and National Geographic fellow Sartore proclaimed, “We are the last generation that can save our full complement of species.” He said the Internet gives everyone unprecedented access and power to make a hyperlocal difference saving animal species and preserving biodiversity.

Based on the animated TV series in its name, Captain Planet Foundation was co-founded in 1991 by Ted Turner and producer Barbara Pyle and helps make grants to and operates hands-on environmental education projects that serve children in 50 U.S. states and 26 countries. One of its programs, Project Hero, challenges kids to save endangered pollinator species in Georgia, California, Colorado and Texas. The foundation’s annual gala is Atlanta’s largest environmental education fundraiser and assembles game changers in helping save the earth and its resources.

In an interview at the gala, Sartore – whose book National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals makes a great holiday gift – shared details about a dozen of the magnificent creatures he’s encountered and chronicled.

The brown throated three-toed sloth “always looks happy; and because he’s slow-moving, he’s easy to photograph.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark at PanAmerican Conservation Association
This exquisite, vulnerable juvenile mandrill “saw himself for the first time in my lens.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
“We laid out white paper, and this Sumatran tiger laid right down and knew just how to pose, paws crossed.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark at Miller Park Zoo
“This giant anteater and her baby are amazingly special beings that consume ants and termites.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark at Caldwell Zoo, Tyler, Texas, USA
“I photographed the hawksbill sea turtle at a rehab center. Most are in trouble, many captured in fishing nets.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark Xcaret, Mexico, North America
“This solenodon was rather irritated, awakened from a nap.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark at Parque Zoologico Nacional
The Fiji banded iguana is quite rare. The photographer smiled: “Reptiles stand still.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark at Los Angeles Zoo
There are few volcano rabbits, like this one from Mexico, left in the world: “They live on a slope with limited range.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark at Chapultepec Zoo
Joel Sartore calls the red wolf “a remarkable success story. We were down to just 20 of them, and they were saved by a conservation program.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark at the Great Plains Zoo
The spectral tarsier is nocturnal, “so he posed with those big eyes in the dark.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark at Night Safari
“This critically endangered Sumultran orangutan is female, and she arrived in the white room ready for her close-up.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas
“We put up our light to photograph the weeper capuctin, and he grabbed a banana before preparing to dramatically pose.” Photo: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark at Summit Municipal Park


Sartore urges individuals to #SaveTogether by eating less meat (the production of this food product is energy intensive), eliminating lawn chemicals that permeate soil and watching how you spend money: many products are made from old growth tropical forest wood or palm oil that specifically harms orangutans and birds. He also encourages support of zoos and aquariums, where some animals only exist in abundant human care. “When we quit caring about nature, we stop saving it,” he said.

Sartore has photographed 7,500 of 15,000 captive species to date and estimates 12 more years to fully complete Project Ark. He captures portraits on black and white backgrounds with signature eye contact to help make the animals even more relatable to humans: “All animals get an equal voice.” Some of those animals are now extinct, such as the Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog, who died of old age in his loving home at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Among Sartore’s contemporary inspirations are Ted Turner, who manages midwestern ranches, Laura Turner Seydel, with whom he serves on Defenders of Wildlife, and his fellow Conservation International board-mate Harrison Ford, who wrote the forward to his book.

Get involved at and explore to help #SaveTogether. Sartore’s book is now available everywhere.