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Here at Arkive, we provide the ultimate multimedia guide to endangered species, and through our blog we’ll keep you up to date with news from the world of wildlife videos, photography and conservation, alongside the latest on our quest to locate imagery of the planet’s most wanted plants and animals.
Jul 20

Since its inception in 1982 each Wildscreen Festival has utilised wildlife photographs or illustrations to provide each year with a unique and memorable visual identity.  As the 2018 Festival draws closer, we are incredibly excited to introduce the illustrations will become the face of this year’s Festival!

The 2018 Festival focusses on telling the story of biodiversity – the amazing diversity of life on Earth, from species to ecosystems.  We value the world’s more underappreciated and endangered species and habitats, and have therefore chosen five to showcase as the 2018 Festival Mascots!

Here, photographer Luke Massey discusses how the world’s most endangered wildcat, the Iberian Lynx, has captivated him for the past four years and the work being done to bring them back from the brink.

The Iberian lynx.  Illustration by Lorna Leigh Harrington

When you think of southern Spain, for most people the first thought is of the Costa del Sol, cheap G&T’s, crowded beaches and sunburnt tourists. Around two million people a year visit the Costa del Sol, and my guess is that very few of them know that only a couple of hours drive north you can be in the rolling hills of the Sierra de Andujar Natural Park. A landscape carpeted in aromatic rosemary, twisted holm oaks – their gnarled branches dripping with Old Man’s Beard and giant granite boulders that jut out from the hillsides. Overhead soar Spanish imperial eagles and black vultures, red deer graze the hillsides but these aren’t the animals that make this habitat famous, this Mediterranean forest is home to an almost mythical beast, one of the rarest cats in the world, the Iberian lynx.

Smoky black side burns frame a pair of striking green eyes that stare straight through you, and out from its ears curl a distinct pair of jet black tufts. A coat speckled with spots and smudges provide the perfect invisibility cloak – it is a ghost of the mountains, as quickly as one appears, it melts back into its surroundings.

I’ve been lucky enough to have countless encounters with this elusive feline. It’s become an annual pilgrimage of mine to head into the mountains to get a glimpse of, in my opinion, one of the most epic cats in existence.

Lynx crossing a dirt track | © Luke Massey

One of my most memorable wildlife encounters was with a pair of Iberian lynx. I’d been searching for the lynx for months. My camera trap had seen more lynx than me, I was beginning to lose hope. It was dawn and I’d headed to one of my favoured spots, it was coming to the end of a long dry summer so I thought going to the water may bring me success. I hiked up the hill to give a scan of the hillside and check a regular marking spot. On reaching the summit I was met by every naturalist’s dream, a moist steaming pile of lynx poo…

There must have been a lynx within metres of me, I scanned around, nothing, every promising boulder lay empty, no cat sunning itself, every patch of grass looked normal, and the big giveaway, the local magpie population, remained silent.

With my current streak of bad luck I assumed I was minutes too late and began to head back down to the water. As I passed a bush I heard a noise, I stopped and I heard it again – a very cat-like miaow. It sounded like it was right next to me – surely not. I glanced to my left, nothing. Then into the bush to my right and there staring straight back at me was an Iberian lynx.

Iberian lynx sitting on a rock | © Luke Massey

Minutes passed and the lynx remained unmoved, then another movement, there wasn’t just one lynx within the bush but two! I spent the next few hours slowly following the lynx as they moved from bush to bush, rock to rock and then lost them as they melted into the scrub. A memorable encounter that I didn’t want to end, and it didn’t.

As a wildlife photographer there are certain shots that you visualise, the perfect scene with your target species framed perfectly. Most of the time these fantasies result in disappointment, the wildlife doesn’t cooperate, the light goes and then the species appears or vice versa. But, just sometimes it works out.

Ever since I started my lynx obsession I’d visualised the shot, a lynx sprawled atop a moss covered boulder. I wanted to show the regality of these cats, but also just how well they blended into their surroundings. I returned that evening to the site of the morning encounter, it was deathly still, the only sound the wheezing of the local spotless starling flock and the odd splash from a fish jumping for flies in the river below. I wasn’t disappointed, I’d have endured a million evenings like that one if it meant I got an encounter like that morning’s once in a while.

Iberian lynx resting on a rock | © Luke Massey

But it seems it was one of those days when I should’ve bought a lottery ticket. Just when I thought it was too late, the ghost appeared. On the hillside above she sauntered, weaving her way between the rocks before leaping up and sitting down to groom. Just perfect.

In 2002 these cats were in dire straits, they numbered less than a hundred scattered between two isolated locations. Habitat destruction, persecution and a catastrophic decline in the lynx’s favoured prey, the rabbit, had led to almost the first feline extinction for 2000 years.

The EU and the Spanish government managed to leap into action in the nick of time. Cats were taken from the wild and zoos and placed into a number of specially built captive breeding centres. In the final strongholds rabbit populations were bolstered and habitats improved, whilst researchers searched for suitable areas to possibly reintroduce and relocate lynx too. It was touch and go.

Roll on almost two decades and the return of the Iberian lynx can perhaps be looked at as one of the most successful conservation projects of all time. Iberian lynx can now be found in both Spain and Portugal and at the last census there were almost 600 individuals living in the wild. Thanks to GPS tracking the astonishing journeys of the lynx can now be seen, with individuals covering thousands of kilometres as they journey around Spain looking for suitable habitat.

Iberian lynx resting after being released back into the wild wearing a radio-collar | © Luke Massey

The lynx is certainly not out of the woods yet, still overly reliant on rabbit populations and a very weak gene pool, disaster could yet befall it. And man poses perhaps the greatest risk, in 2017 31 lynx were killed on Spanish roads, almost 10% of the total population.

The lynx’s comeback however should give a sign of hope. A lesson to not let a species reach such critical levels and in a world where we are losing species at an alarming rate. The good news story of the return of an almost extinct species should be heralded.

Iberian lynx portrait | © Luke Massey

Wildlife photographer and cameraman Luke Massey has been awarded in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for the past two years, as well as winning the wildlife category of Travel Photographer of the Year and the title of Young Environmental Photographer of the Year in 2016. As a cameraman, Luke was part of Chris Packham’s Green Ribbon Award winning team in 2015.

Check out more of Luke’s great work on his website and Instagram.

Jul 18

The Wildscreen Festival is the world’s biggest global gathering of natural world storytellers.  It convenes over 850 filmmakers, photographers, broadcasters, technologists and conservationists from over 40 countries for one week in Bristol, UK, to celebrate and nurture the wildlife film and TV genre.

Since its inception in 1982, each Festival has utilised wildlife photographs or illustrations to provide its unique and memorable visual identity. As the 2018 Festival draws closer, we are thrilled to introduce Lorna Leigh Harrington, whose illustrations will become the face of this year’s Festival.  We have commissioned Lorna to create five illustrations of species that highlight the diversity of life on Earth, focusing on the more underappreciated or endangered species from different habitats.  The species are: the Iberian lynx, helmeted hornbill, Muller’s mushroomtounge salamander, Queen Alexandra’s butterfly and sea urchins, all of which will have their time in the spotlight throughout the Festival and will be showcased in this blog series.

We spoke to Lorna about her passion for the natural world and how it inspires her work.

Lorna Leigh Harrington | © Lucy Baker

Wildscreen are extremely excited that your illustrations will become the visual identity of the 2018 Wildscreen Festival.  Firstly, and most importantly: what is your favourite animal & why?!

My favourite animal would have to be an elephant. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. It amazes me that they can express emotions such as joy, love and grief. They are beautiful and intelligent.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started in this creative industry

I’ve always had a real passion for art and design, and have always doodled. I find drawing really cathartic. I started working within the industry shortly after graduating university, taking up a few intern roles in London for a couple of magazines and a fashion website. After this I worked as a freelance illustrator and designer for a few years which took me from sunny Bognor Regis to Bristol city life. I have been lucky enough to work for some really great clients over print, web, app design and fashion.

Drawing the Iberian lynx | © Lorna Leigh Harrington

What was it about this particular project that made you want to get involved?

I think that Wildscreen is such a fantastic way to celebrate Natural history film makers, and is a great way to get people excited about conservation and learning about new species. I’ve learnt a lot about the species chosen for Wildscreen’s branding!

When you decide to create a new piece of work, what is your process? 

I work for Aardman Animations by day as a Graphic Designer, so I’m constantly in a creative environment which provides a great hub of inspiration. I get inspired by the world around me, whether it be from a song I’ve heard on the radio, a poem or even a road sign! Usually I will get an idea during the day and will make a note of it and begin work of an evening, and tend to not sleep until they have been executed on paper.

Working on the helmeted hornbill | © Lorna Leigh Harrington

What techniques/mediums do you use to create your illustrations?

I tend to sketch an outline in pencil and then go over it with a black ballpoint pen, adding in detail. A sketch never feels complete to me until I have added some strong black lines. I then scan the image into photoshop where I colour and add textures and layers.

The natural world features heavily in your work, what is it about nature and wildlife that inspires you?

I’ve always had a fascination with the world around us, and particularly the animals that inhabit it with us. As a kid I had a lot of pets, so I put this interest down to that. I think that species can be so diverse in shape and colour that the possible outcomes of a piece of work are never ending.

What is your favourite subject to draw?

Aside from animals and plants, I also love drawing faces, and experimenting with shading. I have recently got into painting large portraits on canvases with acrylic. I like to mix up my style from time to time.

The five Wildscreen species, clockwise from left: helmeted hornbil, Iberian lynx, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, Muller’s mushroomtounge salamander, sea urchins.

To see more of Lorna’s work, check out her website and Instagram.

Jul 10

Wildscreen is the team behind Arkive! We’re also behind the world’s biggest festival of natural history storytelling. And we’ve now announced the nominees for the 2018 edition of international wildlife film, TV and content industry’s highest honour – the Wildscreen Panda Awards!

The ocean epic, BLUE PLANET II, leads the nominations picking up seven nods for the world-renowned BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit, in recognition of its stunning cinematography and never-before-seen animal behaviour. Keo Films’ RISE OF THE WARRIOR APES, which brings a gripping investigative approach to natural history documentary, follows closely with five nominations, topping the craft categories for its technical excellence.

Intimate personal stories and the use of authentic voices, with them being integral to the over-arching narratives of a production, is a standout theme across the 17 categories. The expert testimony and passion of scientists is central to many productions including JANE and ONE STRANGE ROCK.


“Humanity’s relationships and interactions with the natural world is what truly stood out amongst the nominees this year”, said Lucie Muir, Wildscreen CEO.  “We’re at a point in our history where we either choose to protect nature or we all suffer the consequences. Storytelling is a powerful tool for positive change and it was so encouraging to see a particularly strong field in the Impact award category in 2018. It was so strong in fact, that we took the decision to double the number of nominees, creating two sub-categories – small and large budget – recognising that big impacts and change is possible on any budget. These stories share hope and optimism for the future of our natural world and our place within it.”

The 2018 line-up also sees the first ever VR contender in the Awards’ 36 year history, with THE PROTECTORS receiving a nomination for the Innovation Award.

Oscar-winning Dame Judi Dench’s, MY PASSION FOR TREES, sees her nominated for the Presenter Award alongside Chris Packham and BBC wildlife cameraman, Vianet Djenguet.

The shortlist features productions from 12 countries, including Qatar for the first time, with each of the 37 nominees standing out amongst nearly 800 entries to Wildscreen’s international jury of more than 40 world-leading producers, broadcasters and craft professionals. But it’s not just the industry that decides the outstanding productions of the past two years. The Children’s Panda Award nominees were chosen by a 30-strong jury of 8-12 years olds from Easton in Bristol and a school in León, Mexico.

The winners will be revealed at the Panda Awards Ceremony which will take place on 19 October at The Passenger Shed, Brunel’s Old Station, in Bristol. The gala is the climax to the Wildscreen Festival, the biggest global gathering of natural world storytellers, which sees over 900 of the world’s leading filmmakers, photographers, broadcasters and content creators convene in Bristol for a week of business, film premieres and an unrivalled programme of 120+ hours of content from more than 150 speakers from across the globe.

If you love the sound of the Wildscreen Festival 2018 and want to keep up to date with the latest news, why not visit wildscreen.org/festival to find out more!

Jun 11

A team of students and staff from the University of Exeter are set to embark on a 12-day voyage to measure pollution in the Arctic

Their aim: to make the unseen seen. By collecting vital baseline data on the non-visible pollutants lurking beneath the sea’s surface and with a diverse crew of film-makers, artists, photographers, scientists and sailors, they hope to increase public awareness of issues from microplastics to manmade noise by making their findings educational and engaging; highlighting the actions needed to preserve this spectacular region before it’s too late.

Key objectives:

  • To unite sailors, scientists, artists, filmmakers, adventurers, biologists and researchers to make the unseen seen, and reveal the invisible pollution threatening our remarkable marine environment
  • To collect data on microplastics and manmade noise which will be added to a global research database, and in turn will go towards informing policies and instigating change
  • To engage with the public: from the local community in Svalbard to students, their findings will educate and inspire others to make changes to their everyday lives and result in a cleaner, healthier environment

    Microplastics & Zooplankton… take a closer look and all manner of interesting lifeforms and objects appear. Zooplankton are abundant in this sample but also microscopic plastic fragments and microfiber filaments, broken down into tiny pieces entering the very base of the foodchain.

Why?

The Arctic is a unique region witnessing environmental change on an unprecedented scale. Ocean currents such as the Atlantic Gulf Stream meet a ‘dead-end’ close to this archipelago, offloading a plethora of plastics and waste carried for hundreds of kilometers from the UK and elsewhere in Europe – essentially, the Arctic is acting as a ‘dumping ground’ for our waste.

Pollution is a major player among the myriad of threats our oceans face: plastics, toxic chemicals, manmade noise and countless others. These all present an acute threat to living organisms, whether that be through entanglement and ingestion of discarded waste, through to the disruption of communication in animals like dolphins and whales caused by an increasingly noisy underwater environment. However, many of these pollutants aren’t particularly obvious to us, even though their effects on the marine world can be disastrous.

The effects of this ‘non-visible’ pollution on marine life, as well as its concentration and distribution, presents a major gap in our scientific knowledge. This is especially true in remote regions such as the Arctic ocean, where the focus of most research is primarily on the impacts of Climate Change – no less urgent or impactful on the ecosystems here. With this expedition they strive to unveil the exact nature of these ‘invisible’ pollutants in the Arctic ocean, whilst communicating findings to the public and giving compelling evidence to act.

The team assess the levels of pollution in the waters of the Falmouth Estuary in Cornwall

The Expedition

The team will travel on Blue Clipper, a 33m tall-ship, powered solely by wind and ideally suited to Arctic conditions.  Here they will carry out a series of transects across the Barents Sea to the south-west of the archipelago, using manta trawls, drop-net sampling and acoustic hydrophones to gather data on microplastics and noise pollution in this remote area. Once the data collection finished their work will continue as they spend a week in Svalbard itself: meeting members of the local community to present findings, document opinions on global pollution, and assisting with  the beach clean initiatives already in place.

The team’s home for two weeks, aboard the magnificent tallship, the Blue Clipper

Public engagement is a strong theme running throughout the exhibition.  The team, having already reached out to school children about the impacts of single-use plastics, surveyed locally for microplastics here along the Cornish coast, hosted beach cleans and engaging film screenings, and have run a variety of fund-raising events including a ‘Ceilidh Against Plastic’ and ‘Gig Against Plastic’! All these events have enabled public engagement with the issues of single-use plastics and how areas which seem pristine and untouched can be tainted by our actions here in the UK.

Be part of the solution to save our oceans: support the project and enable them to make the unseen seen.

Find out more

Visiting their website www.sailagainstplastic.com

Keep in touch:

Facebook – @amessagefromthearctic

Instagram – @amessagefromthearctic

Twitter – @Sail4seas

Email – sailagainstplastic@gmail.com

Jun 7

To celebrate the launch of the inaugural Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award at this year’s Wildscreen Festival, Arkive is getting to know the award’s amazing team and jury, who are themselves international photography professionals. Here we meet Neil Aldridge.

Neil Aldridge is the Technical Consultant for the Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award. As a conservation photographer his images have won awards all over the world, including the World Press Photo environment category, the NPPA Best of Photojournalism award for environmental storytelling and the overall title of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. His work has also featured in Wildlife Photographer of the Year and he has twice been a winner of British Wildlife Photography Awards.

Neil is also a lecturer in Marine and Natural History Photography at Falmouth University and a trustee of the charities Animals Saving Animals and Poaching Prevention.

The return of the rhino | © Neil Aldridge

As a conservation photographer, was there a defining moment that led you to start documenting conservation issues?

I grew up reading Getaway Magazine in South Africa and I remember being inspired to want to tell stories with my camera, not just take single shots. But it wasn’t until I began researching African wild dogs while training as a wildlife guide at Antares in South Africa in 2005 that I realised telling conservation stories and engaging people in these issues was how I could best contribute to saving species and protecting our environment. It took me another three years to save up the money and throw myself into the world of photojournalism. I’ve not looked back since.

How does imagery help in conservation efforts? How do you think photo stories with a clear narrative affect audiences compared to single images?

While some iconic single photographs do tell a story in one shot, the most effective way to draw an audience into an issue, to make them care and, importantly for conservation, to make them take action is to take them on a journey – to show them what the issue is, where it is happening, why it is important, who the people are at the heart of the issue and what the solutions are.

When a company builds a website, they talk about the journey they want to take their web visitor on from when they land on that site. As a storyteller, it’s the same principle. By thinking about narrative, I’m thinking about where I want my audience to go when they open a magazine onto the first page of my photo story. This may sound logical but it’s not as easy to deliver as it sounds. Where narrative-led photography really is helping conservation efforts is the ability to connect the audience with real people – whether it’s rangers, researchers, vets or even the unfortunate villager who is having her livelihood impacted. Now that we have learned to stop banging the drum just about the big iconic animal and embrace the people who can save it, we are switching more people on to the importance of saving our natural world – because they can see that human lives depend on it.

Living with foxes | © Neil Aldridge

Over the years there have been a variety of photographic styles to document conservation stories: from hard-hitting and emotive imagery, to those showing the wonder of the natural world and the diversity of species. What do you think the role of conservation photography is in 2018 and going forward – to shock audiences or to send out positive messages about conservation and the environment?

Both. People take in information in different ways, even within audience demographics. Personally, when I’m looking at a story or watching a documentary, I’m still grabbed by the hard-hitting moments that some people find too much. Those are the moments that stay with me. And with the state that our planet is in, I don’t think that we can afford to filter or totally dumb-down our messages. People do have the choice to look away or turn the page if they want to, so I would rather see photographers still taking the pictures that have the power to stop an audience in its tracks. But, that’s the beauty of creating photo stories. You can include hard-hitting imagery alongside the solutions, the beauty of nature and the wonderful people dedicating their lives to stopping atrocities happening. That is what I have been trying to do with my work, I then work with an editor to decide what the best mix of images may be from a wider set to achieve the right impact and reaction.

The ‘plastic issue’ has clearly galvanised public opinion. What do you think are the other important environmental issues and challenges we now face?

I could sit here and say climate change or habitat loss but fundamentally our attitude towards the natural world has to change. How have we evolved to a stage where we think it’s okay to sell keyrings with live baby turtles sealed inside? We will never beat the trade in wildlife or protect key habitats and the species that depend on them if there is not the appreciation for what functioning ecosystems can do for us. Yes, policing illegal trade or logging is important but it’s like sticking a plaster over a gaping head wound. The real change has to come from ordinary people putting pressure on the decision makers to change policies – policies with a focus on sustaining life, not making short-term profits and winning votes. The plastic issue has been a positive example of this, but it’s still up to us to keep the pressure on governments to stay true to their words.

As a lecturer in photography are you seeing a shift in the topics that your students want to document or the stories that they want to tell?

I’m constantly amazed and inspired by the passion and broad knowledge of conservation topics within our student group at Falmouth. I get to learn about places, species and issues that I didn’t fully understand. But perhaps the biggest shift I’m noticing is in how young photographers are telling their stories and engaging their audiences. That’s what is really exciting. Yes the traditional, strong magazine stories or documentary films are there but we’re seeing installations, apps, 3D imagery and VR pieces. It’s an exciting time to be a young storyteller.

Underdogs – African wild dogs © Neil Aldridge

How can photography galvanise the younger generation into action? Is social media having an impact?

If I knew the answer to this I could be making good money advising major organisations on their engagements strategies. It’s a tough one because yes, smart devices have made it easier than ever for people to take and share incredible photographs of the world around them, but at the same time they are driving shorter attention spans, addiction to endless browsing and opening people up to targeted marketing and promotional campaigns with budgets that conservation causes just can’t compete with. But yes, the potential is certainly there for galvanising and mobilising people into action. I think we have seen some of this potential already in the activity that was stirred by the plastic scenes in Blue Planet 2.

Which environmental campaign has had the greatest impact on you?

I used to work on a BBC learning campaign called Breathing Places that drove action off the back of the UK-focussed BBC nature shows like Springwatch and Autumnwatch. The message at the heart of that campaign was ‘Do One Thing’. It was so straight forward, so simple for people to engage with. We just wanted everyday people to do something for nature, whether it was planting a tree, making a bug hotel, joining their local wildlife charity or getting out for a walk in the woods. As with everything, it was impacted by funding cuts when the BBC hit a crisis. I feel that we need something like Breathing Places to harness all of the positive energy that is created by the content we as photographers and filmmakers are producing.

______________

Thanks to Neil for taking the time to share his thoughts. We’re really excited to see him and all the incredible photo stories at the Wildscreen Festival 2018!

You can find Neil on InstagramTwitter and Facebook, or visit his website conservationphotojournalism.com

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