Jan 23

“I’m saving the chimps for last, because they throw poop”.

Not exactly the phrase you might expect to hear when talking about an out-of-the-box conservation photography project. But actually, it makes total sense when it comes to National Geographic magazine photographer and avid ARKive contributor, Joel Sartore.

The Great American Zoo Trip is a project five years in the making for Joel. Capitalizing on the incredible biodiversity in US zoos, Joel and his 18 year old son, Cole, have packed pounds upon pounds of photography gear into an eco-friendly Prius and hit the road with several zoos visits scheduled over the next month.

Many photographers have taken pictures in zoos before so what makes Joel’s project unique? Every single species portrait that Joel captures on camera will have the same, identical studio black or white backgrounds. Why? “This black-and-white background technique gives all species equal weight and importance. A tiny beetle is as interesting as a lion, and a two-toed sloth as cuddly as a panda bear” says Joel.

Snow leopard at the Miller Park Zoo. ©Joel Sartore/National Geographic

Snow leopard at the Miller Park Zoo. ©Joel Sartore/National Geographic

Joel has long been a photographer committed to the preservation of threatened species. He has contributed several dozen of his own images to ARKive over the years from stunning California condor portraits to adorable greater prairie chicks.

“The help of organizations like ARKive and National Geographic is critical in getting the word out about Earth’s vanishing biodiversity.  People only save what they care about, and they only care about what they know.  With the Biodiversity Project, I’m trying to get people to fall in love with these creatures before they all go extinct.”

A gold-handed tamarin (Saguinus midas) at the Miller Park Zoo. The future of this species is quite uncertain as it is going to be 'phased out' in favor of other more showy and popular small primate species. ©Joel Sartore/National Geographic

A gold-handed tamarin (Saguinus midas) at the Miller Park Zoo. The future of this species is quite uncertain as it is going to be 'phased out' in favor of other more showy and popular small primate species. ©Joel Sartore/National Geographic

To ride along on The Great American Zoo Trip, Joel will be posting digital dispatches from the road keeping all fans of the project up to date with the latest zoo visits. Or, if we’re really lucky, a story or two of projectile poop.

Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA

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