Sofa Premiere: The Return of the Wildcat

If you are looking for more cat content while self-isolating at home, make sure to schedule time on Friday April 17 to learn about one of Europe’s most elusive and endangered wild felines, all from the comfort of your own couch.

The Return of the Wildcat will be free to watch for 24hrs on Vimeo and all you need is a good internet connection. The film is in German, but English subtitles are available by clicking the CC button on the bottom right hand corner of the Vimeo player. Good news, the film can be watched world wide and will air at 7 pm (CEST) which is 1 pm (EST) or 10 am (PST).

“In this 40-minutes-documentary the ecologist and filmmaker David Cebulla is on a quest to find one of Germany‘s shyest and most endangered species: the European wildcat. During a scientific pre-study, by chance, he made the first record of a wildcat in an area near his hometown Jena. Thereupon he dedicates a whole year to get the genetic evidence and a really splendid film recording of a free-living wildcat.”

Director and film maker David Cebulla took some time to answer a few questions about his work and the documentary which will be his first ever ‘sofa’ premiere.

Please tell me about your background and how you got into film making

I used to be a musician and got into film making after releasing my first album when I, among other things, produced a video clip for one of the songs. This was in 2014. Since then I have had different jobs on a variety of film projects. I started as a set runner on productions for German television, worked as set manager, production manager and first assistant director. For about two years I did artist and social media management for Andreas Kieling who is one of the most famous and most popular nature film makers in Germany. I also did my own films and ordered projects, but the most important step was my debut film “Hidden Beauty – The Orchids of the Saale Valley”.

Why do you primarily focus on nature and science content?

My passion for nature goes back to childhood so it was always an important part of my life. Often this was in the form of orienteering or climbing, but to me the experience of nature has always been as equally as important as seeking knowledge. I decided to study biology at university and specialized in ecology during my master’s degree. In addition to film making I am also a scientist, as I love to work in nature and to capture its beauty. I remember a moment when I was working on “Hidden Beauty” filming a time laps of the Milky Way and it was just me at night in nature. I had to clap my hands occasionally to keep the wild boars away and I thought – “This is exactly what I want to do!” I am glad that I found this way to combine scientific research and nature film making.

What first got you interested in making a documentary on the European wildcat?

I had the opportunity to combine my passion for science and film making when I did a study on wildlife as part of my master’s degree. I started monitoring with a single and very simple trail camera. By chance I made the first record of a European wildcat for my area of investigation.

Why is it important for you to make this film now?

It is common knowledge that we are living in a time of huge environmental problems. We have to face the impact we are having on the planet – environmental pollution, human-made climate change, the isolation of habitats because of road networks and agriculture. What better way is there to create awareness than to show the very things that are endangered and worth protecting? This film is a visual appeal for the conservation of nature and species. It was my special interest to show great and stunning captures of nature. We need to act. And we need to do it now.

Did you work with any specific organizations or individuals?

This film is based on monitoring I conducted myself. I interviewed experts that I worked with and they are also part of the film. I interviewed Silvester Tamás, from the NGO NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union), who managed a wildcat monitoring project in my area in previous years. I also collaborated with Matthias Krüger, head taxidermist at the Jena Phyletic Museum, who has great knowledge on the dead ‘found’ wildcats the Museum received in the past decades.

What did you learn about the European wildcat while making the documentary?

Probably, how fascinating it is that they managed to survive. Although they used to be hunted, and were almost exterminated, we still have free living European wildcats today.

What do you hope your film will help accomplish for these cats?

This is a question with many answers. First, I hope to inform people about the European wildcat by contributing to environmental education on the topic. Hopefully viewers will consider what impact their own decisions may have on the wildcat – do I put my dog on a leash when walking it in a forest? Do I obey other rules when I am visiting a nature conservation area? Importantly the film will draw attention to the wildcat and show what problems they are facing and that they cannot be solved by any one individual. On another level the wildcat is a fascinating animal and, when we protect the wildcat we are protecting its potential habitats therefore also protecting the flora and fauna in those habitats as a whole.

What are your plans for the film after the premiere?

The premiere will start at 7 pm (CEST) which is 1 pm (EST) or 10 am (PST). It will only be available for 24 hours to watch for free either on our website or directly on Vimeo. Afterwards it will be on Vimeo On Demand for rent and purchase. Later this year we will also add it to Amazon Prime in Germany, the USA, the UK and Japan.

Anything else you would like to add?

I am looking forward to the premiere and appreciate anyone who is interested in watching and recommending the film!

For more updates on David’s work be sure to follow him on Instagram

Wild Cats Of The Jura Mountains

Switzerland, a country known for its picturesque and mountainous landscapes is also home to some of the world’s most elusive and rare felines. Wild cat enthusiast, camera trapper, photographer and passionate citizen scientist Lars Begert is helping to tell the story of the small wild cats that call Switzerland’s Jura Mountains home. His hope is that by sharing his photographs and knowledge he will give them a voice, helping to inspire others to appreciate and protect these unique and important animals.

I recently interviewed Lars about his life long passion for nature, wildlife and his participation in the Wildcat Monitoring project that is doing important research not far from where he lives.

How did your passion for photographing wild cats start?

It all started as a child when my parents showed my brother and I the beauty of nature and love for wildlife early on.  We lived on the edge of the forest and in my spare time I would visit the ponds and pools to watch amphibians. We also went to the Swiss National Park for at least 2 weeks each year to watch animals. Relatives often gave me animal books for my birthday and I can remember one specific book very well, it had a tiger on the front cover, and I spent hours studying the different animal species. My grandparents always had domestic cats at home and I loved playing with them so I guess this was where my relationship with the cats started. As a child I always wanted to be an animal researcher, but lost interest for a short time while growing up. When I met my wife back in 2000 we started to look for wildlife on our vacations, because she also has a big interest in animals.

Camera Trapping, Switzerland, Jura Mountains, Wildcat Monitoring Switzerland, Europen Wild Cat, Iberian Lynx, Bobcats, conservation, Swiss Federal Law on Hunting and the Protection of Indigenous Mammals and Birds

The Swiss Jura is one of the three distinct geographical regions of Switzerland, the others being the Swiss plateau and the Swiss Alps. Wikipedia

The big push really happened in 2011 when I started to wonder whether there were any lynx in the Aargau Jura. There was some indication that they were, but there wasn’t really much information about it so I started putting up cheap trail cameras. However, I had to wait over a year for the first lynx to run into one of my cameras. Also during that time I recalled a vacation from 2005 when we were in Kenya, so I decided to fly there again. It was just wonderful, I had a great guide and we saw so many wild cats but I was not so happy with the pictures, so I bought a better camera and went again in the same year. Since then, we always plan our vacation around wild cats. I can’t really describe it, but I am somehow quite attracted to them.

How did you become involved in camera trapping?

I started with cheap trail cams going after the Eurasian lynx and when I saw the pictures I was happy, but being quite the perfectionist I was also not happy. I mean you could identify the species, but for a great capture it was just not the right device. I recall seeing the captures of Sebastian Kennerknecht*, Steve Winter’s capture of mountain lion P-22** and the beautiful Eurasian lynx captures of Laurent Geslin*** and I thought I want to take pictures like this!

It took me a lot of time to find out how to work and create a stable, reliable setup but when I finally had my first capture of a pine marten I was so happy and it really opened up a whole new world photography wise. So I really started with DSLR camera trapping about 2 years ago and I am still learning a lot. I also had, and still have, a lot of setbacks. In the beginning I had a lot of technical issues and sometimes still do, particularly after heavy rainfall or storms. I also had quite the bad luck when it comes to the Eurasian lynx, last year it passed one of my camera traps 4 times and during that time the camera trap didn’t work, but when I finally did get a capture it was all worth it!

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Back to the cats 😺: Finally the young, male, Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx carpathicus) B622 is back ! When it comes to lynxes and dslr cameratrapping, i wasn‘t very blessed with luck .This lynx appeared first in our area in october 2018. Since then he passed almost every month at one of my best spots, until June 2019. A long time, i was too scared to install a camera trap there, because it is also a hiking path and i didn‘t wan‘t to disturb Hikers/Trail Runners/Hunters/Mountain Bikers and was scared of theft or destruction. In may, i finally decided to place a dslr cameratrap there and i also found another place, where he appeared every 2 months and placed two dslr cameratraps too. The Lynx came by 4 times in june, but i had 1 defective battery at one place and because of a thunderstorm two defective PIR sensors at the other site. Since June the lynx only appeared once again at a different place i found and was dissapeared since, until last week. As it happened in the same way since i started to monitor Lynxes in our area at the end of 2015, indidn’t expect that he was coming back again – it was always the same pattern – A lynx appears in our area for 3 to 6 months every month and moves then to the western solothurn jura mountains, as our area is not the absolute prime habitat of the lynx. I am quite happy that he is back and finally passed one of my cameratraps and i hope that our area stay part of his territory. Time will tell. 🤞😺 . Captured with: Nikon D3300 | Nikon AF-S 35mm DX | Nikon SB-80DX | Fireking KKS-2 Hardcase | SensePi Motion Sensor by @appikoorg | Pixel Flash Adapter . #schweiz #suisse #lynx #lynxlynx #wildcat #wildcats #cameratrapping #cat #cats #catsofinstagram #catsofworld #wildcatsofinstagram #picoftheday #pic #wild #wildlife #wildlifephotography #wildlifeonearth #wildlife_vision #wildlifeplanet #nature #naturephotography #naturelover #naturelovers #nikonphotography #nikonswitzerland #wildgeography #wildphoto #speuzerlochs

A post shared by Lars Begert (@lynxlynx.ch) on

Tell me about the Wildcat Monitoring project you are currently involved in?

In 2008-2010 the Wildcat Monitoring Switzerland project was carried out to determine the distribution of the species in Switzerland for the first time. The monitoring was based on one systematic survey of wildcat occurrences in the Jura, unfortunately I wasn’t involved back then. Ten years later, the second survey is to be carried out to monitor developments in the wildcat population, both in terms of distribution and hybridization. The purpose of the inventory on behalf of the FOE (Federal office of environment) is as follows:

    • Distribution map of occurrences of wildcats in the Jura and in the Central Plateau up to the Pre-alps, status 2018-20201
    • Estimation of wildcat density2
    • Estimation of the rate of hybridization of wildcats
    • Changes in the distribution, density and hybridization rate in large carnivore management in the Jura compared to the first monitoring survey

Since you can’t tell the difference a 100% between a domestic cat (Felis catus) and the European wildcat (Felis silvestris) you have to find out through a DNA Analysis. This  means you need hair from the cats.

Lars Begert, Wildlife photography, Camera Trapping, Switzerland, Jura Mountains, Wildcat Monitoring Switzerland, Europen Wild Cat, Iberian Lynx, Bobcats, conservation

Image © Lars Begert @lynxlynx.ch – hair trap installation

In this Wildcat Monitoring project there are specific square kilometer habitats defined and, on every square kilometer you have to set 3 wooden pickets on an animal trail. You treat the picket with a knife that the hairs get stuck to when the cat rubs on the picket. To attract them you spray the picket with Valerian. Wildcats, as well as other animals, are quite attracted to Valerian especially during mating season which is January to March.

To date, what species of wild cats have shown up on your camera traps?

In Switzerland we have two species of wild cats: the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) and the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx carpathicus). The Eurasian lynx was eradicated during the 19th century and reintroduced in 1971 again with individuals from the Carpathian mountains, while the European wildcat was strongly reduced but never became completely extinct in Switzerland. So far I am happy that I have been able to capture both of our wild cat species with my camera traps. This fact makes me particularly happy as the area in which I operate the camera traps is the direct “back-country” of my home, as well as a peripheral region for these two animal species.

Lars Begert, Wildlife photography, Camera Trapping, Switzerland, Jura Mountains, Wildcat Monitoring Switzerland, Europen Wild Cat, Iberian Lynx, Bobcats, conservation

Image ©Lars Begert@lynxlynx.ch – wildcat footprints or not?

As a citizen scientist what do you hope to contribute to wild cat conservation where you live?

I hope that I can collect as much information as possible about the distribution and density of the wildcat in our region to support and help the scientists. With my captures I hope that I can inform people that these wild cats actually exist, as many people don’t know about them and when I do show them pictures they feel that it is a domestic cat. I want to make them aware that we have a great little wildcat in the woods with us, that it is worth protecting and that we need to be aware of the importance of protecting nature including our forests. In the next few years I would like to create a picture book about the beautiful nature we are surrounded with and focus on our two wild cat species.

Lars Begert, Wildlife photography, Camera Trapping, Switzerland, Jura Mountains, Wildcat Monitoring Switzerland, Europen Wild Cat, Iberian Lynx, Bobcats, conservation

Image ©Lars Begert @lynxlynx.ch – phenotypic wildcat

What is next for the monitoring project?

For the next 2.5 months I will manage the hair traps, that means I have to check every 2 weeks if there are hairs at the pickets and treat the pickets again with a knife and Valerian. I already found hairs on two of my pickets this season, but of course don’t know yet from which animals the hairs are from. I personally set a camera trap in front of every picket so I already know that at least on one of the pickets a phenotypic****Euorpean wildcat went by and examined the picket, but I also know that there were 4 other species rubbing their body on the picket. The lab will sort out and analyze the hairs and with some hairs they can already tell, by the structure, that it is not a wildcat.

Lars Begert, Wildlife photography, Camera Trapping, Switzerland, Jura Mountains, Wildcat Monitoring Switzerland, Europen Wild Cat, Iberian Lynx, Bobcats, conservation

Image ©Lars Begert@lynxlynx.ch – phenotypic wildcat

I expect to have the first results, which determine whether the hair has wildcat DNA or not, by August/September this year. During the second step they analyze all the remaining wildcat hairs to determine the hybridization level. By the end of 2021 the project will be over and we should have all the relevant data. My work will be completed by end of march as I only work in the field, but my camera trapping will continue.

Why was it so important to become involved in helping document the presence of these animals?

For me it was a dream, because I wanted to become a animal researcher as a child but decided then to another path work-wise. I want to help in my free time as much as I can to provide as much data as possible for the researchers and to get a better understanding of how we can help a species like the wildcat in this small, fragmented country. I wouldn’t expect that everyone becomes involved in this type of project, but it could really help to raise the awareness with people. I think we are so disconnected with nature, there has to be a change. Otherwise the nature we know will disappear.

Lars Begert, Wildlife photography, Camera Trapping, Switzerland, Jura Mountains, Wildcat Monitoring Switzerland, Europen Wild Cat, Iberian Lynx, Bobcats, conservation

Image ©Lars Begert@lynxlynx.ch – phenotypic wildcat

What are some of the biggest threats wildcats in Switzerland face and, what is being done to help them?

The main threats of the European wildcat include:

  • Habitat loss, destruction and fragmentation (road traffic)
  • Disease transmission from domestic cats
  • Hybridization with domestic cats

Although the idea of hybridization is quite controversial, some scientists see it as a threat while others are not sure because it hasn’t been thoroughly researched yet. Unfortunately there is not a lot that can be done to reduce this threat. Switzerland is quite a small fragmented country and there are some projects working to connect habitats. Even though the wildcat is never the main focus of course it will benefit. Concerning the hybridization issue there are some animal welfare organization which require neutering for free range domestic cats or feral cats, which is also considered controversial because it is quite a harsh measure.

Lars Begert, Wildlife photography, Camera Trapping, Switzerland, Jura Mountains, Wildcat Monitoring Switzerland, Europen Wild Cat, Iberian Lynx, Bobcats, conservation

Image ©Lars Begert@lynxlynx.ch – phenotypic wildcat

Please tell me about the recent Swiss hunting law that was proposed

The new hunting law has come out all wrong. “In the future protected animal species such as lynx, wolf, beaver and grey heron can be shot down before they have caused any damage and, before any protective measures for herds or flocks have been taken simply because they exist. This new law also comes at a time when biodiversity is facing its most precarious moment in the history of humankind. The congress of states and the national council already voted for it. Several Swiss nature and animal protection organizations are resorting to a referendum against the revised “Swiss Federal Law on Hunting and the Protection of Indigenous Mammals and Birds” (In German Jagdgesetz, JSG) and are fighting against this unacceptable weakening of the protection of species in Switzerland. The only things the new law would protect are agricultural interests and hunting and fishing yields.” Together with a colleague I went to the zoo Basel to collect signatures from people. I am happy that the 50,000 signatures were collected and there is now a vote for the referendum on May 17, 2020.

What is your personal philosophy with regards to conservation and photographing wildlife?

Even though I’m pretty wild cat oriented, the important thing is the entire ecosystem so every species counts. When it comes to photographing wildlife I have discovered disturbing things in the last years. There are a lot of so called wildlife photographers that are not really interested in the animal, they are interested in their capture and the fame and glory they probably will get from it. They don’t care if they destroy nature, or if the animal gets hurt or if they stage and fake the photo as long as they are getting their shot. So in my understanding there is no wildlife photography without conservation. Just observe before taking a capture.

If you had to pick a few favorite highlights while photographing wild cats, either at home or on your travels, which would they be?

It is quite hard to pick. I am very grateful, and I really appreciate, that I had already a lot of awesome encounter with wild cats. But I will narrow it down to 3 highlights:

  1. My first Iberian lynx, one of the world’s most endangered wild cats. In 2014 we went to Andalusia, southern Spain, and after 2 attempts and 4 weeks down there we finally saw our first lynx, it was just magical to see this beautiful animal in the wild.
  2. Next is caracals in Kenya In 2013. I decided to go again to Kenya, Masai Mara, to photograph wildcats. I told our guide at the camp that I’d plan to go to South Africa later that year because of caracals. He laughed and told me that he could show me a caracal if we came back again. So I convinced my wife to go to Kenya again instead of South Africa. We searched for days to see a caracal, and our guide was already quite frustrated when a colleague of his called and told him that they had seen a caracal. We hurried over and found 2 strolling in their territory. I didn’t get any proper capture, but it was again so wonderful to just watch and observe these beautiful animals.
  3. Finally my first bobcat capture in 2018. We already tried to see bobcats in 2015 in California, but weren’t successful at that time. We later flew to San Francisco where I went to the Golden Gate Bridge recreation area and, on the second morning there I decided to go a little bit earlier. I started hiking down to the sea, my camera ready when I passed by some coyotes and saw another shadow further down. At first I thought it was another coyote, but realized suddenly that it was moving like a cat. I slowly approached the animal and saw a bobcat! He was looking for rodents in the grass and walked up again another road. He turned his head and wasn’t even disturbed at my presence as long as I kept my distance. I followed him for around 20 minutes, took some pictures before he disappeared in the tall grass again. That was just another magical moment, alone with a beautiful creature!

Is there anything else you would like people to know?

Go out enjoy nature and wildlife! Appreciate this amazing planet we have and help to protect and conserve it. Get your connection to nature back – It gives us so much in return. Nature needs all of us now.

For more wild cats, camera trapping photos and other wonderful images of wildlife like amphibians, be sure to follow Lars on Instagram at @Lynxlynx.ch.


*Sebastian Kennerknecht

**Mountain lion P-22

***Laurent Geslin

F1.Unit: occurrence probability per km2

F2.Number of wildcats per km2, incl. 95% confidence interval

****.Phenotype

The Watcher

Wonderful video of a peaceful encounter between Photographer Jay Staton and a highly endangered Florida panther. While negative and scary headlines sell, don’t believe all the media hype surrounding these animals who are curious and shy by nature. Given space and respect they will choose to stay clear of humans. There are many reasons to share this, including the fact that the species is in desperate need of honest and positive publicity, which this footage provides.

Florida panthers face multiple pressures – from vehicles, human development and major habitat loss which means time is running out to save them. Jay is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to replace custom camera traps, that were destroyed during hurricane Irma, so he can continue to document these amazing animals and tell their story. Please consider sharing with friends and family in Florida and others who wish to see the Florida panther have a much deserved chance of survival.

“I was kneeling at a pool of water filming walking catfish in a ditch in Fakahatchee. I positioned my GoPro camera under water pointing up so I could get the fish swimming above the camera. I walked to the other side of the pool to scare the catfish to swim over my camera. I walked back around to my camera to change its direction. But before I walked back to the other side, I noticed a panther also in the ditch less than 20 feet from me. I grabbed the GoPro camera from the water and pointed it in the direction of the panther. It was set on wide angle so the panther looks further away than 20 feet. I slowly got out of the ditch and walked to my car, some 30 feet away, to retrieve my video camera. When I got back the panther was no longer where I had seen him, but instead he was sitting right where I was kneeling at the water’s edge filming catfish. I set up the tripod and pushed record on my video camera. I walked back to my car calmly, 30 feet away (you can hear my footsteps in the video) to get my picture camera. The video footage shows the panther watched me walk back to my car. I slowly returned to my video camera and took 5 or 6 pictures of the panther. I had a 300mm lens on my full frame camera and the panther was too close to get all of it in frame, so I took parts of the panther to stitch the images together later in Photoshop. The panther decided at that point to leave. I was still trying to take a couple pictures, so I didn’t pan the video camera to follow him quick enough.”  – Via Jay Staton on YouTube:

In The Eyes

Lions, wildcats, wildlife, wildlife photography, conservation,travel, safari, Botswana

Lion Cub Botswana – Image © Tori-Ellen Dileo

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” – author Terry Tempest Williams

I found this beautiful and inspiring quote on one of my favorite Instagram accounts Trish Carney Photo, a wonderful California based photographer who focuses on wildlife and has captured some of my favorite images of bobcats.

Photo Ark

There is something special about wildlife photography and for many reasons it has always been my favorite genre of photography. Capturing the essence of wildlife on film is both magical and powerful, the images can help convey a message as well as connect people to wildlife by inspiring awe, action, and even empathy. It’s these elements that help make wildlife photography and in particular conservation photography an important tool for teaching people about wildlife conservation. In a world where many species are now rare, endangered, or in many cases headed for extinction, each photograph taken has become a portrait or permanent record, in essence a type of living digital fossil that tells a story while there is still time to save the species.

Joel Sartore Wildlife photographer, National Geographic Photographer and National Geographic Photo Ark founder has taken the task of documenting the worlds most rare and or endangered species to the ultimate level by creating thousands of portraits of animals that reside in human care in zoos and sanctuaries around the world. This multi-year project hopes to continue to document, raise awareness and find solutions to some of the most pressing issues affecting wildlife and their habitats. Photo Ark aims to do this by inspiring “action through education” and by helping to save wildlife by “supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts”. Joel’s work with the Photo Ark began over a decade ago and to date he has photographed over 7,000 species. Once the Photo Ark is complete he will have created portraits of an estimated 12,000 species, but importantly the project will serve as a  “record of each animal’s existence and a powerful testament to the importance of saving them.”

The photos are instantly recognizable as each animal from the smallest to the largest and most charismatic are represented equally with nothing more than a simple black or white backdrop. With no distractions the viewer must focus on the intended subject as well as the message that lies behind the eyes staring back.

Photo Ark, #SaveTogether, National Geographic Photo Ark, Joel Sartore, Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Photography, ROMSpeaks, Wildcats, Be their Voice

© Photo by GRAHM S. JONES, COLUMBUS ZOO AND AQUARIUM
‘After a photo shoot at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, a clouded leopard cub climbs on Sartore’s head. The leopards, which live in Asian tropical forests, are illegally hunted for their spotted pelts.’  Image © Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark natgeophotoark.org

Being a fan of Joel’s work, one of my personal favorites is the portrait of Uno an endangered Florida Panther who was blinded by a gunshot wound, I was excited to have the chance to hear him speak recently at the Royal Ontario Museum as the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Keynote. Joel has a reputation for being a phenomenal speaker and he did not disappoint, he was engaging, entertaining, passionate and extremely inspirational.

His talk included stories full of humor and hope while others were more serious, the conservation stories of species that we still may have time to save and others that it is already too late for. Some of his portraits would be the last the world would see of these animals and that, a profound message, should resonate deeply on an emotional and spiritual level with anyone concerned for the state of biodiversity on our planet.

Photo Ark, #SaveTogether, National Geographic Photo Ark, Joel Sartore, Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Photography, ROMSpeaks, Wildcats, Be their Voice

© Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark
‘An endangered Malayan tiger, Panthera tigris jacksoni, at Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo.’             Image National Geographic Photo Ark natgeophotoark.org

His photography for The National Geographic Photo Ark involves captive animals so there is a strong affiliation with zoos and, as the topic of zoos has become extremely controversial I did appreciate Joel acknowledging this in his talk, however I personally did not agree with the statement that zoos are necessarily better at providing for wildlife than proper wildlife sanctuaries. This is one point I really wished he had somewhat expanded on considering that there has been such a strong backlash against zoos with stories of healthy animals being killed or evidence that many have inadequate and inhumane conditions in which their animals are kept. Perhaps zoos in some cases provide a purpose in conservation of some species for future re-introductions, but ultimately preserving habitat and ways of keeping species alive in that habitat currently should be an equally important message or at least included in the discussion.

I was however pleasantly surprised to hear Joel comment on the impact of livestock when talking about some of the biggest threats to wildlife conservation, perhaps one the least talked about issues, after human population. This was the slide he used to demonstrate his point, which is just as powerful as any of the animal portraits. It is a reminder that everything is connected and clearly our choices have a lot of power so talking about our eating habits on top of the other issues, must be part of the discussion as it has a direct connection to the loss of wildlife and wildlife habitat.

Photo Ark, #SaveTogether, National Geographic Photo Ark, Joel Sartore, Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Photography, ROMSpeaks, Wildcats, Be their Voice

Photo taken at the ROM Wildlife Photographer of the Year Keynote: Photo Ark – Image © Photo Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

A few things I have always strongly believed in were mentioned as well, one is that he suggests people would also benefit by doing their own research on the issues. The other is that change really comes from within and he encourages everyone, adults and young people, to do something – to find something they want to do to help and do it.

The National Geographic Photo Ark is meant to inspire and to get people to think more critically which is important if humanity wishes to save wildlife, our planet and ultimately ourselves. It shows us that the beautiful art of photography can help save wildlife but it must also be accompanied by a shift in how we view our role in their survival.

Photo Ark, #SaveTogether, National Geographic Photo Ark, Joel Sartore, Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Photography, ROMSpeaks, Wildcats, Be their Voice

© Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark
‘A federally endangered Florida panther, Puma concolor coryi, at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.’    Image National Geographic Photo Ark natgeophotoark.org

With the thousands of rare and endangered animals photographed you may wonder what Joel could possibly have to look forward to when he has already seen so much? No need to worry he has not lost his enthusiasm and remarked at the end of his talk that he is always excited about the “next animal to photograph”.

To find out more about Joel and The National Geographic Photo Ark, how to help or get involved visit NatGeoPhotoArk.org

Lions and Elephants

To mark World Lion Day I thought I would share a few more of my photos from my trip last year to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Lions are under threat and their numbers are declining rapidly – habitat loss, poaching, trophy hunting, human-wildlife conflict, the lion bone trade, cub petting, canned hunting, human population are all factors. Photo’s like these are a reminder of what a privilege and thrill it is to see them in the wild. Nothing beats shooting wildlife with a camera.

“If one should be a prey, how much the better
To fall before the lion than the wolf.” – Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Lions, World Lion Day, ethical tourism, travel, Africa, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, endangered species, wildlife photography

Lions, World Lion Day, ethical tourism, travel, Africa, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, endangered species, wildlife photography

Lions, World Lion Day, ethical tourism, travel, Africa, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, endangered species, wildlife photography

Lions, World Lion Day, ethical tourism, travel, Africa, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, endangered species, wildlife photography

Lions, World Lion Day, ethical tourism, travel, Africa, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, endangered species, wildlife photography

Lions, World Lion Day, ethical tourism, travel, Africa, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, endangered species, wildlife photography

Lions, World Lion Day, ethical tourism, travel, Africa, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, endangered species, wildlife photography

The Big Cat Man: An Autobiography

I am really excited to start off my recommended summer reading with The Big Cat Man: An Autobiography by Jonathan Scott who you may know as one of the presenters of BBC’s popular TV series Big Cat Diary, the long time running nature show that followed the lives of Africa’s big cats in Kenya’s Maasai Mara.

I have always had an inherent love for the big cats and Africa, as a child I wanted nothing more than to see in person all that I had read about or had seen on TV. While I was still dreaming of Africa (I wouldn’t take my first trip through Kenya and Tanzania until the late 90’s) Jonathan Scott had already been on a path that would change his life forever, a path that would bind his heart and soul permanently to a continent that had called to him since childhood.

The Big Cat Man, Jonathan Scott, Angela Scott, Africa, Kenya, Lions, Big Cat Diaries, Cheetahs, Leopards, Conservation, Book Review, Wildlife Photography, Tourism

Big Cat Diary aired from 1996 to 2008 leaving a lasting impression on wildlife lovers from all over the world. It gave the viewer an intimate look into the lives and social structure of lions, leopards and cheetahs like never seen before creating an emotional connection between the average person at home and Africa’s most iconic and beautiful animals. Whether or not you have seen the TV series, if you love the big cats and have ever wondered what life was like behind the lens for a wildlife photographer, you will most definitely enjoy reading The Big Cat Man.

Jonathan provides a fascinating and candid look at his life including his childhood, travels, his time in Africa, his accomplishments as a wildlife artist and photographer, TV show presenter and, as an advocate for the animals he spent years filming and photographing. He talks about the success and the challenges, both personal and professional, encountered along the way as well as the one event that would change everything for the better – meeting his wife and partner, Angela Scott, who equally shared his passion for Africa and its wildlife.

The Big Cat Man is full of interesting and inspirational accounts about his experiences with wildlife, including the time spent with the feline characters from Big Cat Diary and wild dogs. In addition there are stories of formidable sea lions, that weigh twice as much and are longer than a male lion, from Jonathan and Angela’s trip to Antarctica.  Accompanying the writing are many wonderful photographs as well as superb wildlife illustrations that appear like little treasures throughout the book.

The Big Cat Man, Jonathan Scott, Angela Scott, Africa, Kenya, Maasai Mara, Lions, Big Cat Diaries, Cheetahs, Leopards, Conservation, Book Review, Wildlife Photography, Tourism, Endangered Species,

Jonathan Scott with Kike the Cheetah – Image © BBC Big Cat Live

The book also touches on some of the harsh realities facing wildlife, as much has changed since Jonathan took his first his overland journey through Africa many years ago. Lion and cheetah numbers have dropped to the point where their future is questionable (there are estimated between 15,000-20,000 Lions and about 7,000 cheetahs left in all of Africa), and poaching, poisoning, illegal wildlife trade, hunting, animal agriculture, the growing human population, corruption and even development threaten wildlife. All odds seem stacked against the animals and the environment, yet Jonathan says that despite this “you cannot give up hope”. The key is to act now while we still can.

There is a lot to take away from this book including the message that the journey is just as important as where we ultimately end up and, the risks we take in order to pursue our dreams and what we love, are worth it.

The Big Cat Man: An Autobiography is part of my Recommended Reading List and can be purchased at online retailers like Amazon.

For more on Jonathan and Angela Scott, be sure to visit: Big cat people. They can also be followed on Instagram @thebigcatpeople or Facebook @JonathanAngelaScott