RARE—Creatures of the Photo Ark

RARE—Creatures of the Photo Ark

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 9:00pm - 10:00pm

Pictured: Joel Sartore takes a selfie with Monarch butterflies in the Sierra Chincua monarch sanctuary.

Credit:  Courtesy of © 2016 Joel Sartore Photography Inc.

Renowned National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore is a natural-born storyteller.

His Photo Ark project is a digital “collection” of the world’s mammals, fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles and insects, and the focus of RARE—Creatures of the Photo Ark. This captivating new three-part series follows Sartore as he documents threatened species at zoos, in nature preserves, and in the wild. Throughout RARE, scientists and naturalists reveal surprising and important information about why ensuring the future of these animals is so critical. Follow Sartore’s adventures at #RarePBS. RARE—Creatures of the Photo Ark airs Tuesdays, July 18-August 1 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

Author, conservationist and National Geographic Fellow, Sartore has traveled to nearly 40 countries to photograph 6,395 species for the Photo Ark to date, including 576 amphibians, 1,839 birds, 716 fish, 1,123 invertebrates, 896 mammals, and 1,245 reptiles in captivity. When complete the Photo Ark will be one of the most comprehensive records of the world’s biodiversity. Through RARE, audiences can journey with Sartore across the globe—to Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania—to chronicle his experiences.

Most days, Sartore has the best job in the world: in the premiere episode of RARE, prankish semi-habituated lemurs playfully crawl over him at Madagascar’s Lemur Island rehab center, during one of his easiest photography shoots. Others are more challenging: as no amount of tasty, tempting raw carrots can persuade a 500-pound, 150-year-old giant tortoise to stand on his mark or get ready for his close-up. Likewise, in Florida, a photo of an elusive bunny taking refuge near an active U.S. Navy airstrip has taken four years to procure for the Ark. It’s all in a day’s work….

Sartore knows he is in a race against time. Sometimes he is able to photograph 30 to 40 species in a few days. Others are disappearing before he can get to them. RARE looks at factors driving extinction, including deforestation, rising sea levels, invasive species, pollution  

RARE also takes viewers back to where it all began, visiting the first animal Sartore ever shot for the Ark in his Nebraska hometown at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo: the naked mole rat. Blind, buck-toothed and hairless, it is also cancer-resistant—and scientists are researching why. Sartore likes photographing the smallest creatures for the Ark because they’re often more important to the health of an ecosystem than the big ones.

Sartore has seen how photos can lead to change. His images of parrots in South America and koalas in Australia prompted local governments to protect them. In the U.S., coverage of the Photo Ark has helped to save the Florida grasshopper sparrow and the Salt Creek tiger beetle.

In RARE’s final episode, Sartore treks up a mountain in New Zealand to photograph a rowi kiwi, accompanying a naturalist to rescue its eggs successfully—without this intervention, there is only a 5 percent chance of survivability. But there are also losses: at the Dvur Kralove Zoo near Prague, in one of RARE’s most emotional moments, Sartore’s camera records a northern white rhino—a very old female and, at the time, one of only five remaining in the world.

“Fifty percent of all animals are now threatened with extinction, and it’s folly to think we can drive half of everything else to extinction but that people will be just fine,” says Sartore. “That’s why I created the Photo Ark. I hope seeing the images fills people with wonder and inspires them to want to protect these species.”