The Pyrenean desman is the 8,000th species to board the National Geographic Photo Ark. Founded by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, the National Geographic Photo Ark aims to document every species currently living in the world’s zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, inspire action through education, and help save wildlife by supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts.
Sartore photographed this species on the grounds of the Symington Estates in Portugal, during an expedition supported by regional funds from CCDR-N where scientists from the CIBIO Research Center at the University of Porto are working to better understand this species and its habitat. This particular desman lives in a stream in Portugal’s Douro region. The desman, a rare insectivore, leads a largely aquatic life, using its webbed feet for swimming and a trunk-like nose for sensing prey and snorkeling.
The desman is small and nocturnal, making the species difficult to study. But research on this creature is especially important now because the population of this species has fallen by about 60 percent over the past 20 years. Conservation efforts like the ecological study that discovered this desman are critical to ensure the survival of this weird and wonderful species.
The 8,000th species milestone means that Sartore is about two-thirds of the way toward completing the National Geographic Photo Ark, which he estimates will include portraits of more than 12,000 species. The Photo Ark includes several animal classes, including birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. Photo Ark fans are invited to join the conversation about protecting species and their habitats on social media with the hashtag #SaveTogether and to learn more about how to get involved with the project at NatGeoPhotoArk.org.