Today, in honor of Endangered Species Day, National Geographic Fellow, photographer and National Geographic Photo Ark founder Joel Sartore announced the addition of the Ark’s 10,000th species — the güiña, the smallest wildcat in the Americas. The National Geographic Photo Ark is an effort by Sartore to document every species living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, with the aim of using the power of photography to inspire people to take action before it’s too late. Accompanying the Photo Ark’s 10,000th species photograph, Sartore released what scientists and conservationists think is likely the first published audio recordings of the güiña.
This pivotal 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 15,000 species in total. Once completed, the Photo Ark will serve as an important record of Earth’s biodiversity, and a powerful testament to the importance of protecting the weird and wonderful species that make our planet unique. The Photo Ark includes several animal classes, including birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Using black and white backgrounds, Sartore levels the playing field for all creatures, so a tiger beetle appears just as large as a tiger.
“We have a lot more work ahead of us,” said Sartore. “This is an exciting milestone. Through the Photo Ark we’ve been able to raise the profile of species that otherwise wouldn’t get the attention they deserve. This Endangered Species Day, take a moment to do your part to save this planet, and the species within it.”
The Photo Ark’s 10,000th species is a rather elusive creature. The güiña is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, suffering from population declines caused by habitat degradation, emerging diseases transmitted by cats, retaliatory killings for poultry predation and accidental deaths caused by cars.
Fortunately, conservationists and wildlife sanctuaries in Chile are working to protect this unique wildcat species. The güiña photographed by Sartore is cared for by Fauna Andina, a wildlife reserve in Chile that works to rehabilitate the small cats and ultimately release them back into the wild. Similarly, National Geographic supports conservationists like Dr. Constanza Napolitano, a professor at University de Los Lagos in Osorno, Chile and a member of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, who is implementing conservation activities to reduce the main threats impacting the güiña’s survival.
To celebrate Endangered Species Day and help spread the word about the need to protect species like the güiña, Sartore will participate in Explorer Classroom, a free weekday program National Geographic Society provides to students and educators. The live video event will take place at 2 pm ET on Friday, May 15 and will give students an opportunity to ask questions and learn about Sartore’s 30-plus years of experience as a photographer and proponent of conservation. Students, parents and educators can register to participate in the event here. The session will also be live streamed on YouTube here.
National Geographic has also released custom editions of The Photo Ark and National Geographic Kids Photo Ark books this Spring. (“National Geographic Kids Photo Ark” was just named one of Amazon’s “Best of March” selections.)
To learn more about the National Geographic Photo Ark, conservation and protecting species visit NatGeoPhotoArk.org.