Today marks 15 years since National Geographic Explorer and founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark, Joel Sartore, walked into the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska to take photos. During the shoot, the staff brought out a naked mole rat, which would end up being the first animal of the Ark. Since that time, Joel has photographed more than 11,000 species in the world’s zoos, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries. He took some time to reflect on his most memorable moments, and photos, over the last 15 years.
Photographing Nabire, a Northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) at Safari Park Dvur Kralove.
Photographing Toughie, the last known critically endangered Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum) at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
The “Chimp Incident” at Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas.
Joel says to “expect the unexpected — especially when dealing with chimps.” Joel learned just how quickly best-laid plans get tossed to the wind while on assignment. As soon as the chimps laid eyes on the studio background Joel had set up, they immediately tore it down. While he got video footage of the incident, he didn’t manage to get a single photo of the chimpanzees that day.
Photographing Mei Lun and Mei Huan, the twin giant panda cubs (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) at Zoo Atlanta.
Photographing an endangered Peruvian woolly monkey (Lagothrix cana) at Cetas-IBAMA, a wildlife rehab center in Manaus, Brazil. This site is administered by IBAMA, the government wildlife agency of Brazil.
To learn more about the National Geographic Photo Ark, conservation and protecting species visit NatGeoPhotoArk.org.