WASHINGTON (Jan. 21, 2010)—Legendary National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore has spent two decades on a mission to record North American species facing extinction. Sixty-nine of these animals and plants are poignantly profiled in a new book from National Geographic, RARE: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species (National Geographic Focal Point; March 16, 2010; ISBN: 978-1-4262-0575-0; $24; hardcover). Sartore is also global spokesperson for the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity in 2010, which will celebrate the variety of life on Earth.
Sartore’s arresting photographs tell a sad tale of a harsh reality: For many species, it’s already too late. One of the featured animals, the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, actually went extinct while the book was being made. There is still hope though. By giving voice to creatures both great and small, Sartore believes that people will be moved to protect them and their habitat.
“The photographs depict the rarest of the rare in our country. By photographing the most endangered of our plants and animals, I can make the most dramatic plea to get folks to stop and take a look at the pieces and parts that we’re throwing away,” writes Sartore in his foreword.
Photographed against plain black or white backgrounds, Sartore’s portraits capture the essence of each plant or animal. His pictures offer an exquisite, intimate and up-close look into the eyes, or petals, of wildlife in jeopardy or teetering on the brink of extinction. The species range from condors to crocodiles, wolverines to woodpeckers, snails to sea turtles, plovers to pitcher plants. Some, like the bald eagle, are so iconic that it’s easy to see why we would take the trouble to save them. Others, like the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly or the Higgins eye mussel, are probably unknown to most and have no immediate iconic appeal except for their own intrinsic beauty. Yet they are also indicator species, canaries in the coal mine, whose way of life has been hindered by development, pollution or other threats.
The portraits are grouped by population size, from “unknown” (includes Northern spotted owl and California tiger salamander) to “less than 1,000” (includes Clay’s hibiscus with less than 75 individuals and the Mississippi sandhill crane with just 155) to “1,000-10,000” (includes the grizzly bear at 1,500 and the American crocodile at 2,000) to “more than 10,000” (includes the bog turtle with 18,100 individuals and the lesser prairie chicken with 30,000).
The final chapter celebrates populations “on the rise.” Endangered species making a comeback include the gray wolf, now numbering 4,128, the bald eagle, with a population of around 20,000, and the American alligator, which has rebounded from the verge of extinction to more than
1 million individuals.
Accompanying the images are insights from Sartore, details on how he made the shots and information on the threats facing each species.
The book also includes an essay by acclaimed author Verlyn Klingenborg, in which he examines the history and purpose of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and how effective it has been. A total of 1,321 domestic plants, animals and insects are currently on the endangered or threatened list. Critical habitat has been designated for 538 of them, and there are 848 habitat conservation plans. Just 49 species have been removed from the endangered or threatened list since 1973. Of these, nine went extinct.
“Perhaps it goes without saying that a wealthy nation like the United States should take the responsibility for considering the well-being of other species. Our wealth is what put so many species at risk in the first place. We have no way of guessing how long our own species will survive on this planet. But one thing is certain. The better the chances of survival for the plants and animals you see in these photographs — and for all their endangered kin — the better our own chances for survival will be,” writes Klingenborg as he eloquently states the case for preserving biodiversity.
With its haunting pictures and compelling text, RARE serves as a poignant roll call of North America’s most endangered wildlife and an urgent call to action.
An exhibition of 40 images from the book will be held March 18-Oct. 11 at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. At a National Geographic Live event in Washington on April 20 at 7:30 p.m., Sartore will share stories about living things that may soon disappear from the world.
Sartore is winner of the 2010 North American Nature Photography Association “Outstanding Photographer of the Year” award and an award winner at the 2010 Pictures of the Year International competition for images that form the foundation of this book. He has been a National Geographic photographer for more than two decades and is the author of several books, including “Face to Face with Grizzlies” (2007) and “Photographing Your Family” (2008) and is a regular contributor to “CBS Sunday Morning” with Charles Osgood. His work has been featured on NBC’s “Nightly News,” CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and in an hour-long PBS documentary, “At Close Range with National Geographic.”
Klingenborg is the author of “Making Hay” (1986), “The Last Fine Time” (1991), “The Rural Life” (2003) and “Timothy: or, Notes of an Abject Reptile” (2006). He is a frequent contributor to National Geographic magazine and was the author of the January 2009 article from which this book evolved.
Note: Joel Sartore is represented by National Geographic Image Collection. His images are available as prints at NGSprints.com and at nationalgeographicSTOCK.com for licensing. To arrange an interview with Sartore, contact Penelope Dackis at (202) 857-7335 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and to view trailers for the book, visit www.rarethebook.com.