Photographer Joel Sartore says it was only a quarter to seven in the morning and his clothes were already wet “as if I had been thrown into a pool”.
On that oppressive September morning, he lay on his stomach in a patio taking pictures of ungulates like blue wildebeest at the Arabian Peninsula Wildlife Center in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The temperature there can still rise to more than 42 degrees in the fall, so warm that three of the four lights he uses when taking his photos have stopped working.
But Sartor remained rigid under these conditions. Over the next two weeks, he added more than 200 native species from North Africa and the Middle East to Photo Ark from National Geographic. This project aims to capture 15,000 species living in zoos and reserves around the world.
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He depicted amazing animals such as the Arabian owl, a northwestern African subspecies of the cheetah (asinonics jubatus hickey) and the critically endangered Arabian leopard, all of which are found in the nature reserve of the Wildlife Center of the Arabian Peninsula. (Read why Sartor started Photo Ark 15 years ago.)
Sartor describes Photo Ark as “nature’s long-running advertising campaign”, specifically for the 35,500 species of plants and animals that are on the verge of disappearing forever. “We must continue to bring this issue to the public’s attention so that people wake up in time to save the planet,” he said. Dozens of species die every day, mostly due to human causes, such as destruction of animal habitats and climate change.
While living in the Middle East, Sartore took his twelve thousandth photograph. Although he didn’t know exactly which animal the 12,000th was, he chose the Arabian cobra as the animal that helped him achieve this feat, as this was the first time ever that a reptile had received extra attention through Photo Ark. Eleven thousand were announced in February, the moth of the southwestern United States was called dichagyris longidens.
Science does not know much about the Arabian cobra. This type occurs regularly but is not often noticed. The animal lives in the Arabian Peninsula, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. Until 2009, scientists believed that the Arabian cobra is a subspecies of the Egyptian cobra.
Like most cobras, the Arabian cobra puts on its “shield” – a loose fold of skin behind its head – as a warning sign, as Sartor suffered while taking the photo. When photographing this venomous animal, he stayed at a greater distance than he normally would, used a longer viewfinder and worked smoothly.
He has spent most of his life photographing animals and is not afraid of most species, but safety is of paramount importance. “You don’t want to be bitten,” he says of the Arabian cobra. Every year in the Middle East people die from the bite of this snake.
On November 16, the roles were reversed and Sartor himself appeared in front of the camera in the soap opera Public Hospital From ABC on the day the Arabian Cobra was officially announced as the Twelve Thousand Species in Photo Ark.
“I’m sure I’ll get an Emmy for Best Performance of the Year,” Sartore jokes. “But that’s for a good reason: We’re introducing people around the world to animals they didn’t know existed.” (Go behind the scenes at Photo Ark.)
hot under the feet
Because snakes hide well and often do not live together in large numbers in the wild, “they are often difficult to study,” said Philip Bowles, coordinator of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Snakes and Lizards, which researches the condition of snakes around them. world and determine if and how much they are at risk.
Read also: One million species are threatened with extinction, the United Nations warns
The coffee-colored snake, which can reach more than a meter in length, lives in rocky and semi-arid areas where it can be found in fresh water. The animals likely feed on rodents and small birds, said Bowles, who also co-authored a 2012 IUCN report on reptiles in the Arabian Peninsula.
While he realizes that the Arabian cobra is the 12,000th species, he regrets that no other animal was chosen as a symbol species for the occasion. “There is nothing special about this cobra at all,” says Bowles. “I wouldn’t say it’s boring, but it’s not a priority.”
However, Bulls sees the choice of this cobra as an opportunity to draw public attention to the need to protect the reptile. Of the approximately 11,000 known species, approximately one in five is at risk of extinction. For example, the Indochinese water dragon, which lives in China and Southeast Asia, is in danger of extinction because its habitat is rapidly shrinking and the animals are traded as pets.
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