Photographer Joel Sartore has reached a significant milestone in his incredible Photo Ark series, photographing the project’s 15,000th species, the endangered Miami tiger beetle (Cicindelidia floridana).
Sartore has been photographing the National Geographic Photo Ark since 2006, and over that time, he has captured images at zoos, aquariums, and wildlife sanctuaries worldwide.
“Our goal is to photograph every species in human care around the world, some 20,000 species, and that will take another 15 years at least — likely the rest of my lifetime,” Sartore, a National Geographic Explorer, told PetaPixel last December. At that time, Sartore had photographed 13,500 species, so he has made significant progress in the past year.
Species number 15,000, the Miami tiger beetle, is only found in the pine rocklands of southern Florida, and its habitat has shrunk to only 2% of its original range. The small, captivating jewel-toned beetle is “an emblematic symbol for the plight of endangered and threatened species everywhere facing seemingly overwhelming odds,” explains a press release explaining Sartore’s achievement.
“When you zoom in really close, these big, serrated mandibles that are great at catching and grinding up insects… If we were small enough, that animal would eat us alive and not even feel bad about it,” Sartore says in a new National Geographic article.
“When people look through my lens, I want them to gain an appreciation for how interesting each species is, how worthy of protection they are, and how important each one is to keeping our planet healthy — even an insect as small as the Miami tiger beetle,” Sartore says.
“When we take action to protect wildlife, we are safeguarding our own future too, and there is no better time to act than right now.”
Introducing the 15,000th species to the Photo Ark coincides with the upcoming 50th anniversary of the landmark Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was published on December 28, 1973, by the 93rd United States Congress to protect and conserve imperiled species. At its introduction, the Supreme Court called it “the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species enacted by any nation.”
Sartore worked closely with fellow National Geographic Explorer and conservationist George Gann, whose vital work is funded by the Photo Ark’s Species Impact Initiative, a program that provides funding for on-the-ground conservation projects.
“I am excited for the Miami tiger beetle to receive this honor. It is too often that the small, less classically charismatic species are often overlooked in mainstream conservation efforts,” says Gann. “Joel’s images perfectly bring to life the beauty in every species he captures which allows people to appreciate their intrinsic value better and be inspired to gain a deeper understanding of their important roles in the ecosystems they inhabit.”
“The National Geographic Photo Ark and the Photo Ark Species Impact Initiative demonstrate the power of storytelling and science working together to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world,” explains Ian Miller, the National Geographic Society’s Chief Science and Innovation Officer. “In the face of unprecedented threats to species across the globe, urgent action to give new hope for species facing extinction has never been more critical. Initiatives like these create empathy for creatures that often go unnoticed or underappreciated while empowering others to take action to protect biodiversity.”
PetaPixel’s interview with Sartore includes many more details about the project and the photographer, plus a lot of incredible images from the series.
Image credits: Photos by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark