By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma native Joel Sartore is an acclaimed National Geographic photographer. Born in Ponca City, Sartore is on a 20-year mission to photograph all animals in captivity. He has photographed about 4,000 species so far of the approximately 12,000 captive species in the world in his quest to document them all.
Nine years ago, Sartore began his latest project, Photo Ark. His goal is to use photography to raise awareness about biodiversity and species extinction. He encourages people to care about and save species while they’re still on the planet.
The project has become the largest collection of studio-quality animal portraits in the world.
In 2014 Sartore returned to Oklahoma to add to his photo collection. One of his stops was the WildCare Foundation, located four miles east of Noble, OK.
WildCare provides a place for people to bring native injured or orphaned wild animals struggling to survive. Taking in over 5,200 injured or orphaned animals a year, they nurture them and release healthy animals back to nature.
WildCare is typically a busy place with volunteers dedicated to the helping the hundreds of animals who find thier way there. Putting the animals first, they are seldom able to grant outside requests amidst the non-stop schedule.
But when executive director Rondi Large received a phone call from Sartore asking to photograph some of the animals, she agreed.
At WildCare, Sartore took photographs of seven birds, including a Chimney Swift and a Black Vulture, as part of the Photo Ark project.
PhotoArk.com describes the project as “a visual connection between the animals and people who can help protect them.” They say that people will only save what they love. And they certainly can’t love something if they don’t know it exists.
The website states, “By isolating animals on black and white backgrounds, we can look them directly in the eye and quickly see that these creatures contain beauty, grace and intelligence. Perhaps some even hold the key to our very salvation.”
“It was an amazing afternoon watching Sartore work very patiently with the birds,” Large said. “He is driven to get the shot but always watchful of the possible stress his subjects might experience.
“Having Sartore at WildCare and being a part of this project has been a highlight of the year.”
While in Oklahoma, Sartore also photographed creatures at the Oklahoma City Zoo, the Tulsa Zoo, University of Tulsa, and Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Lawton.
Sartore allowed Laura Kintz, WildCare’s Nursery/Release Team Leader and Photographer at WildCare to assist him during the photo shoot at the OKC Zoo.
Sartore’s photo exhibition, “Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species” is now showing at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, 2401 Chautauqua Ave., in Norman, Oklahoma through Jan. 19.
Well-known endangered species like bald eagles and sea turtles are featured along with unfamiliar species like the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly and the Higgins eye mussel.
National Geographic’s RARE exhibit also celebrates endangered species making a comeback including the red wolf and the American alligator.
The exhibition is based on Sartore’s book by the same title. It organizes the featured species by the number of living populations remaining.
The show also examines the history, purpose and effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The exhibit is sponsored by Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores and a grant from the Norman Arts Council.
For more information regarding the exhibit, call 405-325-4712 or visit snomnh.ou.edu.
Since its beginning in 1984, the WildCare Foundation has admitted and provided care for over 55,000 injured and orphaned native wildlife.
WildCare accepts injured or orphaned wildlife from 9 a.m.- 7 p.m. every day of the year.
For more information or to make a donation to support WildCare, call 405-872-9338 or visit wildcareoklahoma.org.