Nebraska-based photographer Joel Sartore wants people to love animals -- all animals. He believes that you can't love what you don't know, and one good step to knowing is seeing.
So, Sartore embarked on the National Geographic Photo Ark Project, with the 25-year goal of creating detailed photos (and video) of every species he could, especially endangered ones.
So far, he's photographed 10,819 species, from the largest elephant to the tiniest insect. All are shot against black or white, so even the littlest critters get their share of attention and dignity.
On successive Saturdays, Oct 17 and 24, on Nat Geo WILD -- airing at the unfortunate, not-family-friendly time of 10 p.m. ET/PT (to be precise, 10:03) -- a two-part special called 'The Photo Ark' documents this modern-day Noah's travels and labors as he stocks his virtual ark with God's creatures.
A lot of the animals Sartore photographs are zoo dwellers and are habituated to humans -- but some are right from (and returned to) the wild. This means that Sartore has to go to them, whether it's in a South American jungle or at the top of a Colorado mountain.
During an online session at this past summer's virtual TV Critics Association Press Tour, Sartore said:
I'm just inspired to do all I can with the time I have on Earth, and I don't let it get me down. I just think, well, this one may go extinct, but we're going to tell its story everywhere we can and try to encourage others to realize that these all have value, and that it's a tragedy to let anything else like this happen. Not to mention, it could really hurt humanity in the long run. We shouldn't be throwing away the other pieces of the puzzle before we know what they do.
In the first episode, a hand-reared giant armadillo, the only one of her kind in captivity, is pretty chill about being photographed, but that doesn't mean she'll stay in one place.
It was at Zoo Brasilia in South America, and they have claws about this long and don't hold still. They're moving all the time. We actually have a clip of that we could show you what it's like to try to do an animal that's very difficult.
Take a look:
If you miss the first episode (or either one), and have the channel in your cable subscription, you should be able to watch online at at the National Geographic TV homepage (click here), or On Demand.
Nat Geo WILD is now part of the Disney family, so the show may also eventually be available on streaming service Disney+.
Clips of various shows can also be found here, at Nat Geo WILD's YouTube page.
Images: Nat Geo Wild/Joel Sartore
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager and blog editor at Family Theater Productions.