Wildlife photographer Margot Raggett recalls a memorable trip to Kenya to raise awareness of the plight of the northern white rhino
This series of images was taken on a safari back in December, when I took British actor and Born Free Foundation patron Dan Richardson to Kenya to see firsthand how some of the funds raised by the photo book RememberingElephants had been spent. I also wanted to use the trip as an opportunity to take some images for the promotion of the forthcoming sequel to Remembering Elephants,RememberingRhinos [see below right]. The whole purpose of the trip was to promote both books, or the ‘series’ as they are now becoming.
RememberingElephants was a charity book that I produced in 2016, featuring elephant images donated by 65 top wildlife photographers. The aim of the book was to raise money to fight poaching, with all funds then deployed by our partner, The Born Free Foundation. The run of 2500 books sold out in just two months, and so far we’ve managed to raise £135,000 through book and print sales, and associated events.
We had two main stops on this particular trip. The first was Meru National Park, where £26,000 of our funds have paid to get 10 anti-poaching vehicles back on the road. There we met with the Kenya Wildlife Service and the local team from Born Free, and my role was to capture the meetings between Dan and the team.
From there we went on to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to meet ‘Sudan’, the last northern white rhino in the world, and also to visit the very moving rhino graveyard there. We wanted to film and take stills there to use in our Kickstarter campaign for RememberingRhinos.
In Ol Pejeta I had specific images in mind – I particularly wanted to capture the emotional reaction that I knew Dan would have to meeting Sudan. We were in Meru for three days and Ol Pejeta for three. I used a Nikon D810, plus a 400mm f/2.8 for the wildlife images and a 2470mm f/2.8 for the people shots, to enable me to get in close.
End of the line
The image of Dan with Sudan sums up the trip for me, because of how emotional an encounter it was for both of us. Sudan is the very last male northern white rhino in the world – the end of the line – and that is due to human interference (i.e. poaching). It sums up everything that I and all of the photographers donating to our books are fighting for. I think the image is powerful in representing all of that, and also because you can see how emotionally affected Dan is.
In terms of angle, I wanted to get down low and be at face level with both Dan and Sudan to make it as intimate a portrait as I could. Sudan has a natural melancholy, which I also wanted to capture. The image will appear in the book, and we’re also using it in PR and on social media, to help promote the book.
It was one of the most moving wildlife encounters I’ve had. It upset me, but also spurred me on at the same time, to try to do as much as I can to raise money to protect rhinos. Taking images while your mindset is so determined and full of purpose is incredibly satisfying when you know the impact they’ll have.
Sudan is the very last male northern white rhino in the world – the end of the line – and that is due to human interference (i.e. poaching)
Remembering Rhinos will be a 144-page coffee table book featuring rhino images from some of the world’s foremost wildlife photographers, on sale later this year. In addition, 10 spots in the book are up for grabs for winners of a photo competition running from 17 March to 17 April 2017. You can enter this at www.rememberingrhinos.com/ photocontest. All proceeds from the book’s sales will go to the Born Free Foundation (www.bornfree.org.uk/ give/remembering-rhinos).
1 CAMPAIGN FUNDS Margot used this image as part of her Kickstarter campaign to help fund the costs of Remembering
Rhinos – it passed its goal of £20,000 in just three hours 2 in the wild A 400mm lens enabled Margot to get frame-filling shots of rhinos in the wild 3 Dan ’s the man Actor Dan Richardson used the images on social media to spread the word about the Remembering Rhinos campaign