Dis­ap­pear­ing Acts

Newsweek - - Contents - BY OR­LANDO CROWCROFT

A pho­tog­ra­pher cap­tures the poignant sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween wild an­i­mals and the hu­mans who threaten their ex­is­tence.

TIM FLACH’S new an­thol­ogy poignantly cap­tures the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween wild an­i­mals and the hu­man be­ings who threaten their ex­is­tence

In au­gust 2016, tim flach sat for hours in a pit in a re­mote part of south­east Russia. His goal: to snap a photo of the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered saiga an­te­lope. The heat was in­tense, and the few im­ages he got were blurred and un­us­able. By the time he re­turned some six months later, it was win­ter and well below freez­ing, but he got the shot he needed.

It took Flach, an award-win­ning pho­tog­ra­pher, about two years to put to­gether his new an­thol­ogy, En­dan­gered, and along the way he had many such ad­ven­tures. He trekked through Gabon in search of go­ril­las, pho­tographed po­lar bears on Arc­tic ice flow and, in Kenya, looked the last male north­ern white rhino right in the eye. Ear­lier this year, that rhino died, leav­ing yet an­other species close to ex­tinc­tion.

It’s hard to quan­tify ex­actly how many species are go­ing ex­tinct; sci­en­tists are con­stantly dis­cov­er­ing new ones. But the World Wildlife Foun­da­tion es­ti­mates that it is at least 10,000 ev­ery year. And the causes mostly in­volve hu­mans: hunt­ing, pol­lu­tion, ur­ban­iza­tion and over­fish­ing.

In his 2012 book, More Than Hu­man, Flach’s strik­ing por­traits of an­i­mals—a pensive-look­ing panda, a chicken frol­ick­ing across the frame—sought to high­light the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween hu­mans and the nat­u­ral world. In En­dan­gered, he uses the same method to draw at­ten­tion to our ef­fects on it.

Many of the an­i­mals in En­dan­gered are fa­mil­iar. Oth­ers, such as the Lord Howe Is­land stick in­sect or the white bel­lied–pan­golin, are more ob­scure. And while it is rel­a­tively easy to get read­ers in­ter­ested in cud­dly pan­das, it is more chal­leng­ing to get them to care about the Par­tula snail.

Some­times, Flach looked out­side the real world for the com­par­i­son. His pied tamarin, a pri­mate from the Brazil­ian Ama­zon, is hunched over, its wrinkly face framed by a fuzzy white mane. He looks, Flach says, like Yoda, the Jedi mas­ter from Star Wars. “When peo­ple look at that im­age, it makes an im­pres­sion,” he tells Newsweek. “It is so im­por­tant for peo­ple to un­der­stand the changes that are un­fold­ing.”

MASKING A PROB­LEM Thanks to help from the Chi­nese govern­ment, the gi­ant panda pop­u­la­tion has grown in re­cent years. But it’s still at risk—as is its main source of food, bam­boo.

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