Warriors Who Once Feared Elephants Now Protect Them

I am very excited to share an important and hopeful story in Northern Kenya. At the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, the local Samburu community is helping to save what is left of Kenya’s wildlife. What’s happening here at Reteti, without fanfare, is nothing less than the beginnings of a transformation in the way Samburus relate to wild animals they have long feared. This oasis where orphaned elephants grow up, learning to be wild so that one day they can rejoin their herds, is as much about the people as it is about elephants. Read more about Reteti in my National Geographic story and please consider donating to Reteti.

How to Save the World’s Tallest Animal

The giraffe population has plummeted more than 40 percent over the past 30 years. To make matters worse, scientists know relatively little about giraffe behavior. But a group of scientists and wildlife experts is working to untangle the mystery behind these animals’ rapid decline. In early June, I followed a group from the San Diego Zoo Global and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation working with communities within the Northern Rangelands Trust to collar and tag 11 giraffe in the Loisaba and Leparua Conservancies in Northern Kenya. Learn more about efforts to discover patterns in giraffe behavior from my World Giraffe Day National Geographic post.

National Geographic Live Spring 2017

I am excited to continue touring this spring as one of the featured National Geographic photographers at the National Geographic Live series in Tampa, Madison, Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles. My talk, titled “Rhinos, Rickshaws & Revolutions,” is about my exploration of the world from temples to war zones and rhinos to pandas. Tickets and information are available online. In the mornings, I will speak to more local school children, and later in the evenings t0 adult audiences. See you out there!

Recognition for Pandas Gone Wild

Ami’s panda images for National Geographic earned third prize for science and natural history picture story in Pictures of the Year International second prize for stories in the Nature category in this year’s World Press Photo Contest, and are shortlisted for the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards

The contests were covered by dozens of media including the BBC, The AtlanticYahoo News, Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic Australia, The Express Tribune, the Daily Mail, and DigifotoPro, where she also gave interviews.

Pandamania Part II

Incredible news for one of conservation’s greatest ambassadors. As of September 4th, the giant panda is no longer on the endangered species list.  It’s a testament, in part, to the incredible team I had the honor of documenting.  It’s no easy task raising captive born pandas and releasing them into the wild.  Scientists and conservationists have had to crack the code for breeding pandas and create habitat and space for them to roam. There is still so much to do to protect the panda, but for now we can celebrate the people behind this incredible effort. It is heart-warming to see these magical bears, an icon both to China and to conservation, returning to the wild.

I was thrilled to give interviews about my National Geographic story, including CCTVNPR’s Weekend EditionUPROXX, Vice, Huffington Post, the How to Do Everything podcastMother Nature Network, Global Times, L’IllustreTech Insider, and Business Insider.

Why Photos Should Be ‘So Much More Than Beautiful’

I was honored to speak to National Geographic’s Through the Lens blog about my work and the power of photography to connect people.  I wanted to convey the truth about places beyond the dramatic headlines and spend my life working to highlight our commonalities rather than our differences.

The power of photography is that you can look at an image and instantly feel something.  I’ve been on this mission to tell stories that connect and inspire people and at the core of that is empathy.  Empathy is more valuable than any piece of gear or beautifully crafted image.

A technically perfect image, beautiful in every way, is not a perfect image. To me an image has to have soul.  It has to work together with other images to tell a story that make me think.

How Do You Get Close to a Panda? Surprise Answer: Panda Suits

After my National Geographic cover story appeared in August, many were fascinated by the scented panda suits! I talked with a number of media personnel, such as The Creators Project (part of Vice), NPR’s How To Do Everything podcast, Business Insider, and My Modern Met, about what it takes to get candid shots of these elusive animals.

As a photographer, I often try to look as little like a photographer as I can and this costume was definitely an extraordinary example. The disguise prevents pandas from getting accustomed to their human caregivers and allows me to get close to my subjects.    The suits are scented with panda urine and feces, which is not as gross as it sounds.  It smells like bamboo and something similar to wet puppies.  But I have to say, when you wake up every morning and put on an outfit somewhere between a mascot and a bank robber, you know you’re really living the story.

Pandas Gone Wild

I am excited to share our panda story, now on newsstands in the August issue of National Geographic Magazine. Tremendous gratitude to the incredible team in China working to protect these magical bears and to my colleagues at National Geographic for giving me the opportunity to share this incredible story.

This journey turned out to be one of the most unimaginable explorations I’ve ever had. It is not that anyone hasn’t seen a panda; we all have. But after going to China multiple times, getting to know the people, getting to understand the pandas and learning to really think like a panda, it kind of blew my mind.

In a region where bad environmental news is common, the giant panda might prove to be the exception and is a testament to the perseverance and efforts of Chinese scientists and conservationists. By breeding and releasing pandas, augmenting existing populations and protecting habitat, they may be on their way to successfully saving their most famous ambassador and in the process put the wild back into an icon. Pandas’ irresistible power make them important ambassadors for ALL endangered species.

The images and the behind-the-scenes story of my work documenting pandas over three years were also covered by UPROXX, Vice, Huffington Post, Mother Nature Network, Tech Insider, and Business Insider.

Better Photography: It’s NOT about the Image

Check out the latest Better Photography. “Photography is not about the camera. It’s not even about the beautiful images we create. It is about telling powerful stories. Photography is a tool for creating awareness and understanding across cultures, communities, and countries; a tool to make sense of our commonalities in the world we share. And I believe the way to find common ground is by seeing yourself in others. A lot of my work involves traveling to foreign countries and living in remote places. My job is to become invisible and get close to people and wildlife, so I can bring their stories to life. For me, the intimate moments always matter the most. It’s no different being in my home state of Montana, USA than it is being in a country five thousand miles away”. – See more at: http://betterphotography.in/perspectives/ami-vitale-not-about-the-image/44321/#sthash.rpWYrZ7X.dpuf