There are no words to adequately describe the profound feelings of hope and melancholy inspired by Joseph Wachira’s final goodbye to Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino. This image has been chosen as the best photo of the decade by the people who voted yesterday on National Geographic’s Instagram account. I will never forget what it felt like to witness what I believed to be the end of a species. Yet, in a beautiful twist of fate, this image – an image documenting extinction – is the beginning of something powerful, something hopeful.
Our world faces so many challenges. Humans are ushering in a new era of mass extinction. While that thought keeps me up at night, the profound care that Joseph showed for Sudan inspires hope and drives me to work even harder. Those who feel the urgency of this moment in history, are coming together around this image. As I write this, embryos created by Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Avantea, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya Wildlife Service and Safari Park Dvur Kralove wait to be transferred into a surrogate mother. This would not have been possible without your support. Please keep supporting the Biorescue Project. This matters.
The coming decades will not be easy, but I believe we are making a real difference. You are my hope for a future that includes rhinos and other endangered species. The key thing is to not fall into the trap of thinking that these issues are too big to deal with or that someone else is taking care of the problems. It is up to all of us. It’s up to you. And to me. Be the VOICE for this planet. Don’t sit this one out. Without rhinos and elephants and other wildlife we suffer more than loss of ecosystem health. We suffer a loss of imagination, a loss of wonder, a loss of beautiful possibilities. Saving nature is really about saving ourselves. Sudan taught me that.
I am excited to release a new, behind the scenes film on my work in Kenya with Reteti Elephant Sanctuary for World Elephant Day. I hope it gives a glimpse into the powerful story of a community coming together to protect and save these magnificent creatures. I am grateful to Katy at Sprout Films for her sensitivity and commitment and Nikon for their endless support. Hurry, there is just one day left to buy a print or enter and win a Nikon D5600 camera and 2 lenses, Think Tank Photo camera bag and a print of one of the adorable elephants at at Reteti at amivitale.com/elephants
Film by Ami Vitale & Sprout Films with Dane Henry, Brett Lowell and Novus Select
Watch the companion film, Reteti Elephant Sanctuary: Community United for Elephants, here.
On Mar. 16, 2019 Ami delivered the talk “Falling in Love With a Unicorn” to a sold out crowd at TEDxBergamo. In it, she discusses the foundations of her work and how falling in love with a rhino named Sudan changed the course of her life and the lives of many others. Watch the whole inspiring talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00bunXTIKJw
I am thrilled to be offering The Amazon Rainforest Workshop, a trip and workshop of a lifetime with my two great friends and fellow Nikon Ambassadors, Joe McNally and Tamara Lackey. As your photographic leaders, we will be guiding you through the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest and the cultural historical capital of Quito.
Ecuador has the highest level of biodiversity per square kilometer of any place in the world. On this workshop, you’ll be immersed in it. You will float by the banks and tributaries of the Amazon River and spot a wide variety of wildlife all while surrounded by the sights and sounds of the jungle. In Quito, you’ll be overwhelmed by the color and the culture. You’ll see panoramic vistas, historic cathedrals and meet the loveliest people you’ve ever know. And, you’ll be able to capture it all, guided by some of the world’s top photographers.
The workshop will be a complete immersion in photography, storytelling and exploration and will focus on landscape, portrait and travel photography. It will include lectures from myself, Joe and Tamara and daily post-processing lab time as well as a number of optional add-ons.
For the majority of the trip, you’ll be staying in the breezy cabanas of La Selva Ecolodge & Spa, a 5-star luxury eco-resort in the heart of Ecuador’s Amazonian Rainforest. The resort is located inside the Yasuni Bioshere Reserve, home to millions of species of plants, birds, rare animals and stunning scenery. The rainforest will soothe you to sleep and birds will awaken you each morning.
As an all inclusive workshop, all freshly-made, deliciously cooked and table-served meals will be included.
A photographic trip of a lifetime awaits. Hurry and book your spot. This one will fill up fast. Learn more and sign up here.
I am thrilled to announce that I’m launching a chance to WIN a guided trip with me to Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy. You’ll have the opportunity to meet Fatu and Najin, the last two northern white rhinos in the world, and the incredible people who care for them. You will also get a brand new Nikon Z 6 and 24-70mm f/4 S lens to capture every unforgettable moment. A trailblazer for conservation, Ol Pejeta also houses the largest black rhino population in East Africa, and is home to elephants, lions, giraffe, zebra and much more. For a contribution of just $10, you can help support the work that will preserve these animals for generations to come and hopefully win the trip of a lifetime for yourself and a friend. Can’t wait to see you here! Enter today at omaze.com/rhinos.
The National Geographic Storytellers Summit is a multi-day celebration of story, featuring the photographers, filmmakers, journalists, and data visualizers who witness the major events of our time, illuminate critical issues, and inspire action.
Photographer and National Geographic Explorer Ami Vitale delivered the talk, “How to Photograph Hope.” Ami has covered conflict, violence, and heartbreak—like photographing the last Northern white rhino during his dying moments—but she’s also made it her mission to find and capture stories of hope.
Ami Vitale will be leading a 9-day photographic safari through two of Botswana’s most wildlife rich regions. The safari will take place Oct. 9-Oct. 17.
This safari will travel through Botswana’s Chobe National Park and the remarkable Okavango Delta, where guests can make use of Ami’s extensive knowledge as well as specially adapted safari vehicles and on-site photo labs, an experience which provides budding wildlife photographers with everything they need to craft the perfect shot.
Come join in! View the itinerary and learn more at Natural World Safaris.
At Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in northern Kenya, the first-ever community-owned and run sanctuary in all of Africa, rescued orphaned elephants are looked after by local keepers from the Samburu community. They are lovingly rehabilitated and raised with the ultimate goal to reintroduce them back into the wild. The sanctuary isn’t just about saving elephants; it’s about breaking down stereo-types and redefining wildlife management. When people realize that they can benefit from healthy elephant populations, they’re proud to take care of wildlife.
Reteti is also empowering young Samburu women to be the first-ever women elephant keepers in all of Africa. At first, the community didn’t think there was a place for women in the workplace. Now, the success of these women elephant keepers is unlocking new possibilities, setting a powerful example for young girls hoping to pursue their dreams. It’s also changing how the community relates to elephants. Schoolchildren who have never seen an elephant before or who were afraid of elephants visit Reteti and experience these elephants up close, and they realize they can grow up to be a veterinarian or an elephant keeper.
In the past the local people weren’t much interested in trying to save elephants. A rescued calf had to be transported to Kenya’s only orphanage, some 240 miles away, near Nairobi. If successfully rehabilitated, the youngster would have to be released into Tsavo National Park, with no hope of re-unification with its original herd way to the north. But now, elephant orphans can be returned to their home ground, where they’ll have a good chance of reconnecting with their relatives.
What’s happening there, without fanfare, is nothing less than the beginnings of a transformation in the way the Samburu people relate to wild animals they have long feared. This oasis where orphans 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.
Reteti operates in partnership with Conservation International who provide critical operational support and work to scale the Reteti community-centered model to create lasting impacts worldwide.
Watch the behind the scenes film on Ami Vitale’s work with Reteti Elephant Sanctuary here.
I have been named as one of fifty in InStyle Magazine’s Badass Women, a series celebrating women who show up, speak up and get things done. I believe all of us are “badasses” in our own way, but it is still an unbelievable honor to have been included, alongside so many inspiring women, including Jane Goodall, Christiane Amanpour, Stephanie Sinclair and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. See the full list here.
Further, for the InStyle August issue honoring spectacular women, I had the chance to interview one of my favorite Badass Women, Sasha Dorothy Lowuekuduk, Reteti Elephant Sanctuary’s first female head keeper and one of the first indigenous Samburu women keepers in all of Africa. I’m so proud of everyone at Reteti where all the women and men are working to not only protect elephants, but are also breaking stereotypes and pushing the boundaries. Read my full Q&A with Dorothy at InStyle.com.
“It’s one thing to know the planet is in crisis. It’s another to see what that looks like.”
I am proud to be a member of WeTransfer’s Union of Concerned Photographers along with Lucy Pike, Mandy Barker, Frans Lanting, Luca Locatelli, & Joel Redman. We are a group of photographers dedicated to using the power of imagery to underline the urgency of environmental concerns. Learn more and get involved at we.tl/UCP
You can read my story on WeTransfer’s Union of Concerned Photographers website here.