“Shaba” Honors & Film Festivals: Jackson Wild and more

I am proud to say that Shaba my film about the first matriarch of the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary has been selected as a finalist in THREE categories – Conservation Short Form, People & Nature Short Form and Our Human Planet Short Form – at the Jackson Wild Media Awards. Widely considered the most prestigious honor in natural history media, the Jackson Wild Media Awards celebrate excellence and innovation in science and nature storytelling. These are the Oscars of nature filmmaking. The film will be screening at the festival and winners will be announced Sept. 30. 

Jackson Wild is a catalyst for accelerating and elevating impactful storytelling at the nexus of nature, science and conservation. Through innovative and collaborative community gatherings, skill-building initiatives and mentorship programs, Jackson Wild creates an inclusive forum for storytellers to more deeply illuminate connections to the natural world and our collective responsibility to the wild.

The Jackson Wild Summit will be held September 27 – October 1, 2021. Passes are available here.

It has also been selected as an Award Finalist in the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, held in New York, where it will be screened on October 20. And the short film will be featured in the upcoming Innsbruck Nature Film Festival in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria from October 19 – 22, and at Docutah November 1 – 6 at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah.

Earlier in the year, Shaba won the LA Independent Women Film Awards and was an official selection of the EarthXFilm Festival, Walla Walla Movie Crush, the Toronto International Women Film Festival, the International Wildlife Film Festival and the Doclands Film Festival.

Watch my website for festival information and more updates.

Shaba: A New Film by Ami Vitale

I am so excited to share my new short film, Shaba, about the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary’s first matriarch elephant and the extraordinary bonds she formed with a herd of baby orphaned elephants and the people who rescued her.

Shaba arrived traumatized after poachers shot her mother dead. This is a story about learning to trust those that we fear. She teaches us about love and our connections to all of life around us.

Ticket to view Shaba online are $10 and are available at amivitale.com/product/shaba. All ticket sales will go directly to Vital Impacts, a new non-profit supporting grassroots organizations who are protecting people, wildlife and habitats.

Shaba has been selected as a finalist in THREE categories – Conservation Short Form, People & Nature Short Form and Our Human Planet Short Form – at the Jackson Wild Media Awards. Widely considered the most prestigious honor in natural history media, the Jackson Wild Media Awards celebrate excellence and innovation in science and nature storytelling. These are the Oscars of nature filmmaking.

It has also been selected as an Award Finalist in the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, held in New York, where it will be screened on October 20. And the short film will be featured in the upcoming Innsbruck Nature Film Festival in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria from October 19 – 22, and at Docutah November 1 – 6 at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah.

Earlier in the year, Shaba won the LA Independent Women Film Awards and was an official selection of the EarthXFilm Festival, Walla Walla Movie Crush, the Toronto International Women Film Festival, the International Wildlife Film Festival and the Doclands Film Festival.

The fundraiser benefitting Reteti Elephant Sanctuary has ended. Together we were able to raise an astonishing $250,000 which will be used to buy milk, blankets and medicines to support the baby elephants and the people who have committed their lives to protecting them. Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is the first indigenous owned and run elephant sanctuary in Africa.

Thank you for caring and being a part of this journey!

Warmest regards,
Ami Vitale

Travel Tales by AFAR: Inside a Daring Giraffe Rescue in Kenya

A decade ago, a group of endangered Rothschild’s giraffes was relocated to a remote lakeside peninsula in Kenya. But in recent years, due to rising water levels, the peninsula became an island, trapping the giraffes. In 2020, a team of conservationists set up a daring rescue—one that wildlife photographer Ami Vitale traveled to document. This is her tale.

Listen here at AFAR , in Season 2, Episode 2

Flash Print Sale to Support Northern White Rhino Keepers

The last two northern white rhinos on the planet are never alone. They are cared for 24-hours per day, seven days a week by devoted keepers. Some of them you may know from these posts like Zacharia Mutai, Joseph Wachira and James Mwenda but there are many others who have committed their lives to protecting these creatures.

These men spend more time with these rhinos than they do their own families. The bonds are deep and the keepers have a profound understanding of just how precious these last northern white rhinos are. These men have become some of the northern white rhinos closest friends and greatest advocates.

For the month of February, I am holding a special fine art print offering of all my photographs of northern white rhinos. 100% of the profits will be donated directly to the keepers at Ol Pejeta Conservancy so that they can continue on their mission of protecting and fighting for some of the world’s most vulnerable creatures. Show your support today by visiting amivitale.com/shop/giving-back

Art for Conservation

I am excited to share this collaboration with the extraordinary artist Mantra, my wonderful friends at both Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, Sarara Camp and National Geographic, who conspired to make this wild dream into a reality! For many years, I have been using photography and filmmaking to tell the powerful stories of this community in northern Kenya. I wanted to use other mediums and think about ways to inspire creativity and pride around protecting our planet and the creatures we coexist with.

Reteti is the home of the first indigenous owned and run elephant sanctuary in Africa. Rock Paintings are the oldest form of storytelling. The Samburu elders living here guided us to a place that holds powerful symbolism. THIS ROCK was once used by elephant poachers as a place to hide but now, it is a place for community members, elders and visitors to gather. Mantra is the extraordinary artist who brought my two dimensional photo of a wild elephant from Namunyak to life using water based paints. My concept was to create something from nature that was meaningful and ephemeral. The painting will not last forever, but the memory of what has been created in this community will always live on.

Mantra is a self taught painter who has been painting in the streets since 2008. I was honored that he agreed to bring his genius talent and come to Namunyak for this wild idea. The team at Sarara Camp rallied together with friends at Reteti to build scaffolding and Mantra painted this photo free style in one day. Miracles can happen and we can all do more to make sure our children experience the beauty and wonder of this world.

I am working on another project and looking for financial support. Please email me at ami@amivitale.com if you are interested in helping me with more initiatives to bring together stories, art and conservation. I believe these stories and art shape us and can change the way we see each other. I invite you to be a part of it.

“The Last Goodbye” Nominated for the Natural History Museum’s People’s Choice Award

I am honored to learn that the image of Joseph Wachira saying goodbye to Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on the planet, at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, has been nominated in the prestigious Natural History Museum’s People’s Choice Award. It is my hope that this nomination will bring attention to the incredible work of Jojo Wachira and all the people at Ol Pejeta and beyond who have selflessly committed their lives to helping protect and create awareness on the importance of wildlife and habit.

Voting ends this Tuesday, Feb. 2. Please vote now here.

My hope is that the award can bring attention to the plight of the northern white rhinos, all endangered wildlife and funding to organizations like the Biorescue ProjectSafari Park Dvůr Králové & Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This moment can be a powerful catalyst to awareness of the reality of this mass extinction we are all facing.

Over the past year, scientists from the Biorescue Project have created 5 northern white rhino embryos which are awaiting implantation in a southern white rhino surrogate to try to rescue this species from extinction.

I am also making this photograph available as part of a flash print sale. 100% of net proceeds will be given directly to the keepers who care for Fatu and Najin, the last two northern white rhinos on the planet. Purchase your copy here.

Lavazza 2021 Calendar: The New Humanity

I am incredibly honored to be partnered again for the Lavazza 2021 Calendar which has just launched! The theme this year is called ‘The New Humanity’ which asks us to work for a better world that is sustainable and just for all of us. Each photo had a meaning and a message. My message was that the environment has always been, and will always be, a social justice issue. We are all connected to one another and the outcome to every single story of humanity is always dependent on nature. The project aims to spread hope, bringing it where it is most needed.

My work was featured alongside these legendary photographers: Simone Bramante, Martha Cooper, Charlie Davoli, Carolyn Drake, Joey L., David LaChapelle, Christy Lee Rogers, Steve McCurry, Eugenio Recuenco, Denis Rouvre and Martin Schoeller.

Explore this powerful photography and the messages behind each image now at calendar.lavazza.com

Nikon Donates New Z 50 and Lenses to Joseph Wachira at NYWild Film Festival

I was honored to introduce the moving documentary film Kifaru directed by David Hambridge about the last male northern white rhino, “Sudan” at the 7th Annual New York Wild Film Festival opening night. Joseph “JoJo” Wachira flew in from Ol Pejeta in Kenya for the festival where Nikon surprised him with a new Nikon Z 50 and two DX lenses, the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR presented by Steve Heiner, so he can continue to tell this important story!

I am so grateful to Nikon for this empowering gift. I also wish to extend a huge thank you to Kenya for donating his ticket and to all of you who came out for this powerful evening.
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Currently, I am running a print drive to benefit the rhino keepers who selflessly have committed their lives to these creatures. You can own a signed photo of the moving final moment with JoJo and Sudan while also helping them personally. Details are available at amivitale.com/product/sudan. 100% of the profits will go directly to all the keepers.

Print Sale to Benefit Ol Pejeta Keepers

I am honored that my photograph of Joseph Wachira saying goodbye to Sudan was chosen as the National Geographic best photo of the decade by the people of Instagram. 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.

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. 

This image is currently available for sale. I am donating 100% of the profits directly to the keepers, like Joseph, at Ol Pejeta so that they can continue on their mission of protecting and fighting for some of the world’s most vulnerable creatures.

Purchase the signed print here.

The National Geographic Photo of the Decade

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.
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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.
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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.