Botswana Photographic Safari with Ami Vitale

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.

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary: Community United for Elephants

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.

WeTransfer​’s Union of Concerned Photographers

“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.

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 2018

I am excited to continue touring as one of the featured National Geographic photographers at the National Geographic Live series in Portland, Victoria B.C., Omaha, Ontario, Buffalo, San Jose, 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 local schools, 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.