My photograph of keeper Joseph Wachira comforting Sudan, the last living male northern white rhino, as he laid dying at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in March 2018 was among the works that most resonated with National Geographic’s 200 million Instagram followers.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of their account, National Geographic is looking back at some of the photographs that have been the most impactful over that time.
National Geographic has posted more than 26,000 stunning images by more than a hundred photographers. They’ve gotten nearly 82 billion impressions, eight billion likes, and more than 43 million comments since they first started recording audience data in 2016.
The images capture the beauty and wonder of the world we live in and the creatures that inhabit it. Amongst all those, Sudan stood out. To watch the last of something die is something I hope never to experience again but Sudan was surrounded by love, together with the people who committed their lives to protecting him. If there is any meaning in his death, it was my hope that Sudan could be our final wake up call. In a world of 7 billion, we need to start recognizing that we are not separate from nature. When we see ourselves as part of the landscape and part of nature, then saving nature is really about saving ourselves.
It fills me with hope that so many have made this moment a rallying point, and showed their determination to use this as a wake up call of our shared humanity and planet.
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
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.
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 Project, Safari 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.
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. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 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.
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.
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.
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
B&H published an in-depth feature on Ami Vitale, covering the story of her career trajectory from conflict photographer to documenting the natural world. Thanks to one well-timed assignment focusing on people’s relationship to nature in remote locations worldwide, Ami’s whole photographic career shifted.
“That chance for reflection, to look at the natural world, helped me put all the pieces together,” Vitale says of this project. “I realized that all the conflicts I had been covering were ultimately about our resources. That the biggest story, which I had been missing, was our natural world and what we’re doing to it. It was one of the most transformative moments in my career.”
After receiving a Master’s degree in filmmaking, the scope of Ami’s work expanded further, which the story explores along with sharing her advice for other photographers and information on the gear she prefers. It emphasizes her mission to share stories of hope and to encourage people everywhere to take action to preserve the world for future generations.
When the National Geographic Instagram account, @natgeo, recently reached the milestone of 100 million followers, they celebrated by sharing albums of their most popular images from the account. Three of Ami Vitale’s photographs were included in these selections, which show the imagery that resonated most deeply with audiences worldwide.
Out of 20,000 photos that have been posted on their Instagram account, the photo of Sudan being comforted by his long time keeper Joseph elicited more reactions than all but one photo ever posted on their feed. The moment resonated across the globe and served as a powerful wake up call to tens of millions of people.
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.