Okie-native Saves Wildlife One Photo at a Time

National Geographic photographer, speaker and founder of the Photo Ark, Joel Sartore, arrived at the Oklahoma City Zoo on July 14 with camera in-hand at 7:30 a.m., prepared for a weekend of photographing rare animals and sharing a preview of his PBS docu-series, “RARE: Creatures of the Photo Ark.”

About Photo Ark 

Photo Ark was created in 2005 after Joel’s wife, Kathy, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. His career as a National Geographic photographer came to an abrupt halt as he stayed home to care for his wife and three kids. During that difficult time, he began to ponder the fragility of life and, as Kathy began to recover, he wondered how he could get people to care about the mass extinction of animals happening around the world before it was too late.

Since 2005, Joel has traveled to nearly 40 countries to photograph 6,395 species for Photo Ark, including 576 amphibians,1,839 birds, 716 fish, 1,123 invertebrates, 896 mammals and 1,245 reptiles. 

About RARE: Creatures of the Photo Ark 

PBS’s captivating three-part-series, “RARE: Creatures of the Photo Ark,” follows Joel Sartore as he continues his life’s work to photograph the 20,000 animal species living in human care. Through RARE, viewers can join in on his mission as they travel to Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Oceana through the lens of Joel Sartore. 

Joel’s Journey to the Oklahoma City Zoo

Joel Sartore and his 13-year-old son, Spencer, drove from Nebraska to Oklahoma City in a silver Prius filled to-the-brim with photography equipment, which, of course, included his famous black and white photo backgrounds. However, long before Joel had began planning his venture to Oklahoma, he collaborated with Zoo Executive Director, Dr. Dwight Lawson, and Deputy Director, Barry Downer, to create a new list of animal species to photograph from the Zoo’s collection. This list included a Hooded crane, a Colorado Western sidewinder and various species of fish. By the end of his first day at the Oklahoma City Zoo, Joel had increased the number of species photographed for Photo Ark by seven! 

The ultimate reason for Joel’s journey to Oklahoma was to attend the premiere screenings of RARE at the Zoo’s Rosser Conservation Education Center, which happened July 14-15. Each screening brought sounds of laughter and enjoyment as the audience watched a 15-minute segment of the docu-series for the first time. Joel Sartore smiled proudly as he watched his words of inspiration flash across the projector screen. 

After each screening, there was great engagement between Joel and guests as he answered a variety of questions, ranging from technical questions regarding photography equipment and cataloging systems, to the most endangered species he’s photographed. Joel also spoke about the importance of zoos and how without them, children and adults, alike, could not experience and appreciate wildlife. 

How can you make a difference? Per Joel Sartore… “Support the Oklahoma City Zoo and become a Zoofriends member.” 

Support the Photo Ark

To learn more about Joel Sartore and to support the Photo Ark, visit his website and tune into “RARE: Creatures of the Photo Ark” premiering on OETA July 18 at 8/9C! 

Joel Answering Guests' Questions at the OKC Zoo Screening of RARE: 


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