A National Geographic photographer visited the Oklahoma Aquarium Wednesday to get images of animals that might one day be extinct. His project, the “Photo Ark”, has more than 10,000 images of animals, taken in captive settings at zoos and aquariums. A dozen species of fish at the aquarium were added to the list.
Joel Sartore started photographing animals for the project 13 years ago.
He was born in Oklahoma, in Ponca City, but his family moved when he was a child. Now he lives in Nebraska but works all over the world.
He’s photographed animals at the Tulsa Zoo and the Sutton Avian Center, but this was his first visit to the aquarium in Jenks.
Sartore said he’s as excited photographing a minnow as he is an electric eel - the one specimen that attracted him most on this visit. “To me, they're all works of art. They've been crafted though hundreds of thousands of years. They deserve to have their voices heard, and that's what the photo ark does.”
The Photo Ark is a photographic record intended to document what's alive now and maybe extinct later. Sartore has estimated it may take 25 years to photograph all available species.
“As the water quality deteriorates or dries up because of overuse by agriculture, these animals will go extinct, so we're trying to document and photograph as many of these animals as we can while they're still around.”
John Money, Deputy Director of the Aquarium, helped wrangle the fish Sartore wanted to photograph. "A lot of the staff here, we have his books on our coffee tables at home, so it's really neat that he's here to photograph our collection."
Sartore said he wanted to photograph some native fish, and a some less than exotic species few other aquariums have, which deserve to be remembered.
“So there's a lot of things people can do, they're just not thinking about it, and maybe these animals will serve as a reminder to think a little bit about conservation, that's what we hope,” he said.
The pictures taken today in Jenks will go into the online archive soon, and possibly into one of Sartore’s best selling books.