ROSEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — For decades, National Geographic photographers have opened people’s eyes to the plight of our planet.

“I did 105 species of parrots in five days,” photographer Joel Sartore says as he sets up for his latest shoot.

The Nebraska native has traveled the world on assignment for the magazine. But on Thursday, Sartore brought his camera to Minnesota.

“There are millions of other species we share this planet with and they all are deserving of the chance to survive,” Sartore said.

That’s the gist of his latest, perhaps most impressive project, called National Geographic Photo Ark. A few years back he set out to capture thousands of vivid images of birds and reptiles, mammals and insects.

The ultimate goal is to draw attention to disappearing and threatened species. Sartore hopes his photos will get us to care.

(credit: CBS)

“We’re trying to get the 15,000 species that are routinely in human care around the world,” Sartore said. “From elephants all the way down to termites.”

He traveled to Roseville’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to see five unique species he has yet to photograph anywhere else.

In a tiny white tent that serves as his portable studio, the creatures are carefully placed inside. Only the lens of his camera will peer through a slot in the fabric so as not to startle the small birds and mammals.

It also helps reveal each creature’s unique personality.

Sartore says it’s vital to capture clear images of the eyes, which speak to and connect with the emotions of observing humans.

“Unless we really look at these animals around us as something special, something that makes us awestruck, we’re going to lose them,” said Phil Jenni, the WRC’s executive director.

The finished images are simple yet stunningly beautiful. Sartore’s subjects at WRC included a Lincoln’s sparrow, Wilson’s snipe, hermit thrush and red-fox squirrel with a leucastic or white tail.

Each is photographed against a plain white or black background to keep attention focused on nature’s creature.

“A lot of the species we get in people don’t even have a chance to see when out in their back yards,” said Renee Schott, WRC’s medical director.

As senior veterinarian, Schott’s goal is to minimize the animal’s stress level. They work quickly to assure that’s the case.

“It’s really cool,” Schott said. “You see what he can do and you see them in a different light in the photo versus even when I have them in my hand.”

Like the incredibly fine detail in the feathers of a tiny sedge wren. Just one more example of nature’s beauty, for all to cherish and protect.

“Because when they’re thriving, we thrive,” Sartore said. “We need a healthy earth, healthy environment to support us. So when we’re saving these other species, we’re saving ourselves.”

One precious creature at a time!

For more information about the project and to see Joel Sartore’s work go to and

Bill Hudson