(Canis lupus) captive animal; Kalispell, Montana (c) Weldon Lee
Story and photograph by Weldon Lee
Prejudice is not limited to religion and racial ethnicity. It also finds targets among our wild brothers and sisters, not the least being the gray wolf. Wolf eradication can be traced back to the Middle Ages in Europe. It’s not surprising that it lifted its ugly head again as Europeans began arriving in the New World.
According to PBS, “By the middle of the twentieth century, government-sponsored extermination had wiped out nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. Only a small population remained in northeastern Minnesota and Michigan.” This came about as a result of wealthy livestock owners wielding their influence over policymakers in Washington, D.C., and demanding a wider grazing range.
In spite of Congress providing protection for wolves under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, wolves are still being killed.
The endangered species protection for gray wolves was repealed in six states. What followed over the last two years was the killing of more than 2,600 wolves. Now the government wants to delist gray wolves in practically the entire Lower 48. Continue reading →
Metamorphosis spawned out of a conversation I had one day in early 2012 with conservationist Gabby Wild. We were discussing the difficulties of raising concern for the plight of the most threatened group of all vertebrates, the amphibians, and committed to concocting a publicity campaign. We wanted to do something different, something that would make people look twice, or see amphibians in a new light. A few months later, we were in a studio in Los Angeles decorating a body-painted Gabby with live frogs and newts.
In my time as an amphibian biologist and a photographer I have shot (with a camera) a lot of frogs, but this shoot was different. Rather than wading mosquito-riddled swamps or hacking through thick jungle to find and photograph elusive frogs in their natural habitat, I was bringing them into the controlled environment of a studio and shooting them against the canvas of the human body. In doing so, I had to learn a whole new way of shooting. Instead of finding or waiting for the right light, I had to craft my own, and instead of patiently waiting for the action to unfold in front of me, I had to conceptualize and create compositions around a theme. It was both testing and creatively invigorating. Continue reading →
Bornean Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, Caretaker with infant at bath time, Orangutan Care Center, Borneo, Indonesia, (c) Suzi Eszterhas
For years I have specialized in documenting the family lives of endangered species. This work has taken me around the globe, spending long hours with wild animal families for weeks, months or even years at a time. In all of my projects I try to incorporate the conservation issues that surround my subject or the latest research presenting fascinating discoveries about that animal and its environment.
Some of my most recent work has taken me out of the wild and into animal orphanages. In the past, I have spent a lot of time with both Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, photographing them in protected areas where they have the ability to live wild and free. But the truth of the matter is that these protected areas on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra are too small to save the species. More and more forest is lost every single day to bulldozing for palm oil plantations. Orangutans cannot live in a palm oil plantation; they need the diversity of the rainforest to survive. What’s worse is that plantation workers routinely kill adult orangutans and sell the babies as pets on the black market. The lucky orphans are found and confiscated by government officials. There are thousands of baby orangutans in various orphanages on these islands. Continue reading →