Najin and Fatu

Some of you might know about the case of the northern white rhino. Today there are just two individuals left on this planet, and they are both females named Najin and Fatu, mother and daughter. For decades scientists have tried to figure out how they can save this species from extinction. I have followed this case for many many years and last week I received great news. Scientists were finally able to create five embryos of a northern white rhino in a lab. What they did is they collected eggs from the two females and then took semen from a deceased male northern rhino to create an embryo. They have now implanted one of the embryos into one of the females and they are being monitored every day to see if the embryo is making progress in growth and is healthy. 

This is a huge success and with it, we might be able to save this beautiful species from extinction. The two rhinos are located in northern Kenya and have 24/7 protection from 6 armed guards. Poaching has pushed this species to the brink of extinction. Humans and wildlife are getting into more and more conflicts due to our constant human population growth. Wildlife has less and less space to live and many species are poached, decreasing their numbers even more.

When I got the news that they have successfully created northern white rhino embryos I was filled with joy because it means that our future generations might be able to witness the beauty of these creatures. 

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/environment/ct-northern-white-rhino-embryos-20180704-story.html

Up close with our cousins

2 weeks ago I went on a journey back to Africa. But this time not to Kenya. We flew from Germany directly to Entebbe, Uganda. From there we drove all the way to the famous Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This is the place which one of the most endangered animals of our planet calls home, the Mountain Gorilla. The first tracking started at 7 am. We had a short briefing with some rangers and then left right into the Jungle. There are no trails so the guides cut through the bushes with machetes. The mountain gorillas are named that for a reason, they live upon incredibly high mountains. So getting there was not only difficult because of the thick jungle, but also becauseof the elevation gain. The first day we climbed about 300 meters in altitude the second we climbed 450 meters in just 1 1/2 hours. It was definitely the most exhausting thing I have ever done in my life. But so worth it.

We started hearing the gorillas communicating from the distance. We made our way closer to them until I got my first glimpse at the huge silverback of the family. It was a group of 9 gorillas. One silverback, four females and all for females had a baby around the same age. Seeing how they interacted and communicated with each other was amazing. They were so incredibly human. We share about 96% of our DNA with them! The little ones were incredibly curious and came closer to check us out.

It was by far the most magical experience of my life!

picture by author

The five boys

As already written in many of my past blog posts, I have spent a lot of time traveling through Africa, documenting my travels with my photography. My favorite place to visit is the Masai Mara in Kenya. It borders right in Tanzania and is part of the incredible Serengeti. When on safari you get the chance to observe some incredible behavior that can only be seen in the Masai Mara. The Mara is famous for a group of 5 cheetahs, the fast five or also known as the taco Bora. They are a coalition of 5 male cheetahs that hunt and care for each other. I have already written a blog post about them. This time I am writing about a coalition of 5 powerful male lions, “The five boys”. They come from the black rock pride and have been chased out. Male lions get chased away from the pride when they reach a certain age because they will get tendencies to take over the pride.

Once chased off, they either go off solo but most of the time they will get together with other nomads. These groups can become very powerful and are very threatening to lion prides around as they are looking to take over a pride for themselves. I have had the chance to follow the five boys for many days and observe them while playing, cleaning, and hunting. We spent three 13 hour days with them. They had found a huge herd of cape buffalo. Buffalo are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa and they oppose a very big danger to lions as well. They can seriously injure or even kill a lion. The five boys feed 90% on buffalo and they have created a strategy that works every time. Once they find a herd they will follow it for a few days and test it several times throughout the day. That means that they will charge it and try to pick out young, old, or weak individuals that will be easy to take down. Once they get the chance they will single a buffalo out and take it down together.

Being able to observe them for days at a time is something I will never forget. Truly incredibly.

Three of the five males

picture by author

a moment in the life of a western screech owl

The Kenai National Forest tucked away on the twisting coast of Alaska is home to a tall Quaking Aspen tree. The mustard yellow bark plotted with dark-colored knots protrude out of the tree to form slender but sturdy branches. The blackened forest seemed to sleep, but 25 feet up the great aspen tree, curved claws wrap tightly around the bark. Built with a slim body rounded with slick feathers and two ears that spike out of its head like horns, the western screech owl sits still. Every root stopped growing, every leave stopped falling, and every gust of wind ceased to blow as the owls piercing yellow eyes stalked down upon the scavenging rodent below. Following its prey between the plots of rotting yellow leaves and moist forest soil the owl begins to pick up its clawed feet, one after another. Preparing itself. Finally, the creature tilts forward, letting itself be taken by gravity, and with a sharp and intentional swoop, the hunt was over.

Image found on Pinterest

For Africa

In about three weeks, I will finally return back to my second home: the Masai Mara in Kenya, Africa. This will be my fourth time visiting the Mara and I am more than excited. While I am there, I will work on a big project for school; working with different wildlife conservation organizations as well as Park rangers that wander the park every day in search of poaching traps. The work these rangers do is incredible. They dedicate their whole life to the park and the animals that live there. I and so many other people are incredibly thankful for the work they do. Without them, the parks wouldn’t work the way they do.

But also, tourism is a very big part that makes these parks work. Many people are not happy with tourism in these wild parks and think that tourism should be completely banned. I do agree that sometimes tourism in the parks can be overwhelming, but it is such an incredibly big and necessary part of Africa. Without tourism, rangers would not be able to save the animals from poaching because the park would have no money to pay the rangers anymore. So many people would lose their jobs, and the animals would lose the protection they have from poachers. Tourism is a big and vital part of these parks.

When COVID hit, and traveling was shut down, these parks suffered immensely. The poaching numbers rose into the sky and many lost their jobs. A lot of photographers as well as myself donated money to an organization called “prints for wildlife”. This organization collected prints from hundreds of different small and well-known photographers in order to raise money to send to these parks. They were able to raise $660,200 in just one month. It was absolutely incredible to see so many photographers work together to save what they love most.

pictures by: https://www.printsforwildlife.org

The fast five

Through my photography, I have been able to travel to the most beautiful places on this planet. But one definitely stands out to me like no other. The Masai Mara in Kenya, Africa. A heaven for photographers. It is one of the best places on earth to see big cats. I have traveled there three times already, and I fall in love over and over again. Last summer I was able to observe one of nature’s seven wonders, the big migration of the wildebeest that come over from the Serengeti to find fresh grass in the Masai Mara.

Many big cats use this chance to hunt wildebeest that got injured during the crossing. There is especially one group of wild cats that are known to almost all photographers. The fast five. The fast five are a coalition of five male cheetahs. Two brothers got together with a set of three brothers and formed a coalition to hunt and live together. Nowhere else on earth can this be observed.

I have had the privilege of observing these magnificent cats hunt, and it is truly incredible. Each one of them has a special dedicated role and their hunting is extremely coordinated, I have never seen anything like it in my life. They know that they have a higher survival rate if they work together. They hunt every day and are more successful than any other group out there. I am excited to see them again on my next trip to the Masai Mara, and I hope that many others get the privilege to see these beautiful cats.

It is truly incredible what nature has up its sleeves sometimes.

picture by author

Dreams

Everyone has dreams of what they want their future to look like. I am currently a senior in high school and I am getting ready for college. My dream school is Montana State University in Bozeman. It is just 1 1/2 hours away from Yellowstone and just 2 hours away from Grand Teton Nationalpark which is a dream place for me and my photography. But before I go to college I will take a Gap year. I had always planned to take a gap year after high school to just have one year of not studying and doing what I want.

My Gap Year will revolve all around my photography. I am am planning to travel to my favorite place in the world, the Masai Mara in Africa for 2 months. I will work with rangers to help prevent poaching as well as spreading the word of wildlife conservation. On the other hand I will work with vets to learn more about the wildlife in Africa. I am also planning to travel to a place that I always wanted to go, Uganda in Africa. I am planning to spend about 4 weeks there to spend time with one of the most incredible species out there. The silver back gorillas.

I have always been fascinated with gorillas. The way they communicate with each other is incredible. I am hoping to further my understanding of these incredible animals and also help protect them as they are on the verge of extinction.

I am excited for my Gap year, as I will do what I love most. I am hoping to have an impact with my photography and spread the word of wildlife conservation further around the globe.

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An uproar in wildlife conservation

For many years I have been an active advocate and participant in wildlife conservation. With my photography, I am hoping to reach people and show them the beauty and diversity we have on our planet and show how important it is to keep it alive. There are so many incredible photographers out there that do just that, and who use their voice to stand up for animals. I have many role-models that I look up to, but recently there has been an uproar for one of them.

David Yarrow is one of the most famous photographers and one of the seemingly biggest advocates for wildlife conservation. But in reality, he embodies everything that is NOT conservation. From chasing a giraffe to get a perfect shot, to using wolves and bears that are enslaved, to game farms with a record of abuse, there is one image that has caused the public to hold their breath. A picture in which a model is standing just 15 feet away from 3 elephants.

Now many will probably wonder why that is so bad. If anything would have happened during the shooting, say if one of the elephants started to feel stressed or threatened, they could have firstly endangered the life of the model, but also their lives. If one of the elephants would have attempted to charge, he would have paid for it with his life and would have probably gotten shot. One of the three elephants is named Craig, one of Africa’s last big tuskers.

Now I wonder, is it really worth it to risk a animals life just to get a perfect shot. And most importantly, can you call yourself a wildlife conservationist while actually exploiting animals. I don’t think so.

Yarrow has finally said something and apologized for his actions. It is not much but it is a first step in making things right.

picture credit to David Yarrow

Finding Inspiration

Inspiration has to do with pretty much anything we do. If it is writing, drawing, dancing, cooking, playing an instrument etc. But sometimes it is hard to get inspired and we feel stuck. We sit at our desks starting a sketch or a choreography for a dance over and over again and we just get frustrated because nothing seems right. I get this feeling a lot.

After school I spend a good amount of time sitting in front of my laptop, looking through photos I have taken on my travels around the world. For me, photography is something to escape to and to relax. Going through pictures is almost like you are reliving these moments. I always think it is so overwhelming how much meaning a picture can have. I pretty much only take pictures of animals and it has grown to be my biggest passion. When I look at my pictures, and I get to look an animal straight into the eyes through a picture I have taken, it almost feels like as if I had some sort of connection to it. For a moment everything is quiet and it is just me and the animal.

Photography has its many amazing sides. You get to travel the world, see the most amazing spectacles that nature has to offer, but there is also a side to it which sometimes brings you down. I follow hundreds of other photographers on social media, and sometimes I scroll through certain accounts just thinking: wow. I wish I could capture pictures like this.

I have a bad habit of comparing myself to others and being very harsh to myself when it comes to the pictures I take. I try to find inspiration through others but in the end it just makes me feel like my pictures aren’t good enough. I have spent hours and hours trying to find a style, that when people see my photos, they know that they are from me. Every time I post something I think it is just not good enough, my pictures all look the same and they all just look flat. I get frustrated and I can’t find any inspiration or whatsoever. But this is part of the progress. Nothing is ever perfect. But there are moments, when I see a picture that I like, and it just makes me so incredibly happy and proud. And these are the moments that keep me going.

People text me telling me that my pictures inspire them. That they enjoy my work. And these are the moments that make everything so worth it. I love what I do and I am so incredibly thankful for all the amazing moments I have got to experience thanks to photography. I love sharing my work with other people, bringing people closer to our wildlife and nature, showing off the beauty and diversity our planet has to offer.

Photo taken by the author.

From The City to The Country

After living most of my life in the city, sounds of sirens and car horns are just background noise, and the smell of gasoline simply means I’m home. Now, living here at OVS I’ve learned an entirely new way of life, for I have a better chance of seeing a grizzly bear than a bus.

At home, I wake up to the sounds of garbage trucks and school busses, and I fall asleep to the screech of distant sirens and car alarms. And quite honestly, it’s comforting.

Photo Credit: autoparkchryslerjeepblog.com

Now I wake up to birds chirping outside my window, and fall asleep to coyotes howling just a little ways away. And although that sounds beautiful, like some poem or romantic story, those birds are loud! And obnoxious. And constantly make a racket!

Photo Credit: community.secondlife.com

As for the coyotes – who knows what they’re barking about! As far as I know, they could’ve just killed their prey and are celebrating before they enjoy their feast. I’ll take a multiple-ton, killing machine on wheels any day.

I know that both the city and the wilderness come with their fair share of dangers, not one more dangerous than the other. I also know that OVS isn’t actually the wilderness, but compared to the city it sure seems like it! Personally, I prefer living in the city, but life at OVS has opened my eyes to what else is out there.