This Tiny Aquatic Mammal Has a Snorkel Snout

At first glance it looks like any other mammal, but the Pyrenean desman is no run-of-the-mill animal.

That's because, unlike more common small mammals, the aquatic creature has a long snout that it uses to snorkel and sniff out insect prey through the waters of the Iberian peninsula and other parts of Western Europe.

The Pyrenean desman is also unique because it marks the 8,000th animal Sartore has photographed and added to the Photo Ark, his lifelong project to photograph at least 12,000 of Earth's species in captivity. (Read about what inspired Sartore to build his photo ark.)

Since Sartore began his initiative 13 years ago, he's been a busy man, visiting over 40 countries to photograph animals in zoos and aquariums. The Nebraska-based photographer uses uniform black-and-white backgrounds to make portraits, which he hopes will lend equal importance to each animal.

Some of his subjects' wild populations are stable, while others are on the verge of extinction.

The Pyrenean desmond has been inching toward a more precarious existence. Over the past 20 years, its numbers have fallen by 60 percent due to water pollution and habitat destruction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which tracks at-risk species.

“A tiger is no more important than a tiger beetle. And a mouse matters just as much as a polar bear,” Sartore said in 2016, after photographing his 6,000th animal.

“ I hope to get the public to pay attention to the extinction crisis and get them to care, while there’s still time to save these species."

Correction: A previous version of this article falsely identified the Pyrenean desman as a rodent.

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