On March 15, scientists will gather at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., for the TEDx Conference on DeExtinction. Visionary thinkers and researchers will discuss the feasibility of bringing back such extinct species as the mammoth, the passenger pigeon, and the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus)—as well as the ethics surrounding this emerging, unproven technology.
Pictured are two golden pheasants (Chrysolophus pictus), a species native to mountainous forests of western China. The birds were photographed by Joel Sartore, a National Geographic fellow and frequent contributor to the magazine who will be speaking at the TEDx conference about conservation. Sartore recently produced the book RARE: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species. He also founded the Photo Ark, an online archive of pictures of threatened species (from which this gallery was sourced).
Sartore told National Geographic News, "We stand to lose half of all the planet's species by the turn of the next century. The Photo Ark seeks to document as many of these as possible, using captive animals as ambassadors."
By turning his camera and studio lights on animals currently living in zoos, Sartore has chronicled 2,800 species over eight years. He said he plans to keep at it for another 15 to 20 years. "The goal is for the public to look these myriad species in the eye to get them to care, before it's too late. Each new species coming on board the Ark provides an opportunity to educate, and to draw folks into the 'tent' of conservation, to think about something other than the price at the pump and what's on TV."
The Photo Ark may serve as a kind of visual counterpart to a frozen zoo, a concept advocated by other TEDx speakers, in which DNA-containing material from endangered species is preserved in liquid nitrogen to limit degradation.
Several animals in the Photo Ark have already gone extinct since Sartore clicked his shutter, and the fate of several others hangs in the balance.
—Brian Clark Howard