Cape Town - For many of Earth’s creatures, time is running out. And in our beautiful home country South Africa, this is most prevalent. Considering's SA's rich wildlife heritage, our country has become a target for poachers and all wildlife criminals.
READ: #ShockWildlifeTruths: WildAid issues damning report on SA's mixed messages and failure to prosecute
On 19 May, the world's conservationists and all global wildlife protection authorities are coming together to celebrate Endangered Species Day.
To show their support, the National Geographic Society launched a groundbreaking conservation awareness campaign aimed at saving species at risk in the wild. The campaign’s key message is “See what we can #SaveTogether before it’s too late.”
Featuring stunning images from the National Geographic Photo Ark, the campaign sounds the alarm for the conservation of wildlife and their habitats.
Representing our southernmost tip of Africa in the collection is the critically endangered African White-backed vulture, as well as the African Wild Dog.
Take a look at these striking images -
African white - backed vulture (Gyps africanus)
Critically endangered, fewer than 270 000 left in the wild
Photographed at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Cleveland, Ohio
Like elephants, rhinos and lions, vultures in Africa are in dire straits. And while the charismatic species get all the attention, vultures are largely ignored.
The creatures are all being poached for the illegal wildlife trade and to make matters worse, vultures are also victims of poisoning. In February 2016, more than 110 white-backed vultures were poisoned by poachers in Kruger National Park. In October 2015, 46 were poisoned.
Poachers poison the creatures to keep conservationists for spotting a dead animal following the vultures' movements.
Andre Botha, manager of Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Bird of Prey program, and the co-chair of the IUCN Vulture Specialist Group, says vultures are not getting nearly enough global attention for the level of danger they're in.
"Consider that there are only 3 000 white-backed vultures in Kruger, and only 7 500 in the whole country..." he says. "The Lowveld of South Africa, including Kruger, is the last place vultures survive in any great numbers in the country. There are far fewer of these vultures than rhinos in Kruger, and if the killing continues at the current rate, they will all be gone by 2034.”
READ: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Vultures on downward spiral to extinction
In South Africa, there are less than 450 wild dogs left. The total includes the dogs in the Kruger National Park, Wild Dogs in fenced reserves and some dogs outside protected areas, says Dr Kelly Marnewick from Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Carnivore Conservation Programme.
Apart from human encroachment and accidental poisoning, the dogs also face a threat of illness. In May last year, for example, the Kruger National Park lost the entire Lower Sabie pack of African Wild Dogs from a disease called Canine Distemper.
READ: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Less than 450 African Wild Dogs left in SA
While the African Wild Dog and African White-backed Vulture are featured on NatGeo's Endangered Species Day Photo Ark, they represent a tip of the iceberg of the number of animals endangered in South Africa, and the rest of the world.
You can see a collection of the endangered species captured in the Photo Ark project here: 8 Chilling PICS showing the effects of climate change
Remember to support the Photo Ark and projects working to help save species at PhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.
What is #SaveTogether
The campaign will see these conservation-minded images go up in Times Square and other major US cities for the next season.
The #SaveTogether campaign will kick off on Endangered Species Day with a digital billboard takeover in Times Square, New York City. Times Square visitors at the National Geographic photo station will be able to take a selfie with a Photo Ark image. The selfies will then appear on a Times Square billboard in real time.
If you can't make it to Times Square, you can take part in the #SaveTogether campaign using the hashtag and tagging NatGeo to participate.
Founded by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, the Photo Ark aims to document every species currently living in the world’s zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, inspire action through education, and help save wildlife by supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts.
Sartore has photographed more than 6 500 species so far on his quest to create the National Geographic Photo Ark. Once completed, the Photo Ark will serve as an important record of each animal’s existence and a powerful testament to the importance of saving species.
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Sartore’s breathtaking portraits inspire people to care about these animals and to take action while there’s still time to protect them.
The goal of the #SaveTogether campaign is to move people to support the Photo Ark and projects working to help save species.
Twenty-five animals from the Photo Ark will be featured in the NatGeo campaign. Apart from the aforementioned African species, these will include the Florida panther, the Saint Vincent Amazon parrot, the Golden Snub-nosed monkey and the Malayan tiger, of which there are only an estimated 340 left in the wild.
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