Biodiversity Nepal
For the Future Generation

What does a snap mean for conservation?

A single photo exposes the issues in a universal language

Tobias Baumgaertner/ Ocean Photography Awards

       “Photography is the story, I fail to put into words

                                                                              – Destin Sparks

Have you seen the picture of two penguins hugging each other while looking at the Melbourne skyline? I stressed this particular picture because it became one of the most loved and talked about pictures of 2020. The rare shot was taken by a German wildlife photographer, Tobias Baumgaertner. Tobias had to wait for 3 days straight to finally capture the magical moment. His dedication paid off as he was able to win the worldwide sea life photography competition award in World Ocean Photography Awards. 

After the tumultuous events of 2020, the photo left the world in awe, becoming the beacon of hope for many people. On his Instagram post, featuring the photo, Tobias writes, “I have received thousands of messages and comments on how these two little guys have touched and mended broken hearts. How it brought joy, hope and love into thousands of lives. It has become a symbol of togetherness and love.” 

The picture of penguins that stole the hearts of people (Source: Tobias Baumgaertner/ Instagram)

The photo that brought such an impact around the globe, however, has a very sad story behind it. Tobias revealed that both of the penguins were actually widowed and trying to comfort each other in grief. Unlike several species in the animal kingdom, most penguins are monogamous for life. Sadly, both the elder female penguin and younger male penguin had lost their partners on different occasions. Since then, the penguins had spent hours in each other’s arms, staring at the Melbourne skyline. 

In fact, many of us can resonate with the penguins, especially at this time of the pandemic. On the other hand, it also raises a serious question, “How did the penguins lose their partners?” Are humans to blame for this as well?

Singing spermophile: Winner of Affinity Photo People’s Choice Award ( Source: Kranitz Roland/ The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2020)

We often underestimate the power of pictures in its role for conservation. But, photography is indeed a powerful tool to combat the environmental war; it tells a story without saying anything. A single photo exposes the issues in a universal language in a fraction of a second.

In recent years, the trend of wildlife photography has started rooting in Nepal as well. One such rising talent is Rohit Giri. Giri mainly captures snakes in his frame and has garnered nearly 30 thousand followers on his Instagram handle @lureyrohit. His photos have changed the outlook of many Nepali people towards snakes. Giri’s pictures have helped to raise awareness on conservation of the endangered reptiles, which are traditionally portrayed as a monstrous species.  A zoology undergraduate, Giri has also published numerous research papers on snakes and is actively working to mitigate human-snake conflict in Pokhara Valley.

Rohit Giri taking picture of a snake (Rohit Giri/Instagram)

Besides awareness, pictures also help to raise funds for a cause. The “Remembering Wildlife photography” project, initiated in 2017, is a great example. The collection features photographs of endangered animals from various corners of the world. Till the end of 2020, the campaign has raised over £600,000 and donated to 47 conservation projects in 23 countries.

People may think a gentle click in the camera is simple. However, the terrain of professional photography goes very deep. Wildlife photographers need a great deal of perseverance and love for the art as they are not capturing still models and staged frames. Sometimes, it may take years to get one iconic shot.  

Picture from Remembering Rhino Collection (Source: Keith Connelly/ Remembering Wildlife)

But, thanks to our wildlife photographers! Their works are not only pictures but a story that fills us with emotions the moment we see: from bursts of happiness to the dark melancholy. But at the end of the day, they all want us to protect these species which often share such beautiful moments that we want to stare all day, just like the penguins staring at the Melbourne skyline.

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