Soul Crushing

@whs_worldheritagespecies: Soul crushing image of a rhino fetus whose mother had been poached the evening before. Poachers, those who benefit from selling a rhino’s horn, those who believe the horn is a “miracle” drug, and the courts that let poachers walk free are cancers of the planet!😡😡 It’s not very often that I post a photo of myself, but I thought I would share my experience at a rhino poaching incident I was working at in South Africa this year. I’ve been working closely with wildlife vets, particularly for my rhino photojournalism story. A few weeks ago we were called to a rhino who had been killed by poachers during the night. The vets performed an autopsy on her to find the bullet; a vital piece of evidence in the investigation. In this case the cow was shot badly by the poachers, she was hit in the stomach causing her to die a slow and extremely painful death during night. I was taking photos and helping the vets where I could as they cut through her to search for the bullets when I overheard one of the vets mention that she was pregnant. I ran to the back of the rhino just as they were slicing open the amniotic sack, exposing this foetus, which was close to being born. Conservation, particularly of rhino, is something I’ve been involved in for a long time. I’ve been to poaching incidents before, I’ve seen some gruesome things, but this is something that will haunt me for a very long time. His fragile skin was soft to the touch, and tore easily with the most gentle of brushes. His feet were underdeveloped, his lifeless eyes glazed behind the thick eyelashes that had started to grow. There in the grass he lay, next to his mother, who must have died slowly, agonisingly, and full of fear in the dark night. His opportunity to live torn away at the pull of a trigger, and at the greed of mankind. I’ll be revealing some of my work from this incident over the next few weeks. Photo credit: @lisa_vet_graham IG My Instagram: @benswildlife

Saturday Morning

I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange such as mow grass with its toenails or draw the tusks from the rotted carcass of another elephant and carry them off into the bush. There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.

Peter Matthiessen,  The Tree Where Man Was Born


Photo: Lukas Holas. Quote: via Schonwieder

The Poweshiek Skipperling

skipperling-butterfly-extinction

Consider the Poweshiek skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek). Most people don’t. It has few Facebook friends or people crying out to ‘Save the Skipperling’. Yet the skipperling is now one of the most rapidly declining animals in North America…skipperlings appear to have blinked out from 96 per cent of their prairie sites in a range stretching from Manitoba to Michigan. This elegant animal, dying out on our own continent, might be more imperiled than pandas or lions. And you’ve probably never heard of it. The Poweshiek skipperling is a butterfly.

As best I can tell, I’ve never witnessed extinction. Never have I known a plant or animal, only to see it vanish forever from Earth. The Poweshiek skipperling could become my first. Few of us know this kind of loss. It does not compare with the death of a friend or a family member. That is absolute and visceral loss. Nor is the loss of the skipperling quite like the closing of our favourite coffee joint. That is tolerable loss. A park might become a shopping mall. We lost Jimi Hendrix but not his music. These are losses – but they are not extinction…

I’ve met the Poweshiek skipperling in the prairie. If this species goes extinct, I will mourn it…Once the skipperling heads to oblivion, I will have only the memory of spending the afternoon of 13 July 2003, in a prairie fen in Michigan, on my knees and on my belly with this tiny orange butterfly.

~ Bryan Pfeiffer, in an excerpt from Ghosts and Tiny Treasures


Notes: Photograph: Skippering Butterfly by Bryan Pfeiffer

 

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