Interview » Intervju | 31 adorned the facades of the Empire State building, the United Nations building and the Vatican. When he began his mission 15 years ago, his goal was to use his camera to save 15,000 endangered species fromoblivion. He has since shotmore than 34,000 photos recording 11,000 species fromall meridians of our planet, and he has about ten years left until the end of this challenging task, as he reveals in this exclusive interview for Elevate. At the end of November we had an opportunity, on theNational Geographic Wild channel, to take a sneak peek at his life’s work and to see, probably for the last time, some animalswhose existence we’d never even heard of and which we may never see live. That was the final farewell for those with whom we’ve shared this third rock from the Sun, and which we decided, in our arrogance, have no right to a future. “Pessimism is not the answer. Hope must always exist. The Photo Ark is my way of contributing to preserve animals fromextinction bymaking themvisible to people. My photos are a reminder of the tragedy that man is part of. Perhpas we are at the top of the food chain as the greatest predators, but when our food disappears we will also disappear,” says Joel Sartore, adding that caring for animals begins with caring for clean water, air and a stable climate. How did your mission even begin? “It was 16 years ago that my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had successful surgery, but her recovery took a long time. Among the four with my wife in her sickbed and three children, I had a long year ahead of me in which I adjusted my life to the life of the mother of my children. When she finally recovered, I had to make a decision – what will I do with the rest of my life? That’s when I started thinking about what had happened to all those unprotected animals that will disappear in the next decade, the existence of which no one will even be aware of. The majority of people are mostly thrilled by lions, tigers, horses and elephants. But the sparrow, the praying mantis and the ant are also animals, and they deserve to be remembered by someone. And that’s how our great mission began.” You mentioned that you have three children. Have you managed to transfer at least part of your love for nature to them? “I have. We, as a family, strive to live in accordance and harmony with our surroundings. My eldest son Cole is nowmy faithful companion on the ground. Apart from that, we are aware that money can create, but also destroy the world.That’s why we do not spend excessively, we recycle, our home is well insulated, we grow all the food that we use in our daily nutrition. We have our own garden inwhich the bees that we cultivate ourselves are in charge of pollination, because they are also important for our planet.” You’re probably asked this question all the time, so I have to ask too: which animal did you shoot first? “It was a species of rare African rodent that lives underground. And to cut short your torment I’ll immediately answer the second most frequently asked question by journalists: what is my favourite animal among those I’ve shot. And the answer is – the next one. I don’t differentiate between a spider and a tiger. All animals excite me equally and I treat each one with the same respect. If you are the last in the world, size doesn’t matter in the slightest. When you look into the eyes of any animal – from the tiniest to the largest – you will see intelligence in them. This is what alerts us to the fact that we must draw back from the belief that we have permission from a higher power to judge those who are weaker than us. The most important mission of my Photo Ark is to show people that there is something more than politics and sport. That something more is called responsibility. By saving animals, we also save ourselves.” Is there any place in the world that you would like to visit as part of your project? “During these 15 years I’ve visited all continents, except Antarctica. Although I haven’t been to Serbia either. Do you have zoos? If you have, I will gladly visit your country and make Serbia part of my Photo Ark.” Tokom ove „korona godine“ našem spisku uspeli smo da dodamo gotovo 1.000 ugroženih vrsta. I to sve iz prirode moje rodne Nebraske, u kojoj smo fotografisali oko 800 insekata, ali i neke retke rečne ribe During this “corona year” we managed to add almost 1,000 species to our endangered list. And all from the nature of my native Nebraska, where we’ve photographed about 800 insects, but also some rare river fish Par crvenih vukova A pair of red wolves