National Geographic

About Photo Ark

Saving Species Through the Power of Photography

The interaction of animals with their environments is the engine that keeps the planet healthy for all of us. But for many species, time is running out. That's why National Geographic, along with photographer Joel Sartore, is dedicated to finding solutions to save them.

With your support, we’re documenting every species in human care to inspire people to care and help protect these animals. You’re also helping fund on-the-ground conservation projects focused on those species in most critical need of protection, as well as education programs that are fostering a real connection with, and appreciation for, our fellow creatures.

This multiyear effort will create intimate portraits of an estimated 12,000 species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Once completed, Photo Ark will serve as an important record of each animal’s existence, and a powerful testament to the importance of saving them.

Building the Ark


Species to Date



In his quest to document our world’s astonishing diversity, Joel has taken portraits of 7,521 species — and counting! He’s over half way to his goal of documenting all of the approximately 12,000 species living in the world’s zoos and wildlife sanctuaries.

Creating Portraits of Hope

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore started the Photo Ark in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1995. Since then, he has visited 40 countries in his quest to create this photo archive of global biodiversity.

To date, Joel has completed portraits of more than 6,000 species, most photographed on either a plain black or white background. No matter its size, each animal is treated with the same amount of affection and respect. The results are portraits that are not just stunningly beautiful, but also intimate and moving. “It’s the eye contact that moves people,” Sartore says of the animals’ expressions. “It engages … feelings of compassion and a desire to help.”

Learn More About Joel Sartore

This is the best time ever to save species because so many need our help.

Joel Sartore
Photo Ark Founder and Photographer

On-the-Ground Conservation

The National Geographic Photo Ark will support on-the-ground conservation projects to help protect and save species in decline. Much-needed funding and attention will be provided to endangered species (including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and fish) that we have a real chance of helping, and which do not currently have a sustained effort from others to protect them.

The southern three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus), which feeds on ants and termites, is the only armadillo that rolls itself into a near-perfect sphere when frightened. Ears tucked in, its vulnerable underside is protected from predators. Photographed at Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Inspiring Learning and Action

The National Geographic Photo Ark is teaching people of all ages about our planet’s amazing biodiversity and fostering a real human connection to Earth’s animals. The project engages students in the classroom through free educational materials and activities, and inspires the public through special exhibitions and events around the world. An interactive digital experience allows learners to explore each animal in the collection and share information about endangered species with their friends.

Saving Species in the Wild

Many species in the Photo Ark are at risk in the wild due to habitat loss, illegal poaching, and other threats. National Geographic is actively funding conservationists in the field to help some of these species in most critical need. Meet some of the conservation heroes who are helping protect wildlife and find out how you can take action to help.

Picture of grey crowned crane at Parc des Oiseaux Bird Park (2431222)

Olivier Nsengimana and the Grey Crowned Crane  

Having grown up enjoying the sights and sounds of cranes dancing in the marsh, Olivier Nsengimana was shocked to learn as an adult of their drastic decline.

Picture of Burmese star tortoise (1102552)

Kalyar Platt and the Burmese Star Tortoise  

Microchips, other ID markers, and transmitters help Kalyar Platt and team keep track of a few tortoises to monitor the success of their return to the wild.

Help Us Save Wildlife

Thousands of species are at risk and time is running out. Join National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore as he leads the Photo Ark project to document our planet’s biodiversity and find innovative solutions to help save threatened species and protect their critical habitats.

Follow Photo Ark

Keep up with Photo Ark and Joel Sartore by following the project on Facebook and Instagram.