The urgent need to protect the Serengeti’s intricate web of life
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The ebb and flow of 1.3 million wildebeests and zebras as they chase seasonal rains across the Serengeti and Masai Mara is the largest and most impressive animal migration on Earth. But how does one approach a subject that has been photographed countless times — knowing there are dozens, if not hundreds, of stunning photographs already published? That was the challenge we put to photographer Charlie Hamilton James.
Accepting the challenge, he said, “I’ve been going back and forth to the Serengeti for decades and it’s never lost its wonder to me. There simply isn’t anywhere better on Earth to photograph wildlife.” But the Serengeti is so much more than just wildlife.
Tanzania’s population has gone from 8 million to 50 million in the last 50 years, and is set to double in the next 20 years. This means more people will be moving towards the edges of the Serengeti National Park. With them comes the pressures of cattle, poaching, and infrastructure. Charcoal production has already devastated the Mau Forest in the north of the Serengeti. Meanwhile, climate change is shifting the weather patterns which drive the migration — longer droughts, contrasted with heavier rains, are beginning to throw the system out of balance.
Charlie Hamilton James is a photojournalist who specializes in wildlife and conservation. His work requires specialized equipment, much of which he makes. Hamilton James has a particular interest in exposing “the brilliance of nature” in order to better document, understand, and save it. He has been obsessed with kingfishers — brightly plumed ambush hunters — since he was 6 years old, and with otters since he was 10. Before becoming a photographer for National Geographic, he had a long career in television working as a cameraman, series and executive producer, and presenter for the BBC’s prestigious Natural History Unit.
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