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photographing puffing snake

Joel snaps photos of an Amazon puffing snake.

Joel Sartore has dedicated the past 25 years of his life to photographing every animal species in existence—an effort that has sent him all over the world. His passion project, the National Geographic Photo Ark, is a collection of photographs of almost 10,000 species (and counting!), featuring stunning portraits of animals on black and white backgrounds.

This initiative has taken Joel to zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries all over the world. Yesterday we had the pleasure of hosting this globally renowned photographer, who arrived with his sights set on a few particular animals that were not yet part of the Photo Ark.

First up was Cheyenne, our Florida black bear. Joel and a group of Zoo staff set up his equipment in a behind-the-scenes holding area of Cheyenne’s habitat, featuring interchangeable black and white backdrops. With the help of keepers, curators and lots of snacks, Cheyenne was photographed while our animal behavior and wellness specialist looked on to ensure her welfare was not being compromised.

After Cheyenne was done modeling for the camera (and what a model she was!) and returned to her public-facing habitat, Joel used the space to capture photos of a vastly different species: black-throated monitor Ren. Keepers were on hand to ensure that Joel, the monitor and all staff members remained safe.


sea cucumber setup

Joel sets up his “studio” as he prepares to photograph a gray sea cucumber.

The crew then moved to the Harris Animal Care Center, where Joel took a different approach with smaller species. His equipment included a small “tent” that was used to secure the animals during their brief portrait sessions. His subjects included a northern bobwhite, Amazon puffing snake, striped mud turtle and gray sea cucumber.

We were honored to host such an incredible photographer and conservationist, and we can’t wait to see some of our animals featured in the Photo Ark!