The zoo is a very sad place where animals serve a life sentence behind bars. Or so I thought, until I recently made several visits to the Denver Zoo. I already knew the appalling facts relating to the world's wildlife: deforestation, poaching, human population growth and climate change are having devastating effects on animals and their habitats. But I didn't make a fundamental connection between that information and the animals themselves until I saw them at the zoo. Instead of thinking of them as unlucky captives, I viewed them as representatives of wildlife populations that need help.
By spending significant time with each of the animals I photographed, I became inspired by them, connecting with them in a way that I never have before. Among my experiences, I witnessed a tiger's astonishing speed when I saw him jump from a tree where he had been sharpening his claws, to attack his wooden toy, yards away. I watched a young lion affectionately nuzzle his brother before ascending the highest rock in his enclosure to gaze at me with a regal stare. I enjoyed the graceful, dance-like movements of the flamingos as they swayed their long necks and I learned that a cheetah is constantly on high alert, even when he's resting.
Many things have changed over the years since I last visited a zoo. Animal habitats have been dramatically improved and expanded. Signs posted next to each enclosure give visitors information about the status of animal populations in the wild. As an important source for wildlife information, the zoo offers a variety of educational programs that promote conservation. In the field, the Denver zoo has actively supported animal research and conservation projects in every continent of the world except Antarctica. It currently participates in projects in Botswana, Mongolia, Vietnam, Peru, Bolivia and the United States. In other words, zoos have become key players in advocating for wildlife guardianship and protection.
Perhaps one day I'll have the opportunity to take photographs of these animals in their natural environments. Until that time, I plan to continue adding to my zoos and sanctuaries portfolio in the hope that the images I take will help support and protect the animals I so admire.
One hundred percent of all profits in the Zoos and Sanctuaries Gallery will be donated to charities that benefit world wildlife.