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University of Lisbon,
Portugal National Museum of Natural History and Science
I would like to ABSOLUTELY thank Marta, who has been amazing and inspiring… encouraging and unbelievably supportive throughout.
And for giving me a platform and outreach capacity I never dreamed I might have.
It is such an immense honor for me to be here today… And it always feels like so many other people are more deserving, have been doing
this for longer and are more technically competent.
Never in my life did I dream I would become a wildlife photographer – despite spending hundreds of hours as a child looking at
books and National Geographic and practically ingesting Attenborough, Cousteau and Durrell.
Buying every poster or card with an animal on it I could find … and collecting whale, dolphin, and shark sculptures.
I grew up with dreams of fish, forests and frogs. Whales and waterfalls… birds, bugs and bogs.
Knowing – and loving – what I do at this point… I also never imagined I might be so lucky as to have a show at a natural history museum.
Marta, thank you so much for everything. And your amazing Exhibitions, Education and Communication TEAM. In particular Jorge, Rogério, Marta (Costa), António, Tânia and Raquel.
The Museum and University of Lisbon… and Rector António Cruz, who supported this project in its infancy.
Nuno and his atelier P06 for their brilliant and immersive design. Estela and Jacinta…
I would HAVE to thank my mother, who bought me my first aquarium when I was 5 after I nagged her for a year.
My father and she saw that tank grow to twenty tanks over a decade… and knew about the 2 to 4 hundred African cichlid offspring
That were born every month in the room above my father’s bedroom.
So many baby fish I didn’t have the space for, couldn’t sell, nor give away fast enough – leading to the acquisition of more and more aquaria until I needed someone to assist me and spent something like 4 hours a day in that dank, smelly room.
I would like more than anything to thank my beloved brother who, with his lovely wife and a number of colleagues here today, has begun to develop a program around climate change and environment in our network.
My beloved uncle A, who has been nothing but supportive since the very first time we spoke photography, who introduced me to both Xenia and Philippe, and who gave constructive advice for this expo.
Xenia and Philippe for hours of editing, planning, communications … and work on the catalogue.
Dear Colleagues, I must thank you as well for not lobbying to have me fired … or inciting a bloodless coup while I was on so many expeditions
and sometimes missing meetings.
Everyone knows I’m addicted to wildlife and incapable of kicking my habit.
Lizzie, my fiancée who makes me dizzy and keeps the home fires burning while I’m away.
Honey, could you please stop trying to burn down the house?
Friends and members of the Hakspeditions team, fellow lovers of wildlife and the oceans, who are here today and could tell
you all about swimming with dolphins and whales, diving with sharks and turtles.
I would hate to be without you on most of these trips.
That includes all the Norwegistanis, but not necessarily Henning or Jim – who we could all do without.
Nazir and the FON girls.
Patrick and Antonin in Paris who have been working with me since 2005, run a ridiculously large computer system with 30 terabytes of memory,
hundreds of thousands of images.
Nazim for invaluable help with everything from guest lists to government relations and fine dining suggestions.
What is photography if not freezing time?
What you see in the show represents nothing but frozen time.
Incredible, fantastically joyous moments and encounters with miraculous creatures… some horrifically rare … and some more mischievous,
playful and intelligent than you could imagine.
Every hour counts, every extra day counts.
Sometimes you see next to nothing for a week.
Sometimes magic happens right while you’re exiting the water or forest.
These images just represent time.
We all grew up in a period of relative abundance. Knowing for SURE there were millions of ungulates, thousands upon thousands of felines and great apes, untold numbers of cetaceans and sharks… mind-boggling tonnage of food fish swimming about our oceans.
Smug in the idea and comfortable with the knowledge that in faraway lands lived orangutans, tigers, polar bears, elephants, rhinos, and gorillas.
That places like the Amazon, the Serengeti, the Great Barrier Reef and Antarctica, were there. Undamaged, unaffected by our lifestyles, the quest for profit, the extractive industry, short-sighted governments and more.
But those days of abundance are long gone… We are no longer certain all those keystone and flagship species are doing alright.
Forests and oceans, glaciers and migration routes are being cut down, dying, melting, and being disjointed. Suffering from overexploitation, warming, pollution, lack of protection and neglect.
Polar bears are as good as gone now. Tigers, too. African Elephants have 10 years left if poaching continues at the present rate – 36 thousand elephants a year or one killed every 15 minutes.
Orangutans are nearly gone – all the trees they live in are being cut down and palm oil prioritized. They may survive another decade if things don’t change.
One to two hundred million sharks are being killed every year. The populations of many species – including my favorite, the oceanic white tip – are down by 90 percent or more.
In fact, 90% of global shark populations are said to have been lost over the past 4 decades.
There are less than 400 northern right whales remaining. No births were recorded last year, and scientists believe that some of the right whales are singing for the first time ever – singing a sad song of yearning for a mate.
Who here would ever have imagined that koala bears and giraffes might go extinct in our lifetimes?
Yet we have lost 40 % of giraffes over the past 20 years.
One species was just declared endangered.
Koalas have been declared functionally extinct.
The animal representative of Australia.
6 out of 7 sea turtle species are endangered, including the greens and hawksbills I regularly photograph.
90% of the big fish are gone and nearly all food fish are either overfished or fished to the limit.
The UN tells us one million species are threatened with extinction.
I’m sorry this is so depressing…
Recently Greenland experienced melt of more than 2 billion tons of ice in a single day.
Emissions peaked in 2018.
Countries like India are running out of water and Norway has experienced unprecedented numbers of forest fires.
The Amazon is burning. Shrinking and burning. Regulations are being rolled back…
The problem today is that we have no time!
This is the world that frames my photography, and this is what keeps me up at night.
As a wildlife photographer one wonders which of our subjects will remain in 20 years’ time, 10 years or even 5.
The photography you see here is all for naught if it doesn’t elicit emotion… convince you one can be face to face with a tiger shark and not get devoured…
That anchor coral is one of the most beautiful things in the world… that whales are immensely intelligent… turtles seem wise… and dolphins have complex social structures.
If it doesn’t show you – show any audience – that they, and stunning nudibranchs and flatworms, wrasses and razorfish and seahorses are worth protecting…
That they deserve to be here, too.
Having had the immense privilege of these incredible encounters and unforgettable moments, the words to live by are:
explore, observe, share and educate. Protect.
Seeing what I see, experiencing what I experience, and knowing how absolutely lucky and privileged I am and fragile things are… it feels like I have to share these creatures and ecosystems with you. NOW.
The wanton destruction, paucity of awareness, lack of concern, neglect and shortsightedness of some people --- including certain politicians… I won’t name names… And the sheer number of problems and risks seem daunting.
But there are solutions to slow things down, topics we can teach and information share, mindsets we can start to change.
We can plant millions of trees. Plant everywhere. Become Olympian planters.
We can limit the plastic we use and encourage others to do the same. Stop wasting energy. Stop wasting food. Drive and fly less.
Electrify our cars. Turn our lights off. Think through what we throw away. Stop burning and cutting our forests. Stop destroying the wilds without thought.
We can slow down our demand and stabilize, not outstrip, the supply. We can eat less meat (that will be hard for me)
and stop buying or killing wild animals.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we incorporated environment into nearly every aspect of development? Even construction.
If we replanted wide open spaces.
Divested from harmful businesses…
Made sure that no student left our schools or universities without at least basic knowledge about environmental problems and solutions both locally and internationally?
If communities were given extra incentives to protect their wildlife and lands.
If we could buy more important habitats or convince others to do so. For instance buy great tracts of forest to protect them into the future.
If we could help protect wildlife and guarantee a future for things like elephants and rhinos. Giraffes and pangolins… sharks and turtles.
If we could ensure that our children and grandchildren could still witness these animals outside of zoos, walk through healthy forests and swim in cleaner oceans.
If we could all work just a little harder together to try to save the planet, and its denizens – including ourselves.