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In the Footsteps Of Giants
In 2013 I won the highest accolade in world wildlife photography when I was named the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The picture of a baby elephant running past a waterhole in Botswana (the fifth image in the post below), is however special to me beyond the award it won me, because it sparked something much bigger...
When I took the winning shot I thought it was the end of my journey with elephants, as it had come after many years of trying to capture the mysterious quality of elephants in a single photograph. But, as it turns out, it was only the beginning. Since taking that shot I have spent the last 3 years working on my 'In The Footsteps Of Giants’ project whereby I have spent hundreds of hours with elephants. I have flown over wild bush country looking for giant tuskers in Kenya and I have descended into an extinct volcanoe in Tanzania, in pursuit of the same goal. I have been to the Congo basin and the Skeleton Coast in search of forest and desert elephants and I have traversed the Zambezi Valley on foot and by canoe. I have been charged at and I have even sat inside a waterhole with my giant subjects (see this story here). I have stared at their toenails!
It has been a spellbinding journey and now that I have this body of work I can share it with a wider audience. It is my hope that these photographs will be remembered, not because of the crazy photographer who climbed into a waterhole, but rather for the awareness it raised and for drawing attention to elephants. All animals are special and important and need to be conserved but elephants seem to be extra special animals. They possess a rare kind of intelligence and cognitive understanding. They are giant, yet gentle creatures and they are also a keystone species to the ecosystem, meaning that should they go extinct, the entire ecosystem will collapse. It is my hope that through this body of work people will see afresh and appreciate what incredibly wonderful creatures elephants are. Sadly Africa has lost 70% of its elephant population in the last 40 years and alarmingly, in these modern times, elephants are being hunted and poached at a faster rate than they are being born. Hunters come out to shoot elephants so that they can take trophies home to brag. Poachers kill elephants just so that their teeth can be turned into ornaments. Through this project I aim to foster a greater love and appreciation for elephants; to arouse the collective human conscience, so that these wonderfully intelligent and gentle giants will be around for future generations to see and enjoy. Climbing into the water would be a very small price to pay if this were to happen. Herewith the photos from the project, with one or two golden oldies thrown in, for good measure. Enjoy.
'Images have the power to affect how we feel about the natural world and therefore how we treat it.’ Sir David Attenborough
Follow my waterhole exploits on Instagram and watch out for the #insidethewaterhole hashtag...
Read more behind the scenes from this project on Africa Geographic...
To see larger versions of these images follow my 500px account here...
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©Copyright. Greg du Toit Safaris & Photographic. 2013