Many years ago my conservation thinking was influenced by Aldo Leopold’s “A sand Country Almanac”, probably one of the most important books on conservation philosophy ever written.

There is something very profound about the opening sentences and for anyone who has a love of wilderness and for wild animals it resonates strongly with how we feel about wildlife.

“There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot …….. Like winds and sunsets wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher standard of living is worth its cost in things natural wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television and the chance to find a pasque flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.”

To slightly misquote Aldo Leopold, I suppose there are two kinds of people – those who mourn the loss of a species and those who don’t.

I have had the great privilege of having travelled the world and seen and photographed some of the world’s rarest species. A few days ago I picked up the book again and the opening passage made me think about how little has changed in the past years – in fact how his words seem more prophetic than ever. We are of the generation where these “wild things” are becoming so rare that very few people will ever see them in the wild, and the saddest fact is that by far the greatest majority of people really don’t care.

Recently I traveled to Kenya to see and photograph three very rare “wild things” black rhino, the northern white rhino and the Grevy’s zebra, all endangered.

While there I could not help but reflect on a few statistics regarding the number of “wild things” compared to humans –

But ponder on these numbers below !

Humans 7,102,561,363 ( 7 billion) and growing by 75 million a year.
Northern white rhino – 8 and extinct in the wild. Captive population only.
Black rhino – 3500
Grevy’s zebra about 2000
Cheetah 7000 to 10000
Bonobo chimps 30000 to 50000
Mountain gorilla – less than 700
Ethiopian wolf 360 to 440
Scimitar-horned oryx – extinct in the wild. Some captive populations only
Gelada baboons – less than 250 000 and declining
Aldabra giant tortoise – less than 200000