Ronan Donovan@ronan_donovan

In the midst of the Anthropocene, I strive to create visual stories that document the plight of our changing world.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/dc/events/lessons-wild-apes-wolves-and-bears/

183 posts 174,386 followers 1,001 following

A lone elephant reaches for the the leaves of a tall tree in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. I'm here this week with National Geographic Society helping to teach a workshop for scientists about how to communicate the great work that they do. #mozambique #africa #elephant

Parque Nacional De Gorongosa
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The next generation of mountain gorillas looks like this little face. This not yet named 3-month-old rests in the comfort of its mother's arms. Surrounded by its family and protected by dedicated armed guards, this baby will have the greatest chance in the history of Volcanoes National Park of reaching adulthood. Thanks to the ardent work by the Rwandan government and the team at @savinggorillas #rwanda #mountaingorilla #volcanoesnationalpark #wildlife @natgeo @natgeocreative

Volcanoes National Park
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As the mountain gorilla population continues to grow in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, there is also an increase in the population of people living alongside park - 1,813 people per square mile call Musanze District home. This photo illustrates that hard edge between the forest and the crops, an edge that represents more than just a transition from wilderness to tamed land. It represents land that used to be gorilla habitat, land where humans and gorillas are coming into contact as gorillas begin day trips across this edge to feed on tamed crops - introduced eucalyptus and native bamboo. If you're curious to learn more, check out the link in my bio to my recent article in National Geographic Magazine, written by Elizabeth Royte. Also, check out @savinggorillas for the legacy work of Dian Fossey. @natgeo

Volcanoes National Park
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Here's another image of Ubwuzu. He's an 11 year old male Mountain Gorilla living on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi in northern Rwanda. Of the nearly 60 mountain gorillas that I spent time with during my assignment for National Geographic Magazine, Ubwuzu's personality stands out in my memory. His age makes him a curious teenager, playful with his peers and even though he grew up being watched daily by researchers, he still shows an interest in his fellow apes. Learn more about the status of Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda in the current issue of National Geographic Magazine with story by Elizabeth Royte titled The Gorillas Dian Fossey Saved. Link in my bio. Thanks to @savinggorillas for all their conservation work and for the on-the-ground support while I was on assignment. I'll be posting photos and stories from the assignment for the next few weeks, so follow along to learn more. #natgeo #rwanda #mountaingorillas

Volcanoes National Park
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Two adolescent male mountain gorillas - Ubwuzu, 11, and Agahebuzo, 10 - grapple in a playful embrace. These two 300lb giants tussled for 10 minutes, taking short breaks between bouts to catch their breath. The elevation and moving those large bodies left them both breathing heavily. This is an unpublished image series from my article in the current issue of National Geographic Magazine titled The Gorillas Dian Fossey Saved, written by Elizabeth Royte. Link in my bio. #gorilla #rwanda @savinggorillas @natgeo @natgeocreative #volcanoesnationalpark

Volcanoes National Park
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#sponsored – Every ecosystem needs its natural predators. Just like orcas in the ocean or wolves in the northern latitudes, male lions - like this one in Western Uganda - play an integral role in the savannah landscapes of Eastern Africa.
#devourlife #carnivorwines


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Meet Ubwuzu. He's an 11 year old male Mountain Gorilla living on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi in northern Rwanda. Of the nearly 60 mountain gorillas that I spent time with during my assignment for National Geographic Magazine, Ubwuzu's personality stands out in my memory. His age makes him a curious teenager, playful with his peers and even though he grew up being watched daily by researchers, he still shows an interest in his fellow apes. Here, he's peering through the leaves at me and my camera, swaying back and forth as he observes how the light dances off the glass of my lens. I'll be posting some unpublished images from this story, now on the newsstands and digital in the September issue of National Geographic Magazine.

Volcanoes National Park
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Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park makes up one of the two remaining island habitats for the remaining Critically Endangered Mountain Gorillas. This image was taken from the steep slopes of Mount Karisimbi looking east to Mount Muhabura - both in which are dormant volcanos over 13,000ft tall. I took this photo during a brief pause while the team searched for the Pablo group of Mountain Gorillas. For 12 days in a row, we hiked up to find this gorilla group and to document their daily lives for National Geographic Magazine @natgeo. Learn more about the status of Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda in the current issue of National Geographic Magazine with story by Elizabeth Royte titled The Gorillas Dian Fossey Saved. Thanks to @savinggorillas for all their conservation work and for the on-the-ground support while I was on assignment. I'll be posting photos and stories from the assignment for the next few weeks, so follow along to learn more. #natgeo #rwanda #mountaingorillas

Volcanoes National Park
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Solar flares are only visible during a total solar eclipse. Just as the Moon begins to totally cover up the sun, gigantic flares called solar prominences become visible, arcing out from the edge of the Moon. These solar flares are coming off the sun’s surface and loop for millions of miles into space. They can only be seen on the ground during the moments near totality. What an awesome spectacle to behold. #eclipse #solareclipse #solareclipse2017 #wyoming

Grand Teton National Park
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#sponsored // The goal of my photography is to share important conservation stories from around the world and I’m always open to new avenues for disseminating those stories. Recently, I had the opportunity to share my story with the folks at @CarnivorWine and their audience.
#devourlife #carnivorwines


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Owls have always captivated me since I was a child. They're large birds that are rarely seen, but often heard to a trained ear. My first wildlife job out of college was monitoring the nesting success of spotted owls in Yosemite National Park as part of an ongoing fire fire ecology study. It was 2006 and I drove from Vermont to Yosemite with a used film camera I'd just bought on eBay. I spent the summer learning about what it meant to be a naturalist, about the importance of conserving wild things and wild places and learning from friends along the way. That summer became the foundation for the work that I'm doing now. It has been an immense joy to return and to remember those days. Thank you @mcdonald.mike.a for spending a few late nights in the old growth forests searching for owls again and for continuing to teach me. And thanks @yosemitenps for preserving this place. Check out my Instagram story for some behind the scenes for this photo.

Yosemite Village, California
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Wizard tree while searching for the wizard bird of the north - the great gray owl. I'm looking for a nest to film, anyone have any leads in Montana?


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Turn the sound on for this one 🔉👍🏻. Three sandhill cranes wade through a sea of Ross's geese (with a couple larger snow geese) in New Mexico.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
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Yellowstone scenes // This is the track of the same grizzly bear in the previous two videos. Nicknamed 'Bearzilla' for his size, this large male is the dominant grizzly on all the carcases I watched him feed on. Other bears would literally turn and run from his scent alone. Anybody know which track here is the front and rear? @yellowstonenps #yellowstone #wyoming

Yellowstone National Park
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Scenes from Yellowstone National Park // Wait for it, wait for it....SWAT! This grizzly bear pins a nosy European starling that got a little too close to its food. The bear doesn't seem to realize he actually got it as he lifts his paw to watch it fly away. Check out @natgeo for a video of this same bear with ravens. @yellowstonenps

Yellowstone National Park
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What does it mean to be fat and happy? Well, this giant Yellowstone grizzly bear is the epitome of just that as he rolls around playing with his food. This is the largest grizzly I’ve ever seen in Yellowstone and the biologist’s guestimate he’s around 800lbs of fat and happy. The really shocking part is that this bear has just emerged from hibernation and should be very lean after burning through winter fat stores. But here he is, rolling around with a massive gut along the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. I posted another playful video on @natgeo, so up over there to see Bearzilla rolling around some more 😁 @yellowstonenps @nationalparkservice #wildlife #yellowstone #grizzly

Yellowstone National Park
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I've been through 4 countries in East Africa over the past 3 months while on assignment. Covering stories about mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. For my last day of this trip, I spent time with more than 20 orphaned African elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (@dswt) outside Nairobi, Kenya.
I can't think of a better way to leave the continent than time spent with these fellow sentient beings. Fun fact, the skin behind their ears is incredibly smooth. I know this because I scratched a few itches for these little/giant babies.
#kenya #africa #davidsheldrickwildlifetrust #elephant #wildlife #instagood #instastyle #insta

David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphan Trust
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Uganda for @natgeo // Does this human dominated landscape look like a place where 22 wild chimpanzees carve out a living? It certainly didn't strike me as a place to find our great ape cousins, but they're there. See that tiny strip of trees that runs through the center of the frame? That's the core of their homerange. They make their living crop raiding for jackfruit, sugar cane, cocoa, mangos and more.
For ten years, Dr. Matthew McLennan of the @bulindichimps has been studying the physical and behavioral changes as a result of such an altered existence for these wild chimpanzees.
#onassignment #greatape #uganda #africa #wildlife

Bulindi, Hoima, Uganda
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Uganda for @natgeo // Teddy Atuhaire pauses at sunset in the small village of Nmyamirima in western Uganda.
Teddy's life story was altered as a proxy effect of deforestation when a wild chimpanzee attacked her when she was 4 years old. Learn more about Teddy's story in my previous posts.
Unfortunately, the same situation that lead to Teddy's attack is occurring more frequently in western Uganda. After logging, hundreds of chimpanzees have been squeezed out of the remaining forest patches and forced into direct competition with farmers.
Learn more in my previous posts and with @bulindichimps
#africa #uganda #onassignment #greatape

Kibale National Park
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Uganda for @natgeo // Teddy stands in the doorway while her cousins play before their evening meal. Teddy was orphaned several years after she was attacked by a chimpanzee when both of her parents died in the same year to AIDS (according to her aunt). Teddy spends her time between several of her aunt's homes, as seen here at her aunt Olije's home in the village of Nmyamirima in western Uganda.
This image is part of a series while explore the stories surrounding the cost of deforestation as humans and wildlife are increasingly living in close proximity.
#onassignment #uganda #africa

Kibale National Park
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Uganda for @natgeo // Teddy Atuhaire tends to the morning pot of tea in the small village of Nmyamirima in western Uganda. After losing her arm in a chimpanzee attack, Teddy is limited in how she can contribute to her families daily chores. 'I'm only able to do small amounts of work, like picking ground-nuts [peanuts] for 1,000 shillings [25 cents] per day .'
Teddy's story represents one of the faces of deforestation here in Uganda. As the unprotected forests are cleared, wild animals are forced to look elsewhere for food. Since a taboo against consuming primates exists in Uganda, the chimpanzees remain in these tiny slivers of forests. After years of negative interactions with humans, chimpanzees have become aggressive towards people as the chimpanzees are forced to raid crops and wander past village homes.
I'm currently in the field exploring stories similar to Teddy's. I'll post a series of photos of Teddy and the rest of her story over the coming days. Please stay tuned.

Kibale National Park
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Uganda for @natgeo // Teddy Atuhaire washes her feet in the evening as her aunt and cousin prepare the family's dinner in the small village of Nmyamirima in western Uganda.

Teddy's story continued from previous post................. Teddy lay unconscious high up in a tree in the clutches of a wild chimpanzee. Her arm was broken at the elbow so severely that it was only being held on by a thread of flesh, likely broken while being dragged through this ordeal by the chimpanzee.
As the men began desperately chopping down the tree, the chimpanzee tore a chunk of flesh out of Teddy's head before casting her to the ground in its effort to flee the scene.
Teddy was rushed to the hospital where the doctor decided to amputate her arm. She spent seven months in the hospital recovering from her injuries....
I'm currently in the field exploring stories similar to Teddy's. I'll post a series of photos of Teddy and the rest of her story over the coming days. Please stay tuned.

Kibale National Park
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Uganda for @natgeo // Teddy Atuhaire, age 17, warms herself by the fire in the small village of Nmyamirima in western Uganda. When Teddy was 4 she was taken from her home by a wild chimpanzee. Neighbors heard her screams and gave chase. The chimpanzee climbed into a nearby tree, still clutching Teddy. Men rushed to the scene with axes and began chopping down the tree...
I'm currently in the field exploring stories similar to Teddy's. I'll post a series of photos of Teddy and the rest of her story over the coming days. Please stay tuned.

Kibale National Park
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Uganda for @natgeo // A young boy shoulders a small branch from a recently felled tree along a road in the town of Hoima, western Uganda. 90% of the country cooks their food using firewood - either directly or with wood that's been converted to charcoal. This intense pressure on the country's forests show projections of total forest loss in 30 years here in Uganda, including the protected areas.
People have a right to eat and it's in their best interest to maintain healthy forests for the ecosystem services that forests provide: oxygen, nutrients, water and food (to name a few).
It's just a matter of providing people with viable alternatives. Cooking with natural gas, fuel efficient stoves, solar cooking, and non-lumber based charcoal are operational. It's a challenge but we have the tools and the minds to achieve a balance and solve these issues.
#uganda #africa #onassignment #greatape

Hoima Town
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Uganda for @natgeo // Can you spot what's wrong with this photo of a wild chimpanzee? It's the 'forest' that it's walking through. It's an exotic plantation of eucalyptus trees that will eventually be logged for timber by the landowner. This female chimpanzee is travelling through the eucalyptus on her way back from raiding a villagers jackfruit trees. Chimps don't normally eat jackfruit, these chimps have been forced to adapt.
This community of 22 chimps have lost 85% of the natural forest they depend on to small scale logging. It's literally death by 1,000 cuts or 1,000 felled fruiting trees these chimps need to persist.
What is the future of hundreds of chimpanzees, like this one, living in tiny forest patches on private land here in western Uganda? I'm here with the @bulindichimps to explore the idea of coexistence with our closest living relatives - chimpanzees.
#chimpanzee #greatape #wildlife #onassignment #africa #uganda @thewcs @wwf

Bulindi, Hoima, Uganda
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Uganda for @natgeo // The alpha male of a small community of 22 chimpanzees pauses while climbing a vine into the canopy to sunbath in the morning sun. Named Sylvester by researchers, he's a prime aged male in his early 30s.
Sylvester has seen his once large riverine forests dwindle by 85% durning his lifetime and at current deforestation rates, he may live to see them completely disappear. But chimps like Sylvester are resourceful and incredibly resilient, making a living now primarily outside of these privately owned forests. Evening raids on villagers mango and jackfruit trees is how Sylvester and his family survive. They will persist on these private forest patches until tolerance by the village community shifts. The conservation goal in this region is to make the remaining forests profitable for the owners through the international carbon credit market, a process that is still years away from being implemented on the ground.
Hang on Sylvester. Want to help? Hop over to @bulindichimps
#onassignment @natgeo #Uganda #chimpanzee #wildlife #greatape #africa @thewcs @wwf

Bulindi, Hoima, Uganda
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Uganda for @natgeo // Chimpanzees living on small tracts of privately owned forests in western Uganda have lost over 85% of their natural fruiting trees to small scale logging. As a result, they've begun to exploit the alternatives, which are fruiting trees planted by humans.
Patrick (left) and Moses measure the circumference of a large fruiting mango tree located 50ft away from a village home. This tree is visited by wild chimpanzees who have adapted to essentially stealing fruit from these subsistence farmers. Patrick and Moses are adding to a data set of the changing foraging habits of a group of 22 wild chimpanzees.
This overlap between humans and chimpanzees can lead to a multitude of conflicts from disease transfers to physical attacks - both of which have been recorded. At current rates of deforestation, by 2025 all of these privately owned forests will be logged for timber and charcoal and cleared for agriculture.
I'm exploring what this means for the people and the 300+ chimpanzees that are living side-by-side on private land. Their futures are both linked to these forests.
What does coexistence look like? I'm hoping to find out.
#NatGeo #uganda #africa #chimpanzee #conservation #greatape

Bulindi, Hoima, Uganda
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Uganda for @natgeo // Intelligent eyes gaze down from the safety of the trees. This community of wild chimpanzees is wary of new human faces. They study me for 10 minutes, bobbing their heads up and down to take in as much information about me: my clothes, hat, backpack, camera and most importantly, my face.
I'm at an advantage to other humans because I'm standing alongside a field assistant, named Tom Sabiiti, who has been working with these chimpanzees for close to 10 years.
They know him and trust him. And by association, I'm not seen as an immediate threat, but one still worth keeping an eye on.

Chimpanzee facial recognition is similar to ours in judging a familiar face or a strangers. This evolutionary trait served us well in our hunter gatherer days when making that split second judgment could result in serious injury or death - fiend or foe.
Wild chimpanzees still live under threat from both other chimpanzee communities as well as their closest relatives, humans.
I'll be posting from the field for another month while I look at the future of chimpanzees living outside of protected areas in rural Uganda.
#hoima #africa #uganda #chimpanzee #greatape #wildlife

Bulindi, Hoima, Uganda
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Hitching a ride, Rwanda style.
#rwanda #africa

Shyorongi
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An aerial view of a footpath that zigzags up a terraced hillside in central Rwanda.
#rwanda #africa #farming #aerial

Kigali, Rwanda
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