Video by @ChristineEckstrom It’s time to get up and a baby elephant just one day old is gently nudged to its feet by its mom. It was late November in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, and the air was oven-hot in the midday sun. Some of the elephants had laid down to rest—including one who did something Frans and I had never seen before: She covered her face with one big floppy ear to avoid the heat and glare of the sun—watch how she flips it open before she gets up. As the elephants moved off into the shade of a grove of trees, they walked to the pace of the newborn. This is the way of elephant families, and it is one of their many nurturing behaviors that endears them to us. Follow us @ChristineEckstrom and @FransLanting for more stories of elephant life. @thephotosociety#SavetheElephants#Zambia#Elephants#Family#Motherhood#Nurture
Video by @ChristineEckstrom “The Trouble with Cattle” It was difficult for me to document this. At day’s end, when all the tourist vehicles have returned to their camps, Maasai herders are bringing their cattle to graze inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve, whose lush grasslands are home to one of the most spectacular concentrations of wildlife in the world. In this video, filmed on assignment for @natgeo, you’ll see the herders bringing their cattle into the reserve as wildebeest in the distance flee. Then a cheetah mother with her nearly full-grown cubs watches an approaching cattle herd and the cats take off, one by one, heading in the opposite direction. In many areas outside the Reserve, people and cattle are increasing in numbers, pastures have been overgrazed and withered by drought, and the herders are seeking relief for their livestock. It’s a tough situation, and there are tragic side effects, including the occasional depredation of Maasai livestock by lions and other predators, which has led to retaliatory spearing and poisoning of wildlife. Help support the groups mentioned below, who are working to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts in Kenya. Follow us @ChristineEckstrom and @FransLanting for more coverage from Africa.
Video by @ChristineEckstrom By crawling towards them on hands and knees, Frans was able to get close to these two wild stallions as they were rearing up and testing each other’s strength. He had to trust that they would dance around him. The Oostvaardersplassen Nature Reserve in the Netherlands has become a remarkable habitat for these and other large grazing mammals that once roamed wild across Western Europe. Follow us @ChristineEckstrom and @FransLanting to see more close encounters with these wild horses.
Photo by @FransLanting I love the way this male bonobo is looking at his hands—so like our own, and like so many things bonobo that are so like us. Frans and I have had some of the most profound experiences of our lives in the company of bonobos and chimpanzees, with whom we share more than 98% of our DNA. But numbers cannot quantify the emotions you feel when you see yourself, as a human, in the gestures and behavior of a fellow being. We are here in the Congo with @Ashley_Judd on an unusual expedition to elevate the profile of bonobos in their only home in the wild—the Congo—and to advocate for their protection. We have just begun to understand them, and how much we have to learn from them about ourselves. Bonobos are gravely endangered by the bushmeat and pet trade. How tragic is that? We will share more from the Congo, as we can, @FransLanting and @ChristineEckstrom—so please stay tuned.
Video by @ChristineEckstrom When you enter the nursery at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Congo, you become instant playmates for the five young bonobos there. The two juveniles, Bikoro and Laliya, rush up, leap into your arms, bounce on your head, spring off your shoulders, and discover everything you forgot you had in your pockets. They are strong and mischievous—but full of love. It is truly heartwarming to realize that the remarkable care they receive from their surrogate human mothers is transforming these once-traumatized babies. They all lost their mothers to the devastating effects of the bushmeat and pet trade, and now they are being nurtured back to physical and psychological health—and eventually to a new life with a social group of bonobos. Being with them was a gift for me—and for Frans, as you can see in his happy tolerance of their antics, and his joyful laugh as they knock him off his feet. Follow us @FransLanting, @ChristineEckstrom and @Ashley_Judd as we dive deeper into the world of bonobos and the people who care about them. @thephotosociety@LolaYaBonobo@Ashley_Judd@Bonobodotorg#Bonobos#Congo#Play
Baby bonobos are transported to the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary as traumatized orphans when their mothers are killed by poachers for bush meat. The infant bonobos cling to their dead mothers until they are removed and eventually sold for the pet trade—babies are too small to be valuable for meat. Lola ya Bonobo has an astonishing team of bonobo “mamas” who act as substitute mothers to the orphan babies. They nurture them like their own children and slowly rebuild their psychological strength. As infants, the baby bonobos become firmly attached to their adopted mamas, and will only trust people who are trusted by their mamas. I was privileged to spend time in the past few days with three remarkable bonobo mamas and their orphan babies, and my heart melted when one young bonobo, Bikoro, gave me his trust and crawled up into my arms. The emotion I felt is indescribable. We encourage you to lend your support to the people who are working to secure a future for bonobos in the wild—it’s a big challenge, but it’s possible. Follow us @FransLanting and @ChristineEckstrom as we embark on an expedition with @Ashley_Judd to document bonobos in the wild in the heart of the Congo—their only home in the world.
Video by @ChristineEckstrom You are looking at a powerful female bonobo named Salonga who rules her family group at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Congo. She was paying close attention to us as we were drifting past her in a small boat and when she raised herself and grimaced, it was clear that she was displaying her dominance. Bonobos and humans have many gestures in common and every day that we spend with them we learn more about the close connections between us. Like the other bonobos at Lola, Salonga was brought here as a frightened orphan and nurtured into a healthy adult by an amazing group of dedicated Congolese bonobo conservationists. Check them out @LolaYaBonobo and go to @FransLanting to see another image of Salonga where she looks like a true bodybuilder. Stay tuned for more bonobo discoveries when @FransLanting and I head into the heart of the Congo Basin for a jungle expedition with @Ashley_Judd. @thephotosociety@bonobodotorg#Bonobos#Bonobo#Apes#Matriarchy#Conservation
Photo by @FransLanting Bonobos are our closest cousins on the tree of life, along with chimpanzees, but we know less about them than any other great ape because they only live in one of the most inaccessible parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Frans Lanting and I have just arrived in the Congo on an expedition to explore the world of bonobos. We’ll be joined by @Ashley_Judd, who has worked to help raise awareness about bonobos and to support the people who are working to protect them, which is our mission as well. Right now Frans and I are at the Congo’s remarkable Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary, where we saw this male bonobo interacting with a young male in a moment that feels touchingly human. Please follow us @FransLanting and @ChristineEckstrom for updates about our discoveries. @thephotosociety@Ashley_Judd@LolaYaBonobo@Bonobodotorg#Bonobos#Apes#Empathy#Naturelovers#Explore
“Born Yesterday” This tiny elephant calf is just one day old and all the adults in the herd are feeling very protective, surrounding the newborn at all times. This little one is trying to control its rubbery-looking trunk as it probes around Mom’s underbelly, looking for an opportunity to nurse. It will take a few weeks before this young elephant learns to manage its trunk’s many muscles—which number in the tens of thousands! I share this in celebration of Mother’s Day—and in honor of all mothers, animal and human. Follow me @ChristineEckstrom and @FransLanting for more intimate stories from the world of elephants.