The wind was wild on South Georgia Island when we were there recently! But that’s normal, and all the residents were nonplussed—the king penguins trundled in and out of the sea to bring food for their fluffy brown chicks, a big bull elephant seal arched up as he came in from the surf, and the sideways snow made the king penguin colony look ethereal. The annual gathering of wildlife on the beaches of South Georgia is one of the most phenomenal natural spectacles on earth. For me it is very emotional to be in the presence of such unbridled vitality and sheer density of life. It’s even more inspiring when you know that due to the success of a remarkable eradication program, South Georgia has been declared rat-free, and millions more birds and other wildlife are repopulating the island—all in a matter of a few years. Being here takes your breath away, and fills you with hope, which is the message I want to share for the holidays and the coming New Year. Follow us @ChristineEckstrom and @FransLanting for more stories about our living planet.
Bonobos take care of each other, but we need to take care of them. The beautiful great apes known as bonobos are our closest cousins on the tree of life, along with chimpanzees, but we know so little about them because they live in one of the most inaccessible parts of central Africa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Only 15,000 bonobos remain in the wild and they are highly endangered by the bushmeat trade. @FransLanting and I undertook an expedition there recently with @Ashley_Judd, to help raise awareness about bonobos and to support the people who are working to save them, including Sally Jewell Coxe and the Bonobo Conservation Initiative. BCI is doing great work with local communities in the Congo Basin to empower them to protect bonobos and the forest habitat they depend on. You can help support BCI’s work by clicking on the link in their Instagram feed, @bonobodotorg, and by signing Ashley Judd’s Care2 petition, found in @Care2’s Instagram feed. The video clips I’m sharing from our recent trip show bonobos grooming, nursing, and cradling their young—tender moments we can all empathize with. Empathy and cooperation are hallmarks of bonobo social life, and the nature of these least known of the great apes helps shine a light on our own human nature. Follow us @ChristineEckstrom and @FransLanting for more images and videos from the heart of the Congo.
Photo by @FransLanting The outcome of king penguin love is one fluffy chick, which takes a year to mature. This one has survived the long cold winter when parents go far offshore and rarely come back to feed their offspring. It’s an ordeal for young king penguins and a thick brown downy coat helps them survive. This young king penguin has only a month or so to go before it will be ready to take its first plunge into the frigid waters surrounding South Georgia, near Antarctica. The seas around the island are brimming with krill which sustains spectacular numbers of penguins, other seabirds, and marine mammals. This is truly one of the great wildlife sanctuaries on the planet and we are thrilled to be on an expedition ship voyaging aroun d this remote island in the Southern Ocean. Follow us @ChristineEckstrom and @FransLanting for more stories about South Georgia, the "Island of Kings." #Kingpenguin#Penguin#Fluffy#Happy#Fat#Wildlife#Nature#SouthernOcean#Antarctica
Photo by @FransLanting Elephant seals and king penguins crowd the beaches of South Georgia Island during the austral spring—right now. The wildlife here is dependent on the rich marine resources of the Southern Ocean that surrounds this remarkable island. The elephant seals in this image were just finishing up their breeding season. The adult king penguins are mixed in with their fluffy brown chicks, who will shed their downy feathers this season and head to sea. Follow us @ChristineEckstrom and @FransLanting for more stories from the Southern Ocean. #SouthGeorgia#Penguins#KingPenguins#Southern Ocean #Conservation
Standing at the edge of a king penguin colony on South Georgia is an overwhelming sensory experience. Fluffy brown chicks, their bellies sagging with food, are whistling for their parents—and more to eat. Adults are trumpeting, displaying, grooming—and some are just in from the sea with squid to regurgitate to their offspring. It’s easy to see why the early whalers who came here thought they were looking at two separate species of penguin. But underneath each chick's downy feathers, there is a sleek black-and-white bird with bright orange neck patches waiting to make an appearance. Follow us @FransLanting and @ChristineEckstrom as we return to South Georgia to share more stories of the remarkable wildlife there. #SouthGeorgiaIsland#KingPenguin#Wild
“Dutch Light” The view of Amsterdam’s Singel Canal from our hotel window yesterday gave me a sense of the magical quality of light in the Netherlands, which is famous for having inspired artists here for centuries. Painters like Vermeer, Monet, and Mondriaan were captivated by the luminous light in a country writers have described as “a land of water and sky” and “bathed in light and air.” Yesterday was one of those days of glittering radiance and mesmerizing reflections. Thank you @FransLanting for sharing Holland with me. (Photo made with my iPhone) #Amsterdam#DutchLight#Netherlands#Reflections
When @FransLanting received the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in London the other night, memories of our fieldwork around the world came flooding back for both of us—including our work on assignment for @natgeo in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. We were feeling invincible then, and I was feeling at one with the Okavango when I dove in to flow with the current and the soft ribbons of aquatic plants in the heart of the swamp. But I wasn’t thinking about the Delta’s prolific crocodiles—and luckily, the crocs weren’t thinking about me. Follow us @FransLanting and @ChristineEckstrom for more stories of wildlife and wild places.
Last night, @FransLanting was honored with the first Lifetime Achievement Award at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year gala ceremony in London’s magnificent Natural History Museum, and he was presented with a beautiful sculpture of a bull elephant. When I looked at the sculpture closely, I recognized the individual elephant! It was "Survivor," a famous elephant in Zambia's North Luangwa National Park, who has a distinctive hole in one ear. Survivor lived through a poaching holocaust in the 1980s and he was written up in Mark and Delia Owens' books "Eye of the Elephant" and "Survivor’s Song." We learned that the sculpture was inspired by a photo Frans had made years ago of Survivor. I can hardly contain my amazement, but even more, this lovely depiction of Survivor is such a validation of Frans's fundamental belief that every animal is a unique individual, worthy of our respect. I share that belief with all my heart. There is a new elephant poaching crisis now, we are sorry to say. Frans and I respectfully ask that you consider supporting the organizations that can help stop the killing and secure a future for elephants. Proceeds from a limited edition print of Frans’s image entitled "Twilight of the Giants" will benefit their cause. Check the link in Frans’s bio @FransLanting to learn more. @elephantcrisisfund@savetheelephants@wildaid@wildnetorg@nhm_wpy@lizbonnin@eichhornruth#elephants#elephantcrisisfund#ivory#nhm_wpy
A flash flood was just subsiding when I trudged through muddy waters in Utah's Paria Canyon. We backpacked there for five days, and rode out the flood camped on a ledge inside the canyon, whose towering red rock walls have been sculpted by water over the eons and are awesome to behold. This spectacular place is part of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area on the border of Utah and Arizona. Paria is a masterpiece of nature, and it is one of many of America’s national public lands that are held in trust for all of us to experience. But like everything we consider precious, we have to work to keep these places protected. Many of our public lands are now under assault by those who want to open them to exploitation by private interests or sell them off for short-term gain. I encourage you to join the fight to preserve our public lands. This land is our land. Photos by @FransLanting
This is a moment I’ll always remember, standing in the heart of the great sand sea of Namibia, in the southwest corner of Africa. Around me stretched miles of golden dunes, rolling in waves to every horizon. This area is known as the Sperrgebiet—German for “Prohibited Zone”—a former diamond-mining concession that was off-limits for nearly a century. That is part of what kept it pristine, and now it’s a national park. Namibia as a nation is less than 30 years old, but it has made groundbreaking moves, including making environmental protection and conservation of its natural resources a part of its constitution--the only nation in the world to do so. I love to share stories of inspiration—they lift my spirit in the telling. Today is another day I’ll always remember, and I thank all of you who help support the causes Frans Lanting and I embrace and share in our social media. Photo by @FransLanting, who lifts my spirit every day. #Namibia#Solitude#Dunes#Sperrgebiet#Wild#Nature
One of the last strongholds in the world for black rhinos is Namibia, in the southwest corner of Africa. Frans Lanting and I traveled to a remote region there called Damaraland with Simson Uri-Khob, the CEO of Save the Rhino Trust. We wanted to catch a glimpse of the fabled desert rhino, and Simson guided us to a beautiful female and calf, who roam free in a landscape with no fences. I share this video in celebration of World Rhino Day, September 22, and urge you to support the people and organizations who are working hard to secure a future for rhinos in the wild.
Photo by @FransLanting. He is a primate the size of a human hand, and we encountered him in the jungle of northern Borneo. He’s a tarsier, and his features are designed for nighttime hunting—powerful legs to jump, sucker pads on his fingers and toes for clinging, huge radar ears to detect the slightest sound—but it’s his eyes that are truly extraordinary: They are 150 times bigger in relation to his size than are ours. He opens them wide to see through the darkness and hunt insects like katydids on the blackest of nights. Scientists consider tarsiers to be a model for the very earliest primate from which all others evolved long ago, and the way they touch our human emotions shows the connections we share. Follow us @ChristineEckstrom and @FransLanting for more wonders from the animal world. @thephotosociety#Borneo#Primate#Jungle#Rainforest#Tarsier#Wonder