Brent Stirton@brentstirton

Special Correspondent Getty Images/Fellow National Geographic Society

www.brentstirton.com/

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Brent Stirton

In the October issue of @NatGeo magazine myself and writer @PeterGwin examine the current state of #Falconry. Arabian falconers have contributed a great deal to the recovery of falcons since the time of #D.D.T and the #SilentSpring. Sheikh Butti Maktoum of the #UAE was among the very first to embrace captive bred falcons, helping to influence falconers away from the illegal trade of wild capture towards captive bred birds. @Unesco has subsequently endowed falconry with the title of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The U.A.E sponsors nesting sites and pylon protection in Mongolia to protect falcons on migration, they intensively breed #HoubaraBustard prey species for falcon hunting to minimize impact in host countries. The falcon hospitals of the UAE are something to behold as are the relationships between certain falconers and their birds, far surpassing notions of what is possible between man and raptor. Peter and I spent time with the influential breeding maestro Howard Waller. His relationship with Sheik Butti represents a perfect example of how the natural world can unite people in a common mission despite huge cultural differences. There’s great potential for better understanding between Islam and the West through the lens of conservation, a higher value system that should unite us all. @natgeo #falcons #conservation #UnitedArabEmirates #Falconry #berghwing #royalshaheen #peregrinefund #nationalaudubonsociety #unesco


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Brent Stirton

I had the pleasure of working on #Falcons for the October 2018 issue of the National Geographic Magazine. In #Mongolia I worked with the wonderful Batbayar Bold, a member of the Mongolian Wildlife Science and Conservation Center. The key issue we focused on was the danger posed by electric pylons and how they kill millions of raptors every year. ⠀
In numerous studies of mitigation measures, the use of perch deflector spikes on the cross arms of line poles reduced #electrocution rates when 3 or 4 spikes were deployed. Perch deflectors work by reducing the opportunity for birds to perch adjacent to pin insulators rather than by reducing the frequency of #birds perching on the cross arm. At anchor poles, a simple reconfiguration of jump wires at two phases so that they passed under the cross arm rather than over, significantly reduces electrocution rates. These mitigation measures potentially represent an inexpensive method to reduce the frequency of #raptor electrocution in regions where cost is a key factor for power line managers in determining whether or not any form of mitigation is used. The Mongolians made a case study of one 100-kilometer section of powerlines on the steppe for a 1-year period, in that time, over 320 rare #Saker Falcons were found electrocuted from that small sample area alone. Thousands of other birds were also killed. It wasn’t hard to see how the millions and millions of miles of powerlines around the world devastate the global #bird population. On a more positive note, I also got to see a project where the Mongolians have erected thousands of artificial nesting sites on the barren Steppe, as well as spend time with Boldbaatar Batjargal, a Mongolian master #falconer, who is as close to these birds as anyone on the planet. I watched him imprint himself on a Saker falcon mother, so he could disentangle one of her chicks from plastic in the nest which was deforming the chick’s foot and threatening its future. What followed from the mother bird truly looked like gratitude. @natgeo #falconry #conservation #endangeredspecies


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Brent Stirton

ZAKOUMA NATIONAL PARK, CHAD. Djime Said, 50, is the lone survivor of a Conservation Ranger massacre at Heban, Chad. Six Zakouma rangers died in an attack by poachers who were members of the Sudanese military. A few weeks earlier, the Rangers found the poachers camp and took all their ammunition, their poached ivory and provisions. The poachers were out of camp at the time. Those poachers then planned a counter-attack that began just before first light while the Rangers were sleeping. They would have awoken to a hail of A.K rounds, the last sound they would ever hear. Djime Said was employed as a cook with the rangers in the rainy season. In his account, he said the night was very still when suddenly there was heavy firing out of nowhere. He found himself rolling down the steep hill that made up the Ranger post at Heban. He was shot but managed to hide away for the day and then come back to the camp that night where he confirmed that all the rangers were dead and the camp looted. He spent the next week trying to get help, two days of which were spent wading through a dense swamp on his way to aid. He received $2000 compensation from the Chadian government for his injuries but told me he no longer wanted to work for Zakouma after this experience. Since the time of the attack, the parks “Mamba” teams have greatly improved security, this coupled with better relations with the nomads in the region have developed an intelligence network that safeguards both the animals and the people trying to protect them. Every year many rangers die protecting a global heritage, they work for a pittance and endure conditions most humans would balk at. They do most of that with a smile on their faces. Surely we owe them more. @AfricanParksNetwork @zakouma_national_park #conservationrangers @natgeo #survivors


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Brent Stirton

Recently I worked with @HumanRightsWatch in the #Brazilian #Amazon on a 9-day story where HRW investigators compiled evidence of abuses against #indigenouspeople by illegal loggers. We looked at three different groups in the #BrazilianAmazon, two of these groups had very little funding and were doing simple forest patrols, bike patrols and simple roadblocks to try and protect their land, the third has benefited from a compensation deal with a mining company and are able to launch more sophisticated patrols to protect their land. It was way too short a time for great investigative pictures, but this is some of what I saw. In the first pic is the impressive Evandor Gaviao, 30, and his adopted son. Evandor is the young chief of the village of Governador, the central village in the tribal area for Gaviao Indigenous people. TI Governador is the ancestral territory of the Gavião people; it encompasses 42,000 hectares of Amazon forest. Governador has been noticeably affected by deforestation, with whole areas razed of trees, dry riverbeds and frequent forest fires. People in this village say that the old days were better, their forests held more animals for hunting, more fruit and there were no problems with loggers illegally cutting their timber. In the village of La Goa Comprida in Arariboia Indigenous territory, illegal loggers attacked locals when the locals confiscated their logging vehicles. One indigenous man, Tomes, was killed defending his wife and a logger was also shot. Tomes is survived by 2 daughters Graca Guajajara and Jaciane Guajajara. They remain in a deeply saddened state about his killing. This village has little real funding, but they continue to send out forest guardians. These consists of motorbike patrols when they have fuel. Chief Antonio Wilson Guajajara from the village of Macaranduba in the Karu #Indigenous Territory is seen on the bank of the river flowing through his territory. The women of the village have learnt to fly a drone and work together with the men to reinforce these patrols. Indigenous people have a major role to play in conservation, but they need the Brazilian government to step up and protect them in order to do it.


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Brent Stirton

I shot this #elegant lady on a recent road trip across Namibia, 2500 kilometers in 4 days. She is a General in the #Herero People’s army of Namibia, a symbolic movement meant to keep alive the memory of #genocide against the Herero. The General stands on a hill overlooking one of the biggest battle sites of the conflict. The Herero and Nama genocide was a campaign of racial extermination and collective punishment that the German Empire undertook in German South West Africa (now Namibia) against the Ovaherero and the Nama. It is considered the first genocide of the 20th century. This took place between 1904 and 1908 and began when Samuel Maharero and Nama led by Captain Hendrik Witbooi, rebelled against oppressive German colonial rule. The Herero say that at least 65,000 of their people died, many from starvation and dehydration as they were forced into the desert. Many others died in concentration camps where sexual slavery, medical experimentation and other atrocities were well documented. In 1985, the United Nations' Whitaker Report classified all this as an attempt to exterminate the Herero and Nama peoples of South West Africa, and therefore one of the earliest attempts at genocide in the 20th century. In 2004, the German government recognized and apologized for the events, but ruled out financial compensation for the victims' descendants. The Herero sued the German state for the first time in 2001 and are doing so again this year in a New York court. Germany has acknowledged the genocide but already gives significant aid money to Namibia every year and will not enter into negotiations for Herero reparations. #caneosr. #liveforthestory #mirrorless #eosr #hereropeople


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Brent Stirton

This is an image of illegal #ivory seized in Kenya destined for Japan. The hundreds of ivory tubes are pre-cut “hankos,” a highly desirable personal stamp in Japan. Ivory in Japan plays out in musical instruments, hankos and netsuke, small ivory carvings. On more than one occasions I was offered ivory that it is illegal to export. Online, Yahoo! Japan offers illegal ivory for sale immediately accessible to a consumer market. In a recent environmental investigation, I worked with National Geographic writer Rachel Nuwer to examine Japan’s decision to continue with its domestic ivory market, despite China closing theirs in January 2018. This makes Japan the largest legal ivory market in the world. They have taken an attitude similar to their stance on whaling, placing a sense of nationalistic pride ahead of the lives of #elephants, some of the most sentient and #endangered animals on the planet. Japan has consumed ivory from at least 262,500 elephants since 1970, the vast majority from large, mature adults, according to Allan Thornton, president of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Japan’s ivory industry today, Thornton adds, is “greater than any other nation on Earth.” While China had some 170 ivory outlets nationwide prior to its ban, Japan has 8,200 retailers, 300 manufacturers, and 500 wholesalers. “In the 1980s Japan was so notorious, not only in terms of the volume of ivory it consumed but also for illegal trade,” says Isao Sakaguchi, a professor of international relations and global environmental governance at Gakushuin University, in Tokyo. “Japan was responsible for the near extinction of African elephants in most of their range states.” Legal trade in ivory inevitably creates loopholes for illegal trade and #Japan has loopholes you can drive a ship through. National Geographic writer Rachel Nuwer has done a superb job of reporting on the implications of Japan’s decision to continue with their ivory trade. I would urge anyone who cares about animals to read this illuminating feature on @natgeo online. The link: https://on.natgeo.com/2QWpfCT⠀
#illegalivory @eiaenvironment #ivorytrade #endangeredanimals #japanivory #liveforthestory


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Brent Stirton

I recently worked on #Trachoma blindness with @ITIatlanta in #Ethiopia. This enabled me to continue my personal work on #blindness. According to the @WorldHealthOrganisation , there are 45 million blind people in the world, 40 million of whom don’t have to be. #Trachoma is like many forms of blindness, a war of attrition against sight that can be won through simple access to #cleanwater, #sanitation and access to #eyecareprofessionals. Trachoma often occurs when #chlamydia from human excrement is spread to the eye by flies, a situation exacerbated by a lack of adequate #latrines. This condition causes a roughening of the inner surface of the eyelids which begins to scratch the surface of the eye, resulting in constant and terrible pain for the victim, many of whom endure this condition for years without help. If left unchecked, repeated infections can lead to permanent blindness as the eyelids turn inward. The simple administration of a specialized antibiotic, in this case #Zithromax, can prevent the condition. A simple half-hour operation for advanced Trachoma can peel back the eyelid and reverse the condition. This often takes place in school classrooms with local anesthetic. This mini essay attempts to show the work of community health workers both in the community and at small clinics, it also shows communities responding to their advice and digging latrines and taking the meds. Donkeys are often used to get the meds out to local clinics. Blindness is absolutely my worst nightmare as an affliction, watching your world grow ever darker and more painful on a daily basis or watching it happen to your child should never be allowed to happen. I saw entire families afflicted with Trachoma during this story. Having to ask your own child to yank out your eyelashes as a method of pain relief just seems wrong to me. Sight should be a basic human right, anything we can do to preserve it should be a given. In Africa there is an expression often used for the blind: “A mouth with no hands,” this speaks to the wider effect of blindness in impoverished communities. #endtrachoma @taskforceforglobalhealth #liveforthestory


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Brent Stirton

JOMBA, #VIRUNGANATIONALPARK, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Yesterday I posted about good people doing great work in a tragic situation. Today I wanted to do something positive for #WorldGorillaDay . I have been incredibly lucky to work inside #Virunga National Park's #mountaingorilla sector a few times. My job means I get to spend a little more time than most with these incredible #animals. Occasionally that results in magic moments like this where I am able to be meters away from giant #silverbacks who are as curious about me as I am about them. There are only around 40-50 of these alpha males in the world. I saw these 2 silverbacks from the Mpua family in the Jomba rainforest of Virunga, it's very unusual to see them hanging out together like this, usually they are pitted against each other for leadership. Virunga is a tough place for #conservation, recently a female ranger was killed and the park shut down tourism for a while. They are gearing up to open again and if you have the chance, I would encourage you to go and see these magnificent animals in the flesh. There is nothing like locking eyes with one of these Silverbacks and feeling what can only be described as a human connection. Frankly, the first time it happened to me, it changed my whole career path and my thinking about the world I was covering. I think Virunga is the best place in the world for this experience, the most authentic way to spend time with these incredible animals. It doesn't hurt that its also the cheapest and that you are helping support #conservationists who need it most.
#democraticrepublicofcongo #liveforthestory #gorilla @virunganationalpark


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Brent Stirton

On this #worldrhinoday I would like to pay tribute to a South African organization called @savingthesurvivors . Saving the Survivors was founded in 2012 by veterinarian Dr Johan Marais to “attend to injured #endangeredwildlife that have fallen victim to #poaching or traumatic incidents.” Dr Marais and his team have cared for the most traumatically injured rhino, animals whose very faces have been removed by the unspeakable #cruelty of the poachers axe. These #rhino were never meant to survive but despite waking up bullet ridden and without a face, these animals have demonstrated an indescribable will to live. Dr Marais and his team help them to do exactly that, allowing these survivors come back to life despite their suffering. There are a number of worthwhile organizations in South #Africa working on the rhino crisis but today I would direct your attention towards Saving the Survivors. They open themselves up to tragedy with a breath-taking optimism, caring for animals most of us would not believe in. There is a lot of talk about the front line of #conservation; these people genuinely embody that in a unique way. If you would like to help, they can be reached at www.savingthesurvivors.org and #savingthesurvivors
#rhinos #southafrica #liveforthestory #animalwelfare


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Brent Stirton


KANGATOSA, TURKANA, KENYA: Lake #Turkana #tribeswomen #greet each other in the #traditional way by touching heads. Greetings in this manner are thought to originate from the actions of cattle, a gentle touching of #heads conveying trust and ease. Turkana remains a contentious area, with oil controversy amongst locals as well as Ethiopian dams dramatically diminishing flow into Lake Turkana from its largest fresh water tributary, Ethiopia's Omo River. Lake Turkana is the world’s largest desert lake. Located in Kenya’s remote northern arid lands, it is the most saline of Africa’s great lakes, and its vast aquatic resources contribute to the livelihoods of over 300,000 people, including pastoralists, fishermen and tourism operators. Its ecology supports a host of local and migratory bird and wildlife populations. The lake inflow hydrology has already changed. That means that nutrient inflows and their distribution through the lake have also been affected. Changes in the lake’s ecological diversity will, in turn, affect the lake fisheries. The management of the Lake Turkana National Parks can certainly be improved. The county governments should be involved, and the World Heritage Fund can potentially assist. The entire lake will benefit as a result. And there is still time for Ethiopia to review its ambitious, thirsty irrigation development plans in the lower Omo, admit the impacts, and reconsider the worth of sacrificing unique natural capital, and perhaps restore meaningful ecological floods into the lake too. I got a lot of these fact from an article by Sean Avery, a Chartered Consultant in Hydrology and Water Resources, Associate of the Department of Geography, University of Leicester. This article was originally published on The Conversation. https://qz.com/africa/1324511/ethiopia-kenya-fail-with-lake-turkana-unesco-world-heritage-site/
#laketurkana #liveforthestory


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Brent Stirton

Here’s a picture of local #porters waiting out a #rain storm as they carry tourist bags up #Nyiragongo, an active volcano inside #Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Africa’s first National Park is currently closed to tourism. This is due to an incident where two tourists were briefly kidnapped and a female ranger, Rachel Baraka, was tragically shot. Eastern #Congo has an embattled history but since 2014 this unique #park has opened to and received over 17,000 tourists, each vital to the economy of the park. At this time all tourism is on hold while the security situation is assessed. In my experience, Virunga is the best Mountain #Gorilla viewing in the world, it’s also way cheaper and more authentic than Rwanda and Uganda. From the Gorilla sector you can look across at Nyiragongo, which you can climb and view the largest lava lake in the world. While you are doing this, you get to support some of the most deserving #Rangers on the planet as well as bring funds to some of the most impoverished communities in #Africa. Virunga will reopen to tourism and when it does I would encourage anyone with a sense of #adventure to go and take a look for themselves. It’s an amazing place that we need to keep alive.⠀
#liveforthestory #easterncongo #virunganationalpark #africanlife @virunganationalpark


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Brent Stirton

I broke my #glasses recently in Cameroon, today I went to an optician in Johannesburg and got a new pair. Simple and easy, all it took was being in a place where I could access and afford a professional. It made me think of this old gent I met in rural #Zambia, a lovely man who had been wearing the same glasses for over 15 years. The #lenses were so scratched that it was hard to believe he could actually see through them. The frame was held together with wire and when I asked him if I could see his eyes, deep-set and permanent #cataracts looked back me from a #weathered face. I asked him why he hadn’t been to see a doctor for his #eyes when he first started having problems. He told me there was no eye doctor for at least three hundred miles and how was he going to afford the transport to see him anyway. He laughed at my naivety and then walked back to his village leaving me feeling like a fool. Which I was. ⠀
#liveforthestory #oldman #eyesight #weatheredface #blackandwhite


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