Pete Muller@petekmuller

National Geographic Photography Fellow. Visual case studies on human ecology, masculinity and conflict. Nairobi, Kenya.

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/09/elephant-rescue-pete-muller/

473 posts 160,655 followers 420 following

The vast plains of Kenya’s Maasai Mara come into view as we descend from the @angamasafari lodge, high on the adjacent hills. At the end of heavy seasonal rains, the Mara is green and lush, attracting large numbers of animals. It’s my first time to stay on the hills above and in so doing, I find myself considering what it must have been like for our distant human ancestors to leave the relative safety of the forests and venture out onto the savanna. While teeming with life and possibility, one can imagine that such landscapes were daunting for early humans, a species that possessed little in the way of competitive skills. We were comparatively slow and weak and lacked claws or large teeth. In those early days as we tested life on the plains, we were squarely in the middle of the food chain. For me—and I suspect many others—visiting the Mara touches something deep and primal within us, connecting us to the human story in ways few things can. #MaasaiMara #Mara #TheMara #Kenya #savanna #Angama #safari #wildlife #nature #adventure #Africa #green #animals

Angama Mara
73

A wasp going about his simple but interesting business. #wasp #nature #kenya #africa


13

I'd spent months imagining what they would be like. 26 minds, 10 nationalities at a small, all-female college in western Massachusetts. As I prepared the syllabus, I wondered how they might react to the concepts and materials that inform my work--some of which are controversial. I'd never taught a full semester course before--let alone one in which I would attempt to dissect photography, communication and the subjectivity of recorded experience. Each week I learned more from and about them--about what drives and irritates them, about their views and hopes of what's to come. Their curiosity and devotion was inspiring and their incisive questions forced me to reexamine many aspects of my outlook. For their final assignment, I gave them 250 photos from my extensive work on boyhood and masculinity from which they were to select and present only 15. An incredibly difficult and subjective task. Their frameworks for this exercise were astounding. Teaching at Mount Holyoke College was a high point of my career thus far. I look forward to returning next fall. #college #education #MountHolyoke #MHC #massachusetts #students #teaching #learning

Mount Holyoke College
51

My dear friend, @charliegaynor, in the living room of his home in Washington, DC. I met Charlie in 2008 when he was a Sunday regular at the bar where I worked. As we chatted, he revealed that he’d been an enlisted photographer during some particular tough years of the the Vietnam War. I asked if he had any pictures that he’d be willing to show and he said he did. He invited me to his place and produced a small, turquoise suitcase brimming with prints and negatives. Grunts and generals, fire bases and fancy offices. Vietnam, Cambodia, the home front. We poured over it for hours and, in the process, became fast and enduring friends. His energy and guidance remain very dear to me.


16

The Clearwater River winds through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho. The water moves swiftly over rocks yet remains gin-clear for a great many miles. I stop occasionally, collect my fly fishing rod and make a few casts along the banks. I never understood how disconnected I was from the rhythms of nature until I endeavored to catch fish with a fly. For over a year, I paid little mind to the basic disposition and desires of the fish I hoped to catch. I understood little about the entomology of the rivers in which I fitfully cast my line. I thought less about where fish might be or how I might entice them. I assumed that--by matter of miracle--a fish would simply take the fly. For longer than I care to admit, not a single one did. I could almost hear them laughing. As I explore issues related to humans and the natural world, fly fishing offers me perspective and humility. Follow @petekmuller on this unfolding journey for @natgeo. #idaho #clearwater #USA #nature #fishing #flyfishing #AmericanWest

Clearwater National Forest
43

Ground growth changes color along the Wallowa Mountain range in eastern Oregon. At this time of year, the air here is as brisk as it is fresh. I’m astounded by the variation in landscape in this part of the United States. High, sparsely-vegetated desert plains suddenly give away to green, snow-capped mountains. It’s a fascinating topographic shift that seems to have had an effect on social culture, too. I find autumn more invigorating and nostalgic than any other season. Thinking a lot about my relationship with the natural world—which has varied considerably over the years. #USA #Oregon #PNW #America #mountains #nature #wallowamountains #wallowas

Wallowa, Oregon
38

Descent in eastern Oregon. I’ve seen more of the world than I have my own country. For me, the American West has been a construct in my imagination—steeped in lore and sordid history. Growing up, my experiences were largely confined to the eastern states where my parents lived. My memories are of coastlines, tide pools and the comparatively modest White Mountains. Much of my life in the US was spent in densely settled communities, where a small yard was considered “space.” To me, these vast, rugged expanses are awe-inspiring and they breathe new life into my imagination about American history. This exploration is fascinating, particularly after so many years away. #Oregon #USA #thewest

Oregon
41

Shades of yellow along the banks of the Deschutes River in central Oregon. As I fished this wide and fast-flowing channel, I was overwhelmed by the smell of wild sage growing prominently along the banks. It was the second time in as many months that the defining element of a scene was its smell. I find this incredible and frustrating at once as it is one aspect of experience that simply cannot be shared. I can photograph the landscape and record the sound of the river’s flow but I have no tool that allows me to preserve and share that defining aroma. #nature #outdoors #fishing #USA #Oregon #west #Deschutes #river #flyfishing

Maupin, Oregon
20

Mohammed, a Kenyan wildlife ranger, monitors a person moving illegally through park lands at dawn along the Kenyan-Tanzanian border. I could tell immediately that Mohammed takes his work very seriously. He’s a scrappy character with a powerful drive to catch a punish poachers. Effective anti-poaching requires the mentality and discipline typically associated with professional soldiers. Mohammed is as fine and fierce a solider as I’ve ever encountered. #masaimara #kenya #africa #poaching #antipoaching #antipoacher #conservation #wildlife #nature #Africa

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
23

Kenyan and Tanzanian wildlife rangers gather for night operations along the border of their two countries. The same ecosystem spans the border, known as Masai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti in Tanzania. Rangers units from the respective countries collaborate in order to deter and disrupt poachers that operate on both sides of the border. While elephant poaching is down, particularly in Masai Mara, bushmeat hunting remains a persistent and consequently problem in the border zone. #masaimara #kenya #Tanzania #wildlife #conservation #poaching #antipoaching

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
8

After nearly an hour of commotion and excitement, rescue team members situate the elephant calf inside the plane that will carry him to the @dswt elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. Over the coming years, he’ll be cared for by the wonderful people at the Trust until he’s ready to re-enter the wild. I’m already in touch with the staff in Nairobi and will be checking in periodically until this young fellow is released back onto the savanna. Stay tuned for updates. #Conservation #elephantrescue #kenya #masaimara #wildlife #Africa

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
33

The rescue team struggles to load the elephant calf into the aircraft. #Kenya #masaimara #conservation #Africa #elephants #wildlife

Masai Mara National Reserve
14

The plane is tiny, a 12-seat Cessna. The door through which the team intends to load the elephant calf looks impossibly small. They make one unsuccessful attempt. Then another. The elephant is awkward, mildly awake and weighs about 1,000 pounds. The team repositions it’s massive body before making another attempt to lift it in. Lots of grunting, shouting and coordination. “Move left!” “Turn!” It’s a Herculean task. #Kenya #Africa #conservation #wildlife #masaimara #elephant #elephantrescue

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
18

The rains clear as the team arrives at the airstrip in Masai Mara. As time elapsed, the young elephant calf began to calm down. Each phase of the rescue was carefully coordinate in order to minimize stress to the calf. The initial sedation dart was not fired until it was confirmed that the transport plane was enroute. The process is inherently jarring for the animal but the team goes to great lengths to minimize the trauma. #Kenya #Masaimara #conservation #africa #wildlife #elephant #elephantrescue

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
7

After some time, the team succeeded in calming the elephant and loading it into the bed of a pickup truck. The elephant stirred and kicked as the truck careened along the gravel road towards the airstrip. Like people playing Twister, we found uncomfortable perches around the groggy but active animal. “Can he really wake up?” I asked the lead veterinarian. “Just keep your legs clear,” he said elusively with a smile. He shared a story of a colleague whose leg was badly broken in a similar situation.

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
7

Part 6: I was somewhat incredulous when the team said that they would simply “lift” the elephant calf into the bed of a truck in order to transport it to an airstrip. I often feel that such animals are deceivingly heavy. But, alas, with great determination this group of men successfully hoisted the young calf into the truck. It was incredible. #kenya #elephant #masaimara #rescue #conservation #wildlife #animals

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
8

Part 5: After a lengthy struggle, the team of rangers and veterinarians succeeds in bringing the calf under control. Covering his eyes encourages him to relax as they prepare to transport him to an airstrip. #Kenya #wildlife #masaimara #conservation #elephant #Africa #animals

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
3

Part 4: The nervous elephant calf, unaware of the team’s helpful intent, charged and trumpeted as men grasped at its tail and hind legs. It took several minutes—and a few close calls—for the team of rangers and veterinarians to bring the animal under control. #Kenya #masaimara #conservation #wildlife #elephant #animals

Masai Mara National Reserve
5

First, the veterinary team used a dart gun to administer a small dose of sedative, careful not to use too much. Once the sedative took effect, a team of rangers and vets set about safely taking down the calf. The process resembled calf-roping at a rodeo, but less graceful. The elephant, unaware of the team’s helpful intent, charged and trumpeted as men grasped at its tail and hind legs. The scene played out like a Marx brothers sketch on the open savannah. As a photographer, I wanted to capture the contorted faces of the vets and rangers as they struggled to—quite literally—catch an elephant by the tail. This forced me in front of the melee, standing before the struggling elephant like some kind of witless, accidental matador. The elephant seemed to surge new anger and energy each time it spotted me in its line of vision. I was in a precarious position. #Kenya #Africa #wildlife #conservation #elephant #orphan #rescue

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
29

Park rangers and vets rush toward an elephant calf during the initial stages of its rescue. This male calf, weighing somewhere in the range of 1,000 pounds, was spotted alone in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Park, in the country's southwest. It's not clear what happened to his mother, but a lone calf is vulnerable to predators. Given that African elephants are internationally listed as vulnerable to extinction, park officials are loathe to lose any, especially to avoidable circumstances. #kenya #masaimara #mara #elephant #wildlife #conservation #nature #africa

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
10

While on assignment for @natgeo in Kenya’s Masai Mara, I witnessed the rescue of a young, male elephant calf. He’d been separated from his herd and was therefore vulnerable to predators. Park officials launched a rescue operation that was inspiring, chaotic and comedic at once. Check out my dispatch on @natgeo. Link in bio. #Kenya #Masaimara #elephant #rescue #wildlife #conservation #africa

Masai Mara National Park KENYA
26

Shades of pale. Eastern Oregon. #Oregon #thewest #USA #america

Wallowa, Oregon
5

The mornings are brisk in Kenya's Muranga County, particularly at this time of year. Fog defines the early hours, especially in the county's upper reaches where the altitude climbs to nearly 6200 feet (1850 meters) above sea level. This rural county, approximately 2 hours north of the capital city of Nairobi, is home to lush and seemingly endless tea plantations, beautiful rolling hills and gin-clear rivers. While many relish Kenya's world-famous savannas, I often opt for its rich, green highlands instead. I pack my fly fishing rod, my pup, a few days worth of food and set out for these serene and restorative hills. #Kenya #Africa #nature #outdoors #green #fishing #flyfishing

Muranga County
12

Here's a self-portrait that I made while fishing with my dog, Mosi, along the banks of the Mathioya River in Kenya. Over the years I've taken countless pictures of the landscape, and of Mosi, and of Mosi in the landscape, but I really wanted a picture of all of us together. It's the obvious yet strange irony of being a photographer: your life is defined by and chronicled in pictures, yet you so rarely appear in any of them. #kenya #africa #fishing #flyfishing #adventure #nature #outdoors

Muranga County
51

Headed to new fishing beats along the Mathioya River in central #Kenya. #Kenya #flyfishing #Africa #outdoors #nature

Muranga County
35

Along the Mathioya river, the sound of rushing water makes the world beyond feel like tracing. Deep in Kenya's Muranga County, the river meanders between hills and sustains artisanal tea plantations, which in turn sustain the community. Foot paths span its banks, from which I cast my fly line with rainbow trout in mind. Owing to Muranga's high altitude, the days are both radiant and temperate at once, allowing for comfortable wading in pursuit of fish. In between assignments, I visit Muranga as often as I possible. It is, perhaps, the most serene and restorative place I know. #Kenya #Africa #rivers #outdoors #nature #fishing

Muranga County
30

Two elephants graze on the savanna in Kenya's Masai Mara National Park. After nearly a decade of living and working on the African continent, I am still amazed to watch these large creatures in the wild. And while we have ascribed a near-majestic status to elephants, it is important to remember they are but one component of a vast and interdependent ecosystem. #Elephants #africa #kenya #masaimara #maasaimaranationalreserve #conservation #wildlife #nature #animals

Masai Mara National Reserve
33

Thousands of wire snares, removed from areas of Kenya's Mara Triangle, stacked at a ranger station. Individuals from adjacent communities set the snares with the aim of trapping wildebeests and other animals for consumption as bushmeat. Occasionally, rhinos and other endangered species become tangled in them. I struggle at times with the definitions of "poacher." Sure, bushmeat hunting is problematic, but to me it is a different category than commercial ivory poaching. Unfortunately, the two are often conflated. #kenya #masaimara #maasaimara #conservation #wildlife #africa #animals #nature

Maasai Mara Conservancies
11

Kenyan rangers from the Mara Conservency set out on a foot patrol just before dawn. Each night, ranger units set up ambush points where the aim to disrupt & arrest potential poachers. Kenyan and Tanzanian rangers often work collaboratively and across borders in order to address shared concerns in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. This picture appears as it does because of the use of infrared technology. #conservation #kenya #maasaimara #masaimara #poaching #antipoaching #Africa #wildlife


13

A vet from the Mara Conservency readies a stimulant injection to wake a female rhino after he attached a tracking device to her ear in Kenya's Maasai Mara National Park.This rhino has been ranging farther afield in recent months, making her more vulnerable to poachers. Conservationists wanted to implant the device in order to gain a better and more consistent sense of her whereabouts. Rangers from the Mara Conservency work day and night to deter poaching threats to wildlife in the park. #wildlife #conservation #rhino #MaasaiMara #Kenya #nature #

Maasai Mara Conservancies
10