Thomas Peschak@thomaspeschak

National Geographic Photographer // Storyteller // Conservation Biologist // NatGeo Explorer 🇿🇦

I want to conclude my weeklong focus on Namibia’s Mercury Island, with a gallery of some of my favorite African penguin pictures from my time on this remote seabird hotspot. Despite the islands diminutive size (3ha), it supports the largest African Penguin breeding colony in Namibia, with more than 15,000 individuals. Penguin numbers are declining all across the Benguela current large marine ecosystem, but this population appears more stable than the others. @natgeo


As promised here is a gallery of some of my favorite Cape Gannet photographs shot on Mercury Island off the coast of Namibia. This small gannet colony might not be the largest in the world, but its’ setting, with the imposing Namib desert as a backdrop is second to none. Namibia... you never cease to amaze me and that’s why I have been coming back again and again to this unique African country for almost 20 years. I would love to know which of these four images is your favorite. #onassignment @natgeo


Turn on the sound for this one ! Cape Gannets are wonderfully vocal 🎶 On Namibia’s Mercury Island Cape gannets, together with Bank cormorants and African penguins make up the bulk of the tens of thousands of seabirds that nest there. Photographing gannets in flight is most productive on windy days, when the birds often hover in place over the colony. Sometimes they hovered just inches above my head. Behind the scenes video of @thomaspeschak shot by @animal_ocean and edited by @ottowhitehead #namibia #africa #seabirds #seabirdcrisis #savingseabirds #mercuryisland


A few years ago I had the incredible privilege of spending a few weeks on Mercury Island. This rocky pyramid shaped fortress sits off Namibia’s desert coast and abruptly rises from the icy Atlantic Ocean. The island is a seabird sanctuary with few equals. To say that Mercury is remote is a understatement! From Cape Town it is a two day drive across the southern reaches of the Namib desert, followed by a wild 12 hour boat trip along one of the most desolate coastlines in the world. I love that in 2018 on a planet with 7.2 billion people, places like Mercury still exist. Unfortunately they are becoming rarer and harder to preserve. Being immersed in such a wild place gives me great joy. It inspires me to create photographs, tell stories and try to make a difference. I will be posting another video later today and a gallery of some of my favorite images from Mercury Island tomorrow. Video shot by @animal_ocean and edited by @ottowhitehead #africa #namibia #seabirds #mercuryisland #journey #skeletoncoast #atlanticocean


After a few days of heavy and gloomy posts about the global seabird crisis I thought the timing might be right for a less gory image. While photographing sea turtles in the Bahamas I also spent time documenting pigs that love both swimming and watermelon. These pigs have lived on a uninhabited island for more than 15 years and appear to survive mainly from daily fruit handouts provided by tourist boats. It appears that the popularity of this spot has resulted in other islands wanting to follow suit and purposefully introduce pigs for tourism. Unfortunately, despite their cuteness, pigs can also have major negative impacts on native fauna and flora, especially on small islands and the economic benefits might be outweighed by environmental impacts. A cautious approach and rigorous environmental impact studies will be key when considering creating new “swimming pig” tourism locations. Thanks to everyone who commented and initiated the conversation about the potential impacts of introduced species on islands.


I know it’s hard to believe, but this difficult to look at photograph of dead albatrosses and petrels illustrates a South African conservation success story. Fishing vessels offer a bonanza of food for seabirds, but they proved fatal to these birds caught and drowned in 2017 on tuna longlines off South Africa’s coast. Today however, thanks to more seabird friendly fishing practices (weighted hooks, night setting, bird scaring lines etc...) annual bird bycatch off South Africa has declined dramatically and now numbers only in the hundreds (instead of tens of thousands). Globally, however, more than 300,000 seabirds are killed by longlines alone. So if you eat fish caught by longline fisheries you may be contributing to the deaths of albatrosses. So please check your local sustainable seafood guide or App before your next fish dinner. Shot on assignment for @NatGeo working with @pryan_seabirds and @africanornithology


A historic photograph (1890s) of a once massive African penguin colony on Namibia’s Halifax Island, is a stark contrast to the scene I re-photographed in 2017. The colony probably once numbered more than 100,000 penguins, but today less than 2000 breed there. Historically the demand for guano (bird excrement used for fertilizer) and egg collecting were the principal causes of the decline. Today overfishing of sardines, the penguins’ preferred prey and climate change are preventing these charismatic seabirds from recovering to historical numbers. Unpublished photograph from our July 2018 @natgeo magazine feature ‘Lost At Sea’. This story about the global seabird crisis was written by @jonathan.franzen.official and photographed by @thomaspeschak


A Cape Gannet flies low over Malgas Island trying to land as close to its’ partner and nest as possible. If the bird lands too far away it will have to run through the crowded colony, enduring a gauntlet of stabbing beaks. These gannets can get pretty intense and vicious when dealing with interlopers. @natgeo #yearofthebird #seabirds #seabirdcrisis #savingseabirds #intense #southafrica


The first of five behind the scenes videos showing life on-assignment for @natgeo magazine on sub-Antarctic @marionisland. I spent three weeks trekking across this remote southern ocean Island photographing its diverse cast of seabird characters for the July 2018 NGM story “Lost At Sea’. At Kildalkey Bay I came across thousands of king penguins in the surf zone negotiating big seas before returning to their colony. Video shot by my fantastic assistant and videographer @ottowhitehead In collaboration with @environmentza and SANAP


Rockhopper penguins live up to their name on sub-Antarctic Marion Island. They navigate the treacherous lava rock that blankets the steep western coastline with surprising grace and ease. Shot on assignment for @natgeo magazine in collaboration with @environmentza Check out our story ‘Lost at Sea’ in the July 2018 issue of National Geographic Magazine. To find out more and help protect penguins and albatross on this remote island please follow my friends at @marionisland


After spending up to an hour feeding on seaweeds in the frigid, upwelled waters of the western Galapagos, cold blooded marine iguanas have to regain body heat fast. They cluster together on rocky shores in such densities that the black lava rock, heated up by the sun becomes almost completely obscured by a puzzle of scales, tails, snouts and crests. Shot on assignment for @natgeo in collaboration with @darwinfound and @parquegalapagos


Aerial photography is one of my passions, I love to hang out (tied into a safety harness) of helicopters and document the sheer exuberance of our planet from above. I have been fortunate to witness some incredibly scenes, but flying over the Amirantes Islands in the Seychelles was a very special moment. The kaleidoscope of the deep blue sea, yellow sandbanks and glowing turquoise lagoon of St. Joseph atoll made for a sight I will never forget. This ring of islands was once commercially exploited for fish and coconuts but today it is protected and prized for its marine biodiversity and seabird colonies. The island is managed for conservation by the @saveourseasfoundation Shot on assignment for @natgeo magazine for the March 2016 story “Return to the Seychelles”. #seychelles #island #islandlife #islands #aerialphotography