Portraits of America’s Endangered Species

Joel Sartore’s haunting photographs in “Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species” are a roll call of North America’s most endangered wildlife, and they present an urgent call to action in the fight to save plants and animals from extinction.

Rare Joel Sartore

“Rare” features studio portraits of 69 endangered species in North America, from polar bears to whooping cranes.


Content Tools

These photographs and the following text are an excerpt from Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species by Joel Sartore (National Geographic Focal Point, available March 16, 2010). Sartore has been a wildlife photojournalist at National Geographic for more than two decades. Rare is Sartore’s four-year investigation into the Endangered Species Act and the creatures it exists to protect. Listen to Joel discuss the book on MOTHER EARTH NEWS Radio . 

They say the true measure of a person, or of society, is how we treat the least among us.

Do we choose to save things that may contribute nothing to our bottom line?

If money is all that matters, then we’re headed for a very poor world indeed. Can you imagine a planet without wolves? Without frogs? Without pollinating insects?

Of course, the elephant in the room is human overpopulation. We’re nearing 7 billion people now, and the population continues to expand exponentially. As human culture overtakes the planet, other living things have less room and are pushed to extinction. It’s as simple as that.

So wouldn’t it be great to begin a national dialogue now about the importance of saving the wild places that remain and the species that live there?

To do this, nature must become more than just a faint notion to the masses, something that we like in the abstract but consider irrelevant to our daily lives.

We must realize that there’s more to life than the price at the pump and what’s on TV.

Indeed, there’s nothing more important than what’s going on with the rest of creation. Healthy forests, marshes and prairies keep our air and water clean. So when we save biodiversity, we’re actually saving ourselves.

Reprinted with permission from Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species by Joel Sartore, published by National Geographic Focal Point, 2010. Listen to Joel discuss the book on MOTHER EARTH NEWS Radio.