A year ago, I did an interview for Forbes with British wildlife photographer Graeme Green, who had just begun a new initiative called the New Big 5 project. The name is derived from the “Big 5,” an old term used by trophy hunters in Africa for the five most prized and dangerous animals to shoot and kill: elephant, rhino, leopard, Cape buffalo and lion.
The aim of the New Big 5 was to come up with a big 5 of wildlife photography, rather than hunting. Shooting with a camera, in other words, not a gun. Wildlife lovers around the world were asked to vote for the 5 animals they’d like to be included in this big 5 of wildlife photography.
More than 50,000 wildlife lovers and travelers did just that and the results were announced today.
“The 5 animals that wildlife lovers around the world have voted to include in the New Big 5 of Wildlife Photography – elephants, gorillas, tigers, lions and polar bears – are not just some of the most beautiful, incredible animals on the planet, ” explained Green, a photographer and the Founder of the New Big 5 project. “All 5 also face serious threats to their existence. The New Big 5 are the tip of the iceberg. They stand for all the creatures on the planet, so many of which are in danger. From bees to blue whales, all wildlife is essential to the balance of nature, to healthy ecosystems and to the future of our planet.”
The project’s aim is to raise awareness about the crisis facing the world’s wildlife from threats including habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, poaching, illegal wildlife trade and climate change. From a travel standpoint, it raises awareness as the pandemic fades and travel to exotic places resumes.
Each of the 5 species in the New Big 5 face severe threats to their existence and are listed by the IUCN either as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. One million species currently face the threat of extinction. The animals in the New Big 5 can serve as global ambassadors for all the world’s wildlife and the crisis they face. All 5 animals are keystone species, essential to the balance of nature in their habitats, biodiverse ecosystems and the survival of other species. Each species is vital to the health of the planet and to our future.
Green enlisted the support of some major figures in world wildlife protection, wildlife photographers, conservationists and wildlife charities to aid with the New Big 5 initiative, including Jane Goodall, Pavan Sukhdev (WWF), Kaddu Sebunya (AWF), Save The Elephants, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Conservation International, Ewaso Lions, Polar Bears International, Wildlife Direct, IFAW, Orangutan Foundation, Save The Rhino International, WildAid, IUCN, Wildlife Trust Of India, and Save Pangolins.
Diversity on race and gender were a key part of the project, with more than 120 renowned, global, male and female supporting photographers from Kenya, Japan, Peru, USA, Lebanon, France, India, Rwanda, UK, and Australia, including Marsel van Oosten, Ami Vitale, Paul Nicklen, Gurcharan Roopra, Daisy Gilardini, Brent Stirton, Art Wolfe, Usha Harish, Marina Cano, Steve Winter, Suzi Eszterhas, Clement Kiragu, Joel Sartore, Xi Zhinong, Thomas Mangelsen, Jasper Doest, Rathika Ramasamy, Jo-Anne McArthur, Shogo Asao, David Lloyd and Melissa Groo, as well as actors, musicians and famous wildlife supporters, including Chris Packham, Levison Wood and Joanna Lumley.
The New Big 5, Green points out, creates a new Bucket List for travelers, wildlife lovers and photographers to experience in their lifetime. Tourism funds much of the world’s vital conservation work. The New Big 5 encourages travelers to visit the places where these five animals live, support conservation efforts, and learn about all the wildlife there and the threats they face. Visit the New Big 5 for more details.