Mar 21

An Ark on Film

“It’s about helping people make an emotional connection to the animals through photography,” says Dennis Pate, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s director and CEO, of photographer Joel Sartore’s Photo Ark.

The Photo Ark is Sartore’s quest to photograph every living animal in human care and has already been featured on 10 simultaneous covers of National Geographic magazine, as well as photo projections on the United Nations and Empire State buildings, and St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Beginning in April, the zoo will host a very special exhibition of the images.

“The animals are all shot with white or black backgrounds, and it just gives you a deeper look into their soul when you have an expert photographer behind the shutter. You can really grasp what will be lost if we don’t act,” Pate says.

The exhibition, which will include images from the Ark, as well as information about how the zoo is participating in global conservation efforts for those animals, is co-organized by the National Geographic Society and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. In addition to our zoo, it is already scheduled to appear at the Dallas and Cincinnati zoos, and Pate would like to see it continue to travel. “It’s hard to match the draw that zoos have,” he says, noting that our zoo alone had two million visitors last year. “That’s an incredible audience of people seeing these photographs, and we can use it to spur the public to play a bigger role in conservation.”

The partnership will also shine a light on the extensive conservation work that the Omaha zoo participates in all around the world. “Because we will be listed as a co-organizer, our name will be affiliated with this show wherever it travels in the world, as well as on social media,” Pate explains, citing National Geographic’s 41 million Facebook followers. “This is a way for us to talk about the work that we do in a way that engages the public.”

As zoos continue to achieve the higher purpose of serving animals, this engagement, as well as a strong education component, becomes more and more important. “Our education used to be underground… literally,” says Pate, noting that some classrooms were under Treetops restaurant. “Now, with the new Education and Exploration Center, it’s going to be one of the zoo’s primary architectural features.”

Making a special exhibit like the Photo Ark a reality takes a team of generous supporters. If you are interested in sponsoring a display or would like more information on the project, contact Kiley at 402-738-2073 or

Images from Joel Sartore’s Photo Ark will be on display at the zoo beginning on April 4.