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Three-Part Series Rare - Creatures of the Photo Ark Premieres Summer 2017 on OETA
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Renowned National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore is a natural-born storyteller. His Photo Ark project is a digital “collection” of the world’s rare and at-risk mammals, fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles and insects, and the focus of RARE—Creatures of the Photo Ark. This captivating new three-part series, produced by WGBH Boston and premiering on PBS in Summer 2017, follows Sartore as he documents threatened species in the wild, at zoos and in nature preserves. Throughout RARE, scientists and naturalists reveal surprising and important information about why ensuring the future of these animals is so critical. Follow Sartore’s adventures at #RarePBS.

Author, conservationist and National Geographic Fellow, Sartore has traveled to nearly 40 countries to photograph 6,395 species for the Photo Ark to date, including 576 amphibians, 1,839 birds, 716 fish, 1,123 invertebrates, 896 mammals, and 1,245 reptiles. When complete the Photo Ark will be one of the most comprehensive records of the world’s biodiversity. Through RARE, audiences can journey with Sartore across the globe—to Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania—to chronicle his experiences.

“Viewers will see the spectacular variety and beauty of these animals, large and small, whose lives are intertwined with ours,” said John Bredar, executive producer of RARE and VP of National Programming for WGBH. “The loss of biodiversity exacts a toll on all our lives.”

Most days, Sartore has the best job in the world: in the premiere episode of RARE, prankish semi-habituated lemurs playfully crawl over him at Madagascar’s Lemur Island rehab center, during one of his easiest photography shoots. Others are more challenging:  as no amount of tasty, tempting raw carrots can persuade a 500-pound, 150-year-old giant tortoise to stand on his mark or get ready for his close-up. Likewise, in Florida, a photo of an elusive bunny taking refuge near an active U.S. Navy airstrip has taken four years to procure for the Ark. It’s all in a day’s work….

Sartore knows he is in a race against time. Sometimes he is able to photograph 30 to 40 species in a few days. Others are disappearing before he can get to them. RARE looks at factors driving extinction, including deforestation, rising sea levels, invasive species, pollution and human development, all impacting creatures essential to the world’s ecosystems.

“In RARE, we want to share Joel’s passion and knowledge, as well as document this ground-breaking project.  We hope audiences will be inspired and motivated to make changes in their own lives,” says Laurie Donnelly, executive producer of RARE and director of Lifestyle Programming at WGBH, where she has overseen series such as I’ll Have What Phil’s Having and Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler.

also takes viewers back to where it all began, visiting the first animal Sartore ever shot for the Ark in his Nebraska hometown at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo: the naked mole rat. Blind, buck-toothed and hairless, it is also cancer-resistant—and scientists are researching why. Sartore likes photographing the smallest creatures for the Ark because they’re often more important to the health of an ecosystem than the big ones.

Sartore has seen how photos can lead to change. His images of parrots in South America and koalas in Australia prompted local governments to protect them. In the U.S., coverage of the Photo Ark has helped to save the Florida grasshopper sparrow and the Salt Creek tiger beetle.

In RARE’s final episode, Sartore treks up a mountain in New Zealand to photograph a rowi kiwi, accompanying a naturalist to rescue its eggs successfully—without this intervention, there is only a 5 percent chance of survivability. But there are also losses: at the Dvur Kralove Zoo near Prague, in one of RARE’s most emotional moments, Sartore’s camera records a northern white rhino—a very old female and, at the time, one of only five remaining in the world.

“Fifty percent of all animals are now threatened with extinction, and it’s folly to think we can drive half of everything else to extinction but that people will be just fine,” says Sartore. “That’s why I created the Photo Ark. I hope seeing the images fills people with wonder and inspires them to want to protect these species.”

National Geographic will be showcasing the Photo Ark project throughout 2017 on multiple platforms, including exhibitions across the United States, a new book, The Photo Ark (National Geographic Books, March ‘17) and a children’s book, Animal Ark (National Geographic Kids Books, February ‘17). RARE will air internationally on National Geographic in September 2017. Photo Ark fans are invited to join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether and learn more about how to get involved with the project at

RARE—Creatures of the Photo Ark is a production of WGBH Boston and So World Media, LLC in association with National Geographic Channels.  Executive producers are John Bredar and Laurie Donnelly. Series producer/writer: Stella Cha. Producer/director: Chun-Wei Yi. RARE is made possible with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Kendeda Fund, the Candis J. Stern Foundation and public television viewers.