Joel Sartore's Photo Ark
For ten years, National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore has made it his life's mission to document species that are endangered or threatened with extinction.
Pictured: White-headed brown lemurs (Eulemur albifrons) at the Naples Zoo. The male (Barry) has the white face. His sister (Victoria) has the dark face. This was a brother-sister pair, and the last two of their kind in the Western hemisphere.
Like Noah, Sartore is fashioning an ark - a "Photo Ark" that currently houses images of more than 5,000 species. "It's supposed to just overwhelm people with what life looks like on Earth," he told CBS News' Martha Teichner.
Pictured: A springbok mantis (Miomantis caffra) at the Auckland Zoo.
A male Guianan cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola) at the Dallas World Aquarium.
Joel Sartore didn't set out to create a Photo Ark. It began as an act of desperation, when his wife, Kathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and he needed to stay home in Lincoln, Nebraska.
"I thought, I need to shoot something. Kathy's gonna be sick for a long time, and on the days when she felt better through her chemo cycles, I just needed something to shoot."
So this world traveler, who's shot 35 stories for National Geographic (including six covers), drove to the Lincoln Children's Zoo, a mile from his house, and asked if he could photograph the animals.
Pictured: A curl-crested aracari (Pteroglossus beauharnaesii), photographed at the Dallas World Aquarium.
"They let me take a naked mole rat and put it on a white background," Sartore said. "And then I did a couple of blue and black poison dart frogs, I think. And that was 5,400 species ago."
Pictured: A nautilus (Nautilus pompilius) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Cat Ba Langur
A golden-headed or Cat Ba langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus), a critically-endangered primate from Vietnam. There are just 55 of these animals left on Earth.
Himalayan Monal Pheasant
Pictured: A male Himalayan monal pheasant (Lophophorus impeyanus) at Pheasant Heaven, a private pheasant breeding center near Clinton, N.C.
Sartore has taken pictures at more than 200 zoos in the U.S. alone. He's not quite half-way through photographing all 12,000 animal species in captivity, and figures it will take him the rest of his life to finish.
Himalayan Griffon Vulture
Himalayan griffon vulture (Gyp himalayensis) at the Assam State Zoo in Guwahati, Assam, India.
So why shoot zoo animals? "Zoos often have the only populations of these animals - they're gone in the wild," said Sartore. "And if it weren't for zoos, a lot of these species I shoot would be extinct by now, hands down."
Pictured: Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) at the Gharial and Turtle Rehabilitation Center. This is a critically-endangered species, with fewer than 1,000 left in the wild.
Spectacled eider (federally threatened) at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska. The male is white with green in the head; the female is brown.
This bird has been in decline since the 1980s, attributed most likely to climate change and lead shot in their environment.
Colombian green jay or Inca jay (Cyanocorax yncas) at Parque Jaime Duque near Bogota, Colombia.
Horned screamer (Anhima cornuta) at the Aviario Nacional de Colombia.
Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) at the Newport Aquarium.
Harlequin Tusk (Choerodon fasciatus) at Pure Aquariums of Lincoln, Neb.
Red-Fronted Brown Lemur
A red-fronted brown lemur (Eulemur rufifrons) at the Plzen Zoo in the Czech Republic.
Northern White Rhinoceros
Nabire, a Northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) was one of the last five Northern white rhinos left on Earth. She died on Monday, July 27, 2015, just one week after this photo was taken at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. This species is critically endangered, and heading towards extinction.
A female African elephant (Loxodonta africana) at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
A federally-endangered female Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) at the Kamla Nehru Zoological Garden in Ahmedabad, India.
Red-Eyed Tree Frog
A red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis calidryas) at the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas.
Golden Snub Nose Monkeys
Golden snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana) at Ocean Park in Hong Kong.
Gee's Golden Langurs
A pair of endangered Gee's golden langurs (Trachypithecus geei) at the Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden in India.
Harapan, a four-year-old male Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), at White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Fla.
Gladys, a six-week-old baby gorilla, at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Giant Panda Cubs
Twin giant panda cubs, 100 days old, at Zoo Atlanta.
A five-month-old mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Its mother was most likely killed by a hunter on the island of Bioko.
A baby Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) named Aurora, with her adoptive mother, Cheyenne, a Bornean/Sumatran cross (Pongo pygmaeus x abelii), at the Houston Zoo.
A shoebill stork (Balaeniceps rex) at the Houston Zoo.
Terri, a hand-raised female rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) at the Cincinnati Zoo.
A gray-crowned crane (Balearica regulorum) with a pair of West African black-crowned crane (Balearica pavoninapavonina) at the Columbus Zoo.
Purple Glossy Starlings
Purple glossy starlings (Lamprotornis purpureus) at the Kansas City Zoo.
Portrait of an ocelot (Leopardis pardalis), a secretive species that is down to just a handful in the United States. Its population in Central and South America remains unknown.
Delhi Sands Flower-Loving Fly
Delhi Sands flower-loving fly (Rhaphiomidas terminatus abdominalis).
Sand Fiddler Crabs
Sand fiddler crabs (Uca pugilator) at Gulf Specimen Marine Lab and Aquarium in Panacea, Fla.
A lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery, Genoa, Wis.
Regal Goddess Nudibranch
A regal goddess nudibranch (Felimare picta) at Pure Aquariums, from the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab.
Angular Wing Katydids
Angular wing katydids (Microcentrum sp) at the Insectarium in New Orleans. These color variants are found in nature, though anything but green is usually eaten by predators immediately. The Insectarium has been a leader in breeding these color variants for display in the zoo community.
A weeper capuchin (Cebus olivaceus) at the Summit Municipal Park.
The National Geographic Photo Ark exhibitions are currently on display at zoos and museums around the world, including Southampton Arts Center (through September 8, 2019)
For more info:
joelsartore.com | The Photo Ark project
Follow @JoelSartore on Twitter and Facebook
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan