A Talk on the Wild Side.
"Confiscated" by Britta Jaschinski is the 2017 Grand Prize Winner of the California Academy of Sciences' BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition. See more winning images on bioGraphic. © Britta Jaschinski
When we crushed thousands of pounds of ivory in 2013 and 2015, we wanted to make everyone aware of the deadly crisis facing African elephants and other wildlife, and to let everyone know they have a role to play in fighting the scourge of wildlife trafficking. German photographer Britta Jaschinski already knew her role.
Her passionate photos tell stories about the relationship people have with animals and what the world could lose if this relationship isn’t nurtured.
For her latest series of photos – CRIMES, “Wildlife or Commodity?” – she visited the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Property Repository near Denver, Colorado. The repository stores wildlife and wildlife products seized by or forfeited to our special agents and wildlife inspectors. Sadly, the more than a million items in inventory from mounted tigers to monkey skulls and more amount to a fraction of the volume of items involved in the unlawful wildlife trade.
Jaschinski spent a week at the repository this past September photographing hundreds of items. Everything from the foot stools seen in this photo to giraffe heads to a shopping cart full of skins, elephant ivory and tiger mounts.
“I thought I was well-prepared because I read quite a lot about the repository, seen photos and watched a couple of short videos,” she says. “But nothing can prepare you for this collection of hideous items that are produced from so many different beautiful and fascinating species, which were once alive and then slaughtered in the name of status, greed and superstition.”
"Thanks to the repository and their incredible efforts," she adds, "we can at least learn about this brutal and ruthless trafficking and consider our options for the future to hopefully end this meaningless and worthless demand."
It was at the repository that she took the photo Confiscated, the photo above, recently won the grand prize in the BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition.
Here is what she says about it:
These stools are only an example of the many items that people try to smuggle through borders and airports across the globe.
Trolleys are used to move the confiscated items around the warehouse. I placed the body parts on this specially hand painted backdrop to create a sense of dignity for the objects and pay respect to the animals that lose their lives in the name of status, greed and superstition.
Elephants are being killed faster than they can reproduce; if left unchecked, this could lead to the extinction of the world’s largest land mammal.
Her bio says, “Her photos are troubling, unsettling, sometimes hard-hitting and yet beautiful.” Confiscated is that. Thank you, Britta, for shining a haunting and beautiful spotlight on wildlife trafficking.
Matt Trott, External Affairs