By Suzanne Vlamis

Trading Books with Jane Goodall

The day before my official book launch, I presented my first book “African Endangered” in a signed and numbered special Limited Edition to Jane Goodall at NYU on April 10th, 2017. I told Jane how she inspired me and my life, which I wrote about in my book, in which I also quote her prominently. Though I was put on a wait list for this ‘evening with Jane Goodall’, I arrived earlier than the 5:00PM requested time to gain entry. The ticket number I was ultimately issued was eleven. I said aloud ‘It’s a good omen since my book, the first in a series of four on the continents, debuts tomorrow April 11.’

Patience is the virtue you must always hang onto no matter what! Traveling on a world tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Jane Goodall Institute, and her 83rd birthday, Jane Goodall was visiting my Manhattan neighborhood. I had to make every effort to see Jane and share my mutual dream of a lifetime book come true in making this world a better place for future generations. My website also reinforces this.

Focusing on endangered species, indigenous cultures, and natural habitats, I made four journeys, covering seven countries over a four-year period between 2008 through 2011. The purpose — to raise awareness, appreciation, and advocacy for the African continent battling the illegal trade of endangered species, poaching, human trafficking and the ravages of global warming and shrinking natural habitats.

As I told Jane, ‘after growing up amidst concrete, asphalt, and glass,’ but with exposure to our urban wilderness, I found my vision which became my mission and my mission became my vision. For me, it is the gift of observation and photography that I found to be the most powerful tool to preserve and conserve Earth’s Edens of Earth for future generations. I shared with Jane that it took me close to 50 years to fulfill my Africa journeying, and envision myself as a steward of Earth each day whether in the Masaai Mara or Manhattan. As Jane Goodall says ‘every one of us makes an imprint every day on the planet and we must lead with head and heart.’

May all of you begin to see yourself as a caregiver of Earth as the power of one transforms into an empowering collective. My next book concerns Antarctica, then Australia and Alaska representing North America. Icebergs and penguin colonies are waiting in the wings to be released. Care, create and conserve.

If you would like to purchase a signed copy of my book please click here

By Suzanne Vlamis

Maasai Mara Portfolio Commentary

Maasai Mara National Reserve also known as the Masai Mara or the Mara is located in Kenya in eastern Africa and covers over 1,672 square kilometers. The Maasai Mara is not a national park but a designated game reserve because the Maasai tribal people have the right to graze their cattle on the land and also shoot animals if they are attacked. The reserve is an extension of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, comprising a small part of the Serengeti Plains ecosystem.  It is one of Kenya’s most unique areas because almost every animal species in relation to East Africa you can think of lives on this remote area of the continent with its red oat grasslands, thorn and Acacia trees. A memorable event is the mass migration of hundreds of thousands of zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest when they travel in January on their way north from the Serengeti Plains and arrive by July into August in the Maasai Mara as the dry season begins. In October the herds begin to move south and the cycle begins all over again.  I refer to the Mara is one of our endangered Edens of Earth to protect and preserve.  I envision returning to Kenya in the future in the peak of the migration.

FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPH — The aerial photograph of two Giraffes gracefully galloping across the sprawling Maasai Mara and sharing it with an African Elephant immediately after sunrise is my favorite image.  The firing up of a hot air balloon in pre-dawn’s darkness, and leaving the earth’s verdant surface amidst long shadows to silently float across landscape, defying gravity while suspended high above the earth as wildlife explores their African paradise in search of food, water and other wild animals is one of life’s unique moments.  The earth is moving beneath your feet, the passenger basket holding you glides, then speeds up to higher altitude as roaring flames fuel the balloon’s interior and a master pilot minds the wind steering us over one of our planet’s most spectacular terrains while its rare species awaken to a new day in Kenya’s African Eden of earth.

Ⓒ Suzanne Vlamis Photography

By Suzanne Vlamis

COMMENTARY – AFRICAN ELEPHANTS

The African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana) stands shoulder length 8 to 13 feet high, weighs upwards of 6 tons and measures 18 to 24 feet in length.  It is the largest land animal walking on Earth. Elephant herds are in 37 countries within Africa.

For the first 5 years, an elephant calf is totally dependent on its mother for nurturing, protection and food.

But, regrettably 96 elephants are killed every day in Africa as a result of poaching. Hence, over 30,000 are poached every year across the African continent.  At this alarming rate, in the next ten years African Elephants could face extinction according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

On March 3, 2015, which is World Wildlife Day and also known as Africa Environment Day, the theme was wildlife crime. Among world events, Kenya publically burned 15 tons of confiscated ivory and by the end of the year President Kenyatta pledged to destroy the entire stockpile.

Under a1989 ban by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), international trade of ivory is illegal.  However, China remains the driving global force because domestic trade is still legal there. The African Wildlife Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, and other world organizations are battling this world crisis.

On July 28, 2015, on his Kenya visit, President Obama announced a major, stronger ban on the United States’ domestic ivory trade.

Furthermore, on Sept. 25, 2015 President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced a shared commitment to end the global trade of ivory.  Poachers beware!

With global commitment, the lust for ivory must be curbed which is the key to saving the African Elephant, one of the world’s most endangered species.

FAVORITE PHOTO — JPEG 0550 – The bold portrait of a bull African Elephant bursting through the savannah of Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya at very close range with the ground trembling underfoot within the protective safari vehicle is a powerful image experience. Its sheer size, scarred skin, hulking torso, tattered, veined ears and swinging trunk…its radar… are its testament of survival in the wild as the world’s largest land animal.

Ⓒ Suzanne Vlamis Photography

By Suzanne Vlamis

South African Leopards – Portfolio Commentary

Of all the Big Cats of Africa including the African Lion, (Panthera leo) and African Cheetah, (Acinonyx jubatus), the African Leopard (Panthera pardus) is considered to be the most elusive and secretive, but also the most seductive as I witnessed while on safari in the Mala Mala Camp within the National Kruger Park in South Africa and the Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana, Africa.  Whether peering through the jungle foliage, and blending into the thick camouflage, or silently slinking through the savannah with impeccable grace and poise, the African Leopard is distinctively different in body, character, and behavior by comparison to the stately Lion, or wiry Cheetah.

As one of the “Big Five,” the African Leopard, along with the African Lion, African Elephant, African Buffalo, and Rhinoceros, is regrettably one of the most sought after targets of sport hunters and trophy hunting which is barbaric in this day and age, but regrettably brings large revenues to countries like Zimbabwe. It is also destroying the heritage and unique biodiversity of the African continent.

More activism and conservation awareness is essential to stop these primitive, greed-driven practices.

According to CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – ‘the African Leopard is threatened with extinction and is or may be affected by trade.’  The IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature – states ‘they may soon qualify for Vulnerable Status due to habitat loss and fragmentation; they are becoming increasingly rare outside of protected areas, and the population is decreasing.’

Worldwide African Leopard skins and body parts regrettably are pursued by poachers, profiteers and illegal hunters. Lawmakers and conservation organizations continue to fight for the Big Cats and other endangered species globally. Join in to take a stand now for wildlife in Africa and all the other continents.

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FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPH — South Africa 461.JPG, bold portrait of African Leopard, is my favorite photograph as it exemplifies that close encounter contact with wildlife in their natural habitat.  The serene facial expression, the compact physical beauty, and the cool emotion emitting as to what this African Leopard is thinking and feeling as it observes the naturalist/photographer, never ceases to enter my mind. Experiencing and capturing this fleeting moment in wild habitats is my special relationship with earth, its vast but beleaguered wild domains, and our continuing mission to protect and perpetuate the extraordinary, endangered animal species who inherit what I call our Edens of Earth.

 

Suzanne Vlamis Photography

By Suzanne Vlamis

African Lions – Panthero Leo- Portfolio Commentary

The African Lion (Panthero Leo) is the second largest cat after the tiger and exists almost exclusively in the continent of Africa in countries such as Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania where I photographed them over a three year period.  A small population of about 200 lions exist in Gujarat, India’s Sasam-Gir National Park created originally to protect this species. West Africa and Central Africa have significantly less lions versus eastern Africa.

The African Lion is seriously endangered today since less than approximately 32,000 now remain out of 100,000 plus which lived in Africa in the 1960s.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources estimates that over the past two decades the lion population has declined overall 30% approximately.

Poaching, trophy hunting, habitat loss, human population growth, conflict with humans and livestock, and the illegal trade of endangered species has contributed to the dramatic decline of African lions on their home territory of the savannahs.

African lions are considered to be the most social of the big cats and live together in groups known as “prides.” The females do most of the hunting while the males protect the territory from other lions and animals. As carnivores, males weigh between 330 to 550 pounds and females weigh between 260 and 400 pounds. Head to body length ranges from 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 feet long with tails measuring 26 1/4 ” to 39.5″ long.

The African Wildlife Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic Society and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources are among some of the leading global organizations advocating for protection and survival of Africa’s lions.

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FAVORITE PHOTO – The opening photo of the portfolio of eye to eye encounter with the awakening lion by the riverbank is an intense photographic experience acting as the ultimate personal metaphysical connection with a wild animal  It is a rare moment suspended in time because you wait what seems like eternity during photographic journeys to discover this level of connection in the wild. Very often it never happens, or it  takes years to have this wilderness epiphany.

When it occurs, it is a magical and mystical trans-formative revelation impossible to express verbally when you are actually experiencing that visual communion in their natural habitat, and above and beyond the lens that is between you and the subject. Reading Charles Darwin’s “The Expression and the Emotions of Man and Animals” gave me the heart and imagination at an early age to discover this type of wild communication. Born in an urban jungle, how blessed could a city girl get! This image is my thank you to Jane Goodall and Margaret Mead, Aesop’s Fables and adventurous Alice In Wonderland.

Ⓒ Suzanne Vlamis Photography

By Suzanne Vlamis

Sumatra Tigers – Portfolio Commentary

The Sumatra Tiger, which  originates from Indonesia’s Island of Sumatra, is among the rarest of the tiger breeds numbering approximately 300 in its wild habitat.  The world population of wild tigers is approximately 3200.  The demise of the tiger, which is considered the most endangered big cat, regrettably has been escalated by the demand for traditional Chinese medicine.  Its ancient beliefs attribute healing and sexual  powers to almost every part of the tiger from its long, black-ringed tail to its pristine white whiskers. Moreover, with China’s captive breeding farms, the luxury demand for tiger skins to decorate homes, the trophy hunts and shrinking natural habitats, have fueled the desire for tiger parts. According to the Convention on  International Trade of Endangered Species, it is wealth that is replacing health as the main source of consumers’ motivation and lust for luxury items. The vicious cycle of China’s captive breeding farms encourages the illegal poaching of wild tigers for the demand of tiger parts as exotic cure-alls to luxury status symbols and mythical, magical powers. Our modern state-of-the-art zoos, go beyond a recreational role by becoming scientific, conservation leaders in the breeding programs for critically endangered species as exemplified by Sydney, Australia’s Tarango Zoo.

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FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPH —   photograph 221, of the portrait of the Sumatra Tiger’s sweet, sassy, soulful facial expression touches me and has strong emotional power. It made me think of one of my all time favorite books, Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” at the time I was actually observing this magnificent wild animal, and photographing it for a timeless hour-and-a-half that day. I made time for the tiger, watching its movements, behavior, demeanor, body language, facial expressions, and our eye-to -eye communication.  I did not have to travel to remote Sumatra, but found a noble conservation breeding program for this critically endangered species ensuring the future of this impressive, charismatic big cat. Tiger, tiger burning bright!

Ⓒ Suzanne Vlamis Photography

By Suzanne Vlamis

Footprint of Nature

Walk along a beach and a dog’s footprint catches my eye. No dog in sight, but the animal made its mark in nature on the sand.

Ⓒ Suzanne Vlamis Photography

By Suzanne Vlamis

Mt. Gorillas – Rwanda Portfolio Commentary

The UN designated 2009 the Year of the Gorilla to draw attention to and increase support of gorilla conservation.  I created these photos in the wild habitat over a two day period in 2011 with tracker and guide and limited to one hour daily with the Mt. Gorillas at an 8,000 ft. level after hiking from a 4,000 ft. altitude. As Africa’s largest great ape, they are known as Beringi, Beringi.  Approximately 832 exist in the world today in the cluster of only 3 African countries — Rwanda, Uganda, and Republic of the Congo.  The Virunga Volcanoes form a natural geographic boundary between them and the program of education including of former poachers is a positive result along with giving pride in their country and preserving the heritage of this endangered species.


FAVORITE PHOTO — Locking eyes with the adult male Mt. Gorilla who awoke from a nap at about 15 feet away from me was an emotional moment and unique metaphysical connection to the wild as I held my breath. I bowed my head humbly as previously instructed in his natural habitat which I was privileged to share in with the guidance of a native Rwandan who now is part of the preservation and conservation program of his country to preserve history, heritage and an endangered,  majestic animal species.

By Suzanne Vlamis

Cloud Scapes Portfolio Commentary

A cloud watcher since earliest childhood, I experienced this metaphysical connection to Earth’s elements at that day’s colorful end on Andros Island in the Cycladic chain of Greek Islands where my father was born.  I stood on the flat rooftop of my father’s birthplace in this mountain village photographing a mystical moment in time as my ancestors’ spirits seemed to sail across the sky on an evening voyage to welcome me back yet again on my visit from American after an 11 year absence.


FAVORITE PHOTO  – A flotilla of clouds blaze pink…– because the layering of the elements of sky, airy clouds reflecting the last rays of the sun which had dipped beneath the horizon of the Aegean Sea reaching toward land mass of an obscured Andros Island, captured all the synchronicity of Earth’s elements and an eternal moment in memory and family connection.

This journey to Greece also marked my cross over to digital photography for the first time in 2007.

By Suzanne Vlamis

Portrait of Greece Portfolio Commentary

The Parthenon and Olympus Zeus and numerous other archeological ancient sites form the center of Athens, Greece.  They’ve undergone extensive restoration over the years to protect and preserve them from the ravages of time, the elements and carbon footprint.  They are considered some of the greatest architectural monuments in the world today.  I like to work in and around working restoration projects of famous, iconic sites and experience the process to conserve and preserve for future generations to enjoy.


FAVORITE PHOTO –  The elevated panoramic view of Athens, Greece with the Parthenon complex rising on the Acropolis as center stage of this ancient sprawling city beneath the bright sun with the windy blue Mediterranean Sea behind it.

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Trading Books with Jane Goodall
Maasai Mara Portfolio Commentary
COMMENTARY – AFRICAN ELEPHANTS
South African Leopards – Portfolio Commentary
African Lions – Panthero Leo- Portfolio Commentary
Sumatra Tigers – Portfolio Commentary
Footprint of Nature
Mt. Gorillas – Rwanda Portfolio Commentary
Cloud Scapes Portfolio Commentary
Portrait of Greece Portfolio Commentary