Save the Animals: David Chancellor’s Powerful Photographs of Conservation Efforts

DC 258.46 001 darting elephant, ol pejeta conservancy, northern
David Chancellor—INSTITUTE
A Kenya Wildlife service vet tranquillizes a problem elephant from a helicopter, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Northern Kenya. The elephant was one of several that had taken to breaking fences and was coming into conflict with local farmers.

It is a last kindness. A man in camouflage takes out a knife and severs the horn of a rhinoceros, depriving the animal of its most iconic feature. The poachers who have killed this animal have fled, leaving behind their prize: the keratin that makes up the horn. It’s a substance so valued for its use in traditional Asian medicine that rhinos are being slaughtered by the thousands for it. Severing the horn will keep it off the black market. Even in death, the animal must be maimed to be saved.

That’s a measure of just how dire the present has become for the rhinos and elephants of Africa. After years of relative calm, trafficking in species like elephants and rhinos doubled from 2007 to 2013, largely to meet the growing demand for ivory and other animal products from the rising consumer class of Asia. By some estimates, wildlife trafficking is the fourth-largest international crime, carried out by global criminal syndicates for whom the trade is almost as lucrative as drugs but far safer. There’s even evidence that poaching now fuels terrorism—militant groups like Somalia’s al-Shabab derive a portion of their income from wildlife trafficking.

But in the face of loss, there are those who fight back. David Chancellor’s photographs document the work of the Northern Rangelands Trust, a Kenya-based NGO that has helped community conservancies learn to protect the wildlife they live alongside. Sometimes that means protecting people, as when an ornery elephant is relocated to reduce human-animal conflict. But often it’s a hard, dangerous battle against wildlife trafficking. As many as 1,000 park rangers have been killed in battles with poachers over the past decade. On the black market, slaughtering animals will always pay better than preserving them.

Yet Chancellor’s subjects soldier on, fighting to protect beings that cannot protect themselves.


David Chancellor is a South Africa-based English photographer who received a World Press Photo Award in 2010 for his work Hunters, which documented the southern African hunting industry.

Bryan Walsh is a senior editor for TIME International & an environmental writer. Follow him on Twitter @bryanrwalsh.


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