Launching something new often brings mixed feelings - excitement and uncertainty. What if it fails? But what if it soars! And so it was with the inaugural Terre Sauvage Nature Image Awards Threatened Species category in 2015.
The requirement for the inaugural category was to photograph and tell the story of a species of plant or animal recognised by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered.
Reflecting on this requirement, this was a tough assignment for any photographer working within a budget, let alone seasoned wildlife experts or professional conservation photographers. In total, Terre Sauvage received almost 20 submissions with some superb entries being nominated and winning awards.
Claiming first prize, Morgan Trimble's story on the Critically Endangered Mount Mulanje Cedar (Widdringtonia whytei) was chosen for the quality of the imagery but also the power of the storytelling. Her entry juxtaposed the beauty of the landscape and the exposed vulnerability of the solitary cedars with the needs of local communities to earn livelihoods from the area's natural resources, while doing so in a sustainable way.
In 2013 SOS started funding conservation work to save the tree from over-exploitation by implementing a consensus built cedar management plan that guides priority setting and coordination of appropriate conservation and restoration actions to sustain the populations of the Mulanje cedar and ensure its sustainable utilization. This plan included planting out seedlings to help restore populations around Mount Mulanje and one day reconstitute the cedar forests.
Conservation photography is a relatively new genre of wildlife photography - and one with a purpose. Hopefully it will set a new norm: telling powerful stories, inspiring people to care better for the planet all told with visually attractive phrases - a picture says a thousand words after all. So it was with the Mount Mulanje Cedar photo story from Morgan Trimble.
Social media, affordable technologies and the democratisation of visual storytelling incentivised by competitions such as the Terre Sauvage Nature Image Awards will help continue to popularise conservation photography and the notion that protecting our wild heritage is the ultimate story them we all can hope to pass on to the next generation.
In the meantime, SOS congratulates those who work in this field helping to inspire us with stories of our natural heritage and those whose lives depend on its survival.