Gabby Salazar, MN15, an acclaimed wildlife photographer, spoke on “Island Biodiversity: Saving the Next Dodo” at an Explorers Club Washington Group dinner at the Cosmos Club on Feb. 20, 2016
Tropical islands are home to some of the world’s most unique and endangered species, from giant tortoises to golden bamboo lemurs. Often restricted to a single island, these species are especially threatened by rising sea levels, invasive species, and habitat degradation. In fact, of the 724 animal extinctions recorded in the last 400 years, roughly half were island species.
The dodo, whose name is almost synonymous with extinction, was a flightless bird on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius that became extinct in the late 18th century.
Salazar became a nature photographer at the age of 11, when her father gave her a camera. After being named the BBC Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the age of 14, she went on to become a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Photography, a National Geographic Young Explorer, a member of The Explorers Club, and a part of the Emerging League of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). Last year at the age of 27, she also became the youngest ever President of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA).
Last year Salazar traveled to Mauritius, to document the island’s remaining species and its world-renowned endangered species recovery programs. Just a few decades ago, the Mauritius Kestrel, the Rodrigues mandrinette flower and the Echo Parakeet had declined to a handful of individuals and seemed destined to go the way of the dodo. Remarkably, Mauritius has saved more critically endangered bird species from extinction than any other country in the world.
In her multimedia presentation, Salazar discussed the six months she spent documenting biodiversity conservation in Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands. Her compelling imagery illustrated some of the world’s rarest animals and the ongoing challenges of saving island species.
Documented global conservation efforts
She has documented conservation efforts around the world, from the jungles of South America to the grasslands of Southeast Asia. With support from the National Geographic Society, Salazar spent 10 months in Southeastern Peru in 2010 documenting the creation of the Manu-Tambopata Conservation Corridor along a new, transcontinental highway.
Her work from this project has been displayed in a 30-image solo exhibit in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and at the Peruvian Embassy in the District of Columbia.
Her images have been exhibited in museums around the world, including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the London Museum of Natural History, and the International Photography Hall of Fame.