We've been big rhino enthusiasts since writing a book about these iconic creatures more than a decade ago. Rhinos were a conservation success story, saved from the brink of extinction by determined efforts in South Africa and beyond.
Today, rhinos face a renewed poaching onslaught thanks to a huge upsurge in Asian demand for horn as traditional (and not so traditional) medicine and a consequent spike in its black market price.
With Project African Rhino we're making the fight to save Africa's rhinos a major focus of our photojournalism work for the next couple of years. We're documenting conservation projects, community initiatives, and the use of science and technology in the war on poaching.
Documenting natural history and conservation through photo stories is a big part of our work. Here are some examples of the sort of subjects we cover:
The Millennium Seed Bank is a state-of-the-art repository of seeds gathered from around the globe. Some 2.1 billion seeds, representing 36,000 species, are safely stored in underground chambers maintained at a chilly minus 20 degrees Celsius. It's a twenty first century Ark without animals intended to save the world's increasingly threatened flora from extinction.
Highly prized for making reproduction Chinese furniture, Siam rosewood is being poached to extinction in the eastern forests of Thailand. Heavily armed gangs of poachers, up to 100 or more strong, are invading the forests, where poorly armed, under-resourced rangers are fighting a losing battle to protect the few trees that remain.
Vasectomising wild elephant bulls is a radical approach to controlling the numbers of these potentially destructive animals in small, fenced reserves. The key-hole procedure involves a large, highly skilled veterinary team, outsized surgical instruments and a MASH-style operating theatre in the bush.
Researchers are studying the behaviour of Namaqua chameleons in the Namib Desert by injecting them with microchip transponders and using barcode scanners to track their movements. It's hoped the project will also help tackle a growing threat to the chameleons from illegal collectors, servicing a flourishing market in exotic pets.
The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust is reintroducing captive-reared Eurasian Cranes to the Somerset levels. Hatched from eggs brought over from Germany, the chicks must be taught to forage, flee danger, and even to fly. Carers dress as 'adult' cranes to avoid the young birds imprinting on them, or becoming unafraid of people.
Maasai herders on communal land near Amboseli are paid compensation for livestock losses to wild animals, provided they agree not to kill lions, hyena or other predators. Once every two months they arrive in their hundreds for the colourful spectacle and social occasion that is Predator Compensation Fund 'pay-day'.
Kielder Salmon Centre is one of the UK's most important salmon hatcheries, and has played a significant role in rehabilitating the River Tyne as a salmon river. We follow a year in the life of the hatchery, from 'stripping' eggs and milt from electrofished broodstock, to releasing smolts back into the river.
Meerkats are not only one of the most popular and iconic creatures of the Kalahari, but they're also the subject of one of the world's longest running natural history research projects, which is revealing fascinating insights into the complex society of this engaging animal.