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Everyday Extinction — Connecting audiences to a biodiversity crisis

Scientists recently described a “biological annihilation” of wildlife over the past 40 years, declaring that Earth’s sixth mass extinction event — the first in 65 million years — is underway. Sean Gallagher responded by creating Everyday Extinction, which launched October 1, to highlight the causes and effects of, and the potential solutions to, this global biodiversity crisis.

From left: 1) A fisherman holds up a shark fin in a market in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. According to the Guardian newspaper, “Indonesia catches on average 109,000 tonnes of shark per year, giving it the dubious distinction of being the world’s biggest shark fishery.” Unregulated trade in the fishing industry in this region of the world is pushing many species to the brink of extinction. Photo by Sean Gallagher, @sean_gallagher_photo 2) A group of Samburu warriors see a rhino for the first time in their lives at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya. It’s surprising to think that most people on the planet never get the opportunity to see the wildlife that exists literally in their own backyard. Much-needed attention has been focused on the plight of wildlife but very little has been said about the indigenous communities on the front lines of the poaching wars. They ultimately hold the key to saving what is left. Photo by Amy Vitale, @amivitale
This was Hope, a 4-year-old South African female white rhino who was attacked by poachers in 2015. She’d been darted with tranquilizing drugs and her horn was hacked off. She was then left for dead. Against all odds, she survived. Through the efforts of @SavingTheSurvivors, Hope began to recover. She inspired conservationists and people from across the globe with her enduring spirit. Unfortunately, since then, despite all the efforts taken to ensure Hope was able to live a normal life, she succumbed to a bacterial infection in her small intestine in late 2016 after enduring several grueling operations. Hope’s story may have ended, but her legacy lives on, and she has given new energy to those fighting to save this beautiful species. White rhinos are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List. Photo by Adrian Steirn, @AdrianSteirn
This is a selection of fish larvae collected for a scientific study on how the changing climate affects fish spawning time and larval travel and abundance in the Atlantic Ocean. It is important to conduct studies in order to understand how species respond to a changing world. The floating fish larvae are part of ichthyoplankton, which in addition to the larvae contains fish eggs. Ichthyoplankton sampling provides us with information of what is present in the environment and can be used to determine the state and health of the ecosystem. It is typically easier and more effective to sample changes in fish stocks in larvae than in adults which are harder to accurately sample. The newly collected data will be compared to historical data so that scientists can see any changes in number, timing, and species compositions. Unfortunately in the grand scheme of things we still know very little about how the changing climate will affect most species, some may vanish while others increase in abundance. Photo by Anton Sorokin, @AntonSrkn
Shao Jian Feng, 26, holds a saltwater crocodile in his home in the outskirts of Beijing. This juvenile is only two and half years old, but when fully grown can reach up to six meters, making it the largest reptile in the world. It’s just one of five crocodilians he owns, along with two other large snakes. “There are 23 crocodilian species in the world. We hope to collect all of them,” he boasts. A saltwater crocodile can retail for up to US$1500. In the wild, they can be found mainly in South East Asia and Northern Australia. China is seeing a dramatic rise in the ownership of exotic pets. The trade in these animals has been directly linked to species loss in some of the world’s most threatened ecosystems as animals are taken from the wild for direct sales, or used for breeding. The global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually, of which the trade in exotic pets plays a significant role. Photo by Sean Gallagher, @sean_gallagher_photo
Exotic pet ownership in China is booming. The country is seeing a sharp increase in the number of non-traditional pets, and one young collector is looking to profit from the demand. However, the lines between legal and illegal trade of wildlife are blurred. Video by Sean Gallagher, @sean_gallagher_photo
From left: 1) An African elephant foot stool with zebra skin cushion photographed in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Repository in Denver, Colorado. In the spring of 2017, I was commissioned by The New York Times to photograph the National Wildlife Property Repository, a warehouse on the outskirts of Denver packed with illegal animal parts and products. These are objects of want and desire. Many are made of threatened or endangered species. The spectrum of non-perishable products can be divided into three primary categories: trophies, medicinal products and fashion accessories. Most is contraband, seized at major ports of entry around the United States. Collectively, the facility and the 1.3 million products within its walls represent an evidence vault. One that testifies to an economy serving the human appetite for other species. Photo by Tristan Spinski, @tspinski for @nytimes 2) There hasn’t been a more dangerous time to be a pangolin. The species has become the most trafficked mammal in the world. They are illegally traded for their scales, as bush meat or for medicinal purposes. But the threat of their extinction rarely makes news. An organization in Zimbabwe aims to change this by educating the public about an animal many may not know even exists. Enabled by the @TikkiHywoodTrust, a group of men dedicate their lives to rehabilitating captured pangolins. They are entrusted with caring for animals that have endured major stress, often having been transported many kilometers bound in a sack, starved and dehydrated. Eight species of pangolin exist, four Asian and four African, all appear on the IUCN Red List, ranging from endangered, to critically endangered and vulnerable, all eight of the species’ populations are decreasing. With the depletion of the Asian populations, poachers have redirected their efforts to Africa. Photo by Adrian Steirn, @adriansteirn
A handcuffed poacher is photographed with a notice bearing details of his name, age, and the nature and date of his crime. While operating as part of a poaching team in Bokor National Park he was brought for questioning by members of the National Cambodian Forestry Security service. According to the organization Wildlife Alliance, “a recurring problem in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia is unsustainable levels of illegal hunting that contributes to biodiversity loss. Illegal hunting is common throughout Cambodia despite the laws and regulations against it.” Photo by Patrick Brown, @patrickbrownphoto