By Jamie Joseph
Two years ago, I had a near death experience. A week later I arrived bruised and battered on the doorstep of wildlife photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen’s Grand Teton cabin. Meeting Tom made nearly dying worthwhile.
The Tetons, located in the heart of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, is home to wolves and bears, moose and elk. I was taking a short break from South Africa after a confrontation with the accused rhino poaching kingpin of Zululand, Dumisani Gwala. I stood my ground when this murderous thug threatened me, and held his stare when I replied, “I will stop writing stories about you, when you stop killing rhinos.”
In those days, I was just an accidental wildlife activist, with no army to back me up. I’d travelled to Washington DC to try and raise funding for Saving the Wild’s further investigations into corruption enabling poaching.
In a twist of fate, a stranger suggested that I look up his friend Tom, after I mentioned I was pining for the wild, but not quite ready to go back to South Africa. Tom kindly offered to put me up for one night before I was to spend a few days camping in the Lamar Valley.
We made a fire and sat in the glow of the embers, and fueled the hours with stories from Africa. Not the Africa I had come to hate in the previous months; where politicians played lip service and never showed up to meetings every time I tried to hand over my ‘Blood Rhino Blacklist’, and my hair was falling out from the stress of it all, the good cops were chained to their desks, and everything seemed so helpless. Instead, Tom invoked his African memories; the smell of rain drumming life into dust, the ancient calls of the wild, and the feeling of being in the presence of something truly extraordinary.
And I began to remember again what it was I was truly fighting for…
One day turned into a week, and I healed from the inside. I had no idea when Tom dropped me off at the airport that cool June morning if I would ever see him again, but I felt we would be bonded until my very last breath. I returned to the fight, and he became my light at the end of the tunnel.
I have no emotional attachments in South Africa, because these bonds would make me vulnerable. But with Tom travelling across the world, from Alaska to Antarctica, I had someone I could turn to on my darkest days. Every bad guy, every rhino massacre, every tear, every drop of vengeance in my blood, he has heard it all. And, when necessary, his gentle soul has tempered me.
In 2017 we carved out three weeks and undertook two wildlife expeditions. I needed to show Tom my wild wonderlands; the iconic but vanishing rhinos of Zululand, the big cats of Greater Kruger, and an elephant eden where tuskers still roam free.
The result of these two expeditions is the Saving the Wild Collection by Thomas D. Mangelsen, 16 images to be launched to the world on June 2nd at Tom’s La Jolla gallery in California. Half of all sales will be donated to Saving the Wild, so that we can continue to dismantle criminal syndicates who are slaughtering our precious wildlife in the pursuit of greed. We have come a long way since I first met Tom two years ago, but there is still much work to be done.
Art collectors now have an opportunity to directly contribute towards the survival of endangered species by acquiring a photograph from Thomas D. Mangelsen’s rarest print run ever. Just five prints of each photograph, it is testament to the disappearing. Each image is a story, a moment in time when the world stood still; and life was beautiful, and untamed.
This is the life worth saving. Not just the life of an animal, but our own wild life. What are we, if we are a world without animals?
“Is ours the generation that resigns itself to the extinction of major species? Do we let the rhinoceros lead an irreversible parade into the past? What beautiful creature is next in line? The cheetah? Lions? Wolves? I hope not. If we demand action we can change the way we care for the world. Please help.”
-South African born American rockstar Dave Matthews
“Rhinos are critically endangered because of the illegal trade in their horns. To save them, it is not enough to support anti-poaching efforts on the ground. We must also fight corruption, a tough challenge for there is corruption everywhere. We must all get involved in saving the rhino. How? Make a donation, spread awareness, write letters. Just do something and do it now before it is too late.”
-Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace
“Up until I started working with Saving the Wild, I had no idea just how horrific the corruption is that fuels the rhino crisis, and the human cost of this war. If we lose the rhinoceros, we are amputating pieces of our own evolution, and pieces of our own humanity. We all can, and must do more.”
-Thomas D. Mangelsen
Read BBC Exclusive: South Africa rhino poaching: Web of corruption blamed
Read Open Letter: #JusticeForRhinos #JusticeForZululand
Read Response: Game Over for crooked justice officials
THOMAS D. MANGELSEN – ARTIST RECEPTION
La Jolla, California | June 2nd | 5 – 9 pm
World Premiere of the Saving the Wild Collection
With special guest, Jamie Joseph, Saving the Wild Director.
View entire collection @ mangelsen.com/saving-the-wild-collection
“We are going to take you into the wild with a remarkable photographer, Thomas D. Mangelsen, who has spent his life on the trail of elusive and endangered animals. What he brings back are some of the most spectacular pictures of wild animals you’ll ever see.”
-Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes