I used to think that the most satisfying thing in the world was capturing a great image, or piecing together a beautiful wildlife film sequence. I still love those things of course, but over time I've discovered something even more rewarding: using my work to help spread conservation awareness and educate people about wildlife. That's why I'm focusing on using my powers for good in 2018 and beyond - not that I was using them for evil before!
With that in mind, I'd like to take you on a little photographic journey through the African bush. I want to give you some examples of just how important biodiversity is and why we must focus on protecting it. If you leave this article with nothing else then please take this with you: nothing survives in isolation.
These are Elephants. I hope you already knew that. But did you know that they are engineers? They have such a massive impact on their environment that if they were to disappear, there would be severe side-effects.
Elephants are quite destructive by nature. Whilst this often causes conflict with farmers whose fences and crops they destroy, their behaviour is hugely beneficial to the landscape. They knock down trees and make clearings, giving grasses the opportunity to flourish and create the wide open savanna that people instantly picture when they think of African wilderness.
And guess what? More grassland means more food for herbivores (such as Wildebeest, Zebras and Antelopes) which means larger populations can thrive. But what could the advantage of that be? Well, predators have to eat something...
"But dad, don't we eat the Antelope?". Yes Simba, yes you do. Thanks to those Elephants knocking down all the trees, the bush restaurant is fully stocked for predators such as Lions, Leopards, Wild Dogs and Hyenas. In turn, these healthy predator populations are responsible for keeping herbivore numbers under control to avoid over-grazing. Balance is key!
Are you starting to see how everything is connected? Of course these are only a few examples, but hopefully you appreciate how you can't just take something out of the equation and expect everything else to carry on as if nothing happened. The knock-on effects of losing even just a single species from an ecosystem can be devastating and far-reaching.
Around 90% of African Elephants have been lost in the past century. More are being poached than are being born.
Over 40% of African Lions have been lost in the past three generations.
Rhinos are another crucial herbivore that shapes the landscape. In South Africa (where 80% of their population is left), Rhino poaching has increased by 9300% in the past 8 years.
Habitat is becoming fragmented and species are becoming isolated. Remember what I said at the start? Nothing survives in isolation.
We must work together to protect our fragile web of biodiversity. Because if we don't then it's not just wildlife that's at risk of collapsing - our fresh water, food sources and ability to combat climate change are all at risk too.