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We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?
BOOK: Wildlife

Face To Face


For my daugther, Deniz Derbent...


In order to shoot portraits of animals in the wild it is necessary come face to face with them. This has been a challenging task for me because observing their ways of living has forced me to face myself. I hope that the act of looking through and reading this book will have a similar effect. I would like everyone to be faced with nature, with animals and with themselves, for in the last 24 hours, 3 among existing species 1, each the product of 4 billion years of evolution 2, have become extinct. Unfortunately nothing less than a massacre is going on today, even while we are going about our daily business, commuting, working, enjoying ourselves and sleeping peacefully at home.

How hard we have worked to bring about this state of affairs! What lies behind this situation are factors such as attaining higher living standards, increasing consumption and opening up more areas for settlement. Today in net figures, we use up and waste 40% of biological production 3. Those living in the USA, Canada, the UK and other developed countries make up about 23% of the world population, but they use approximately 80-90% of the world’s natural resources 4. Of course  these resources are not only consumed to meet man’s needs. Natural resources are also destroyed by accidents, waste disposal, forest fires, commercial interests and, sometimes, the sheer pleasure of pulling the trigger.  We are drawing closer and closer to the end. It is estimated that in the coming century 30 species will become extinct each day. As a result, half of all species will disappear completely during this century 5.

1 Peter Raven, botanist, Director of Missouri Botanical Garden, Professor of Biology, University of  Washington.
2 Stuart L. Pimm, Professor of English, University of Tennessee.
3 Peter Raven.
4 Peter Raven.
5 Stuart L. Pimm.

When asked, “Do you like animals?” most of us give a positive answer. So it makes me wonder, since everyone likes animals, how it is that after arms sales and drug trafficking, the biggest money still comes from the trade in animals. Who, I wonder, pays thousands of dollars for dried tiger penises. And who shoots a rhinoceros in one leg to prevent it from escaping so that he can cut off its horn for the aphrodisiac substances it supposedly contains.

In the last 200 years, 60 species of mammals have become extinct 6. In contrast the world human population has increased from 2.5 million to 5.7 million since the 1950s. This figure is estimated to double again in the next 50 years.7

During seven years of wild life photography I have met people who have dedicated their whole lives to animals. I have seen people who have chosen to do this just to ease the life of a lion, with no thought of fame, prizes or material gain. I have met people who have left their own country to live in the forest because they had fallen in love with a lion. And I have been coming across more and more people of this sort in recent years.  Such a life has become preferable to these people than living in a city.

Until I went on my first photo safari in South Africa, I was no different from many other animal lovers. I knew I loved animals, but all I did was watch their extinction. However, after this photo safari the concept of ‘the love of animals’ began to take on a different meaning for me. Meeting these living beings, which do not do the slightest harm to nature and which do not consume more than they need, has gradually increased the love and respect I feel for them. Particularly the cats, which I had greatly admired since chiIdhood, became a focus of attention for me.  Instead of being a photographer who travels in order to take photographs, I have become someone who takes photographs simply in order to be there with the animals and to share the things I witness with the world.

During the time I have spent with animals in the wild, besides the sense of priviledge to be near to them, I have also learnt many things from them.

6 Stuart L. Pimm
7 Norman Myers, specialist in envıronmental development, writer.

I admired and respected them; I observed that they did not claim more living area than they really needed, that they were never aggressive towards others except when they were hungry, that they never acted falsely, and  that they did not damage their environment, and even helped to protect the balance of nature. From them I learnt how to be patient. While looking for an animal, I learnt how to renew my hope with each passing moment. While tracking them, I learnt how many disappointments I could go through in a single day.  Reading animal behaviour studies, I combined what I read with the experience I had gained in nature and I learnt how to reason, how to conjecture and how to make deductions while tracking them.

In Africa there is a saying: ‘ A good tracker becomes the animal itself and thus finds it.’ When I was able to combine this information with my feelings I became a good tracker, and only then was I able to see the animals. While experiencing all these things, what I thought, and what I wanted everybody to think, was this: wild animals are not any less part of nature than we are and they have more right to nature than we have because of the way they live. Whatever harm we cause to their right to live, for whatever reason, comes back to us manifold. Now, at the start of the 21st century, we should pause and review the things we have irrevocably lost and we should change our attitudes accordingly. We must not forget that the the number of animals we can introduce to our children only by means of photographs is rapidly increasing. In other words, eventually nature will be so diminished  that when we can see animals only in photographs our own lives will be in jeopardy. A day will come when even we will no longer exist.


And Face To Face

This book, which covers seven years of photography, consists of two parts, firstly, the big cats and secondly, other animals.  My love and admiration for the big cats have shaped my work as a whole. Wherever I went, they were my priority. Among the seven species of big cats still existing, the ones I photographed primarily were the Bengal tiger, the lion, the leopard and the cheetah.

The first part of the book covers these big cats, which all belong to the Felidae family. The first name in Latin written next to their names indicates their genus and the second shows their species. Below that line, the phrase, ‘in danger of extinction’,  indicates that these animals are included in the red list of CITES 1 or of IUCN 2.  Both of these organisations list  endangered species in various categories according to the seriousness of the threat to their survival and the priorities in their protection. I have indicated the animals included in those lists regardless of category. According to statistics, the situation of these animals has not improved  from previous years and it has not been possible to remove them from the lists. In addition, the life spans of all the animals included in the book are given.

Which searching for the big cats, I needed to meet and learn about the other animals which were related with them, that is those which share the same natural environment , so that I could track them. For this reason, on all my trips, I have photographed many animals other than the big cats. You will find them in the second part of the book.

Although it may seem that wildlife photography involves certain risks and difficulties, in reality it is an attractive and interesting occupation. For someone who loves nature and animals all the physical tasks and problems are outweighed by what one experiences in nature. One is able to overcome such difficulties as making extended and never-ending journeys, all kinds of accidents on the roads, tropical diseases, not being able to find a doctor or necessary medicines, sometimes not even being able to find food and many other similar problems.

1 CITES. “ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species” In the list prepared in accordance with this agreement, the most critical danger is shown by Appendix 1 definition. As the danger decreases it is defined as App.2 and App.3. Turkey joined CITES by signing the Agreement in 1994.

2 IUCN “International Union for the Conservation of Nature” also has a list of species in danger of extinction. This list, known as the Red List, contains the following categories: Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN),  Vulnerable(VU) and, lastly, Lower Risk (LR).

However, the really  serious problems I encountered were quite different . It was not at all easy to find solutions to these problems, which were not discernable from the outside. This was perhaps the most difficult aspect of the job. However, I was not alone. Although this book bears my name, there is someone else who has put as much effort into it as I have. That person is my partner, Füsun Saka. She stayed awake with me all night when I felt worried and stressed wondering, “Will I be able to find the tiger?” even before I set out on a trip. She managed to reach me  by phone in whatever remote corner of the world I happened to be, in order to raise my morale by assuring me I would find the big cat I was after.  By her extraordinary and unfathomable skill she solved the technical problems I encountered while travelling. Lastly, and most importantly, she gave me unconditional support  in carrying out a project which brings little material gain. She has played a significant role in the accomplishment of this study and the compilation of this book.

For these reasons, I would like everyone to know, while reading this book and looking at the photographs, that Füsun Saka contributed her share to each shot. For she has really been the moral force and life-giving sponsor of the work I have been carrying out all these years.

_ . _

*Translation from Turkish to English by Lesley Tahtakilic

For more information & e-mail to Suha DERBENT: catman@turk.net

This issue dedicated to such distinguished author Karen ARMSTRONG &
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