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London photographer captures stunning images of animals on the brink of extinction

It's fairly frequently that we hear something about endangered species, whether it's from a news story or David Attenborough's narration on Blue Planet II. It can be easy for this to become commonplace and to forget about what it really means, which is why the works of people like photographer Tim Flach is so important.

According to a 2011 study from PLoS Biology, three-quarters of the Earth's estimated 8.7 million species are at risk. As natural habitats change over thousands of years, not all of this can be a consequence of humankind's actions, but we are responsible for the majority of it. A 2015 study by Science magazine suggested that the current extinction rate is up to a hundred times higher than it would be without human intervention.

So it's vital that works such as Flach's multiyear project to document the lives of threatened species come to fruition. Flach, an author, photographer and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, joined up with zoologist Jonathan Baillie to create a book about his travels and the endangered animals he saw along the way. The book, titled Endangered, is described as:

"Travelling around the world—to settings ranging from forest to savannah to the polar seas to the great coral reefs—Flach has constructed a powerful visual record of remarkable animals and ecosystems facing harsh challenges. Among them are primates coping with habitat loss, big cats in a losing battle with human settlements, elephants hunted for their ivory, and numerous bird species taken as pets"

Flach also spoke to NPR about his approach in filming these at-risk creatures. "The romanticizing, free, wild images weren't necessarily getting people to take action," Flach explained. "I wanted to think about what kind of images people engage in and how you tell a story to get people to connect to."

"I'm isolating it down to the personality. A bird of prey that would normally be photographed as a bird in a tree, instead if you look into their eyes and question our accountability [as humans] makes it more powerful," he continued.

Not just focusing on the lives of animals, he also spoke about the coral that has been damaged by human activity over the years. While it accounts for a very small percentage of the ocean floor, it supports around 25 per cent of all marine life.

coral Credit: Tim Flach

Through global warming and ocean acidification, some studies suggest that 90 per cent of coral will be dead by 2050, which will no doubt have a monumental effect on the oceans.

"Why am I searching out this animal? That's a question I find troubling. Something we know is disappearing," he told NPR.

"I profoundly believe in being better connected to the natural world, and not just on a spiritual aspect of who we are. We've got certain animals that turn the soil or forests that make fresh water. Our future depends on them. It's pretty basic really."

But Flach hasn't given up hope that things can be turned around. "We're trying to be smart going forward so we assure that things don't go to the tipping point. It's not one of doom," he explained. "It's just 'let's think about how to communicate so that we are able to make that change."