For Australia-born, South Africa-based Adrian Steirn, capturing the beauty of Africa is intrinsically linked to efforts at protecting the world’s only scaly mammal, the pangolin—of which two species live on the continent. The animal also happens to be among the world’s most trafficked. According to recent statistics, more than one million pangolins have been hunted and killed in the last decade. The illegal trade of animals and their parts is the fourth largest of its kind and pangolin parts are recovered across the world hidden in illegal shipments.
Steirn, working with the Tikki Hywood Trust, photographed Pangolin Men—a group of men at the organization who protect and rehabilitate the animals in Zimbabwe. With his striking but tender portraits, and a three-minute documentary-style video, Steirn hopes to move people, to spread awareness and evoke affection for an animal many may not even know existed.
“There are two sets of photos—essentially, there are the reportage photos of what I saw in front of me and how these men interact. Then I wanted to shoot portraits of these men. Take beautiful portraiture that would, I think, hopefully, affect people and would make people sit up and watch and listen and think, ‘What is that animal? What is happening here?'” Steirn says in the documentary.
For this endeavor—including a documentary entitled The World’s Most Wanted Leopard and a photo essay called A Complicated War—he was granted the Conservation Award from Les Jeunes du Monde Unis.
Images courtesy of Adrian Steirn