An Impending Silence: Vanishing African Wildlife

A Pictorial Tribute to Those Struggling to Survive

by Artist/Photographer Carol Leadbetter



Having had the incredible opportunity to travel to East and South Africa over the years, it is dismaying every time I read another story about the dwindling numbers of wildlife. Those that survive face an ongoing struggle against the intrusion of mankind into their world. An Elephant is killed for its tusks every 15 minutes. The number of Rhinos is down to 5000 in all of Africa and the Giraffe is now on the endangered list. The challenges these species face to simply survive motivated me to use images that I have taken over the years to create my pictorial tribute to these noble animals.


Wildlife photography is a powerful tool with the endpoint offering a depiction of the reality of the moment. However, to the artist such an image can also represent a new starting point from which to bring forth different features and create a fresh visual impact. While the images in this collection are true “in the wild” photographic captures of the subjects, my creative process has focused on such qualities as color, tone, texture, pattern, and form. The result is designed to convey the animal’s essential being, that impacts and evokes a response from the viewer.

Lion Sketch
Water Play









Many of the images use handmade papers, the textures of which work in harmony with the image. To assure the high quality and durability of the images, each of the handmade papers is coated with inkAID, a coating which renders the papers receptive to inkjet printing. There are many different types of inkAID and each of these reacts differently with different substrates. After much trial and error, the inkAID white matte was found to give the desired result. Each of the images is then protected with a special varnish to assure longevity.


The conservation status of the Elephant is listed as “Vulnerable.” With over ninety- six elephants killed in Africa for their ivory every day, that adds up to over 35,000 elephants killed per year. Even the recent “Ivory Crush” of over a ton of poached ivory in New York City is felt to be a small deterrent. The sale of ivory across international boundaries has been banned since 1990, but the sale of ivory with certain limitations has still been allowed in the US and many other countries. To close existing loopholes in US laws, the US Fish and Wildlife last year established a near total ban on domestic commercial ivory trade and barred its sale across state lines.

Elephant Family

In an effort to keep ivory off the black-market, governments and conservation groups in over twenty-two counties have destroyed more than 270 tons of confiscated ivory. Even this solution has been met with some discourse and criticism. To many, the diminishing supply of ivory will just drive up its black-market value. Others feel that this is wasteful and if the confiscated ivory was sold, the profits would help poorer African countries.

Both the black and white Rhino have the conservation status of “Critically Endangered.” In the wild they have no predators except for humans. Their horn is highly prized in many Asian countries where it is used in ornamental carvings and in”traditional medicines” where it is believed to cure many ailments. The growth of cities, agriculture and logging has also made an impact on their habitat. Today their numbers are down from over 500,000 in the early 1900’s to fewer than 29,000 in all of Africa.

Black Rhino
The King










The Lion’s conservation status has been classified as “Vulnerable.” With a population reduction estimated at 30% over the past two decades the species faces a risk of extinction in the foreseeable future. The African Wildlife Federation has recently called for a re-evaluation of the conservation models that are presently being used following the recent trophy killing of a lion named Xanda. The lion’s father was Cecil the lion who was also killed by a trophy hunter two years ago. Cecil’s killing sparked an international clamor for greater curtailment of trophy hunting for animal parts. Protests made about the killing of Cecil were thought to have resulted in the largest global response to a wildlife story in years. Because of the public uproar, some countries now ban taking lion trophies across their boarders or banned them completely. Several airlines have now banned the transportation of animal trophies from Africa including the “big five”: Lions, Rhinos, Elephants, Leopards and Cape Buffalo.

The Giraffe’s conservation status is now listed as “Vulnerable”. There are many reasons for this status decline: poaching (parts of the giraffe are thought to be a medicinal help, some cultures use their tails for marriage dowries), wars, and the biggest problem, loss of habitat. Many African countries are endeavoring to relocate some of the more endangered groups to a more sustainable habitat.

The most famous Giraffe of late is April, a reticulated giraffe, who gained worldwide fame as nearly 1.2 million people followed her pregnancy and live birth on YouTube. It is hoped that this large-scale interest will transcend this experience and lead to a greater awareness of the problems facing the worlds wildlife.

Colorful Zebra










Learn more about efforts to protect and preserve African Wildlife by contacting:

World Wildlife Foundation

African Wildlife Foundation

Carol Leadbetter is an award winning Washington area fine art photographer and mixed media artist. She holds a post graduate degree in film photography as well as one in digital photography. Her photographic areas of interest include travel, nature, portraiture and human figure work. She has a special interest in Black and White Printing and prints all her own work using archival inks and papers.

Carol’s photographic images have won multiple national awards and can be found in private collections across the country as well as at the Waverly Street Gallery in Bethesda, Maryland and her home studio.

Carol currently teaches classes on Photographic Techniques, iPhoneography, Photographic Alternative Printing, and Encaustics




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