Remembering Wildlife: Three Years On

Marianne Stenger
1st January 2022

When Margot Raggett, a former PR director turned wildlife photographer, encountered a poached elephant during a photography tour in Northern Kenya, she was determined to take action in whatever way possible. 

This is how she settled on the idea for her acclaimed photobook series, Remembering Wildlife. Each book features images from leading wildlife photographers and celebrates the beauty, but also highlights the plight of an endangered species. 

We looked at Margot Raggett’s beginnings as a wildlife photographer and conservationist in a 2018 interview. Since then, she has added three more books to the series and continues to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for conservation projects throughout Africa and Asia. 

“As the series has progressed, the type of projects we support has also changed. Poaching remains a serious threat, but the bigger challenge is finding ways for humans and wildlife to coexist, and the projects we support reflect this,” she explains. 

We were able to catch up with her following the exhibition accompanying her most recent photo book, Remembering African Wild Dogs. Here are her thoughts on how things have progressed, as well as some of the work that still needs to be done. 

What have been some of your highlights in these last three years? 

Since we spoke, Remembering Wildlife has brought out Remembering Lions; Remembering Cheetahs, and Remembering African Wild Dogs

We’ve also donated over £850,000 to 55 conservation projects in 24 countries. More than 32,000 copies have been sold, and most books have proved so popular, they have been reprinted at least once. In the last year we’ve also achieved distribution in South Africa, the USA and Canada, which is helping us to spread the message further globally.

These last two books were both launched during the Covid-19 pandemic. Each book is crowdfunded and the latest book, Remembering African Wild Dogs, smashed its minimum target in just 20 minutes of the Kickstarter launching, which was wonderful.

The books are printed in Italy each year, so the challenges of printing the last two books have not been inconsiderable due to the many travel restrictions. But, I’m pleased to say we not only made it, but maintained the quality that our supporters have come to expect.

Tell us a little about your latest book. How did you decide on the African wild dog for this instalment in the series?

I talk, in my introduction to Remembering African Wild Dogs, about my first encounter with African wild dogs and how I fell in love with them while on safari at Laikipia Wilderness Camp.

They are social animals, living in deep-rooted family groups and very protective of each other, particularly the young, elderly and sick. They have an amazing zest for life and yet they are the second most endangered carnivore in Africa. There are only about 6,600 African wild dogs left in the wild and just 660 breeding packs.

There are several reasons for the decline, such as decreasing habitat, conflict with humans protecting their livestock, susceptibility to disease, bushmeat snares and predators.

I was always keen to produce a book on African wild dogs because I know it’s a species that is very under-represented in photography circles.  Although African wild dogs are not as well known as other animals, they deserve our help.

How many photographers are involved in this latest book and how did you go about sourcing all the images? 

We’ve had 83 photographers or photographic couples contribute to this year’s book. Across the series, I have now worked with close to 200.  Nowadays, I always start by asking photographers we’ve featured before if they have any images that they’d like to donate to the book. 

Because African wild dogs are more elusive than other animals we’ve featured, there are fewer images of them around and we didn’t know how many images we would get. However, the great thing is that as the series has progressed, photographers now approach me to offer their images for inclusion. So we were spoiled for choice and, as ever, it was a difficult decision to whittle down the images to a shortlist.

We also ran a competition in March, to give additional photographers the opportunity to have an image featured in one of 10 available slots in the book. We had thousands of entries from around the world and the final 10 that were chosen are worthy additions to the book.

Could you tell us a bit about the projects this book is helping to fund?

African wild dogs need vast amounts of space and travel huge distances, yet their habitats are decreasing. We’re supporting efforts to re-establish habitats that are suitable for them to roam freely, as well as projects that aim to protect them in the habitats where they do still live.

This summer, we were able to help fund the successful translocations of 14 African wild dogs from South Africa and Mozambique to Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve, in a historic project to reintroduce the species to Malawi. This was a joint initiative by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (the EWT) and African Parks.

As African wild dogs are also threatened by disease, such as rabies and distemper, we have recently also supported a vaccination programme for domestic cats and dogs in northern Kenya, as they can pass these diseases on to both wild dogs and cheetahs.

Many conservationists have spoken about the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on wildlife conservation. Is this something you’ve seen as well?

Absolutely. The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated tourism to many places in Africa and other parts of the world that rely on tourist money to fund conservation. It has also anecdotally seen a huge increase in the number of snares being put out for bushmeat, which indiscriminately catch any wildlife passing through.

This is why it’s more important than ever to help organisations on the ground continue their vital work and I’m delighted that through our book sales, we’ve continued to make donations throughout. Now that things are opening up I would also encourage everyone who possibly can to get out on safari.

How have the last couple of years been for you personally as a photographer? Has the pandemic slowed things down for you workwise? 

To be honest, the Remembering Wildlife series has become so all-consuming for me in recent years that my photography is very much on the back burner right now.

I long to be back in the bush often, but have come to realise that I am contributing far more to the world of wildlife working behind my computer on the books than I could personally being behind the camera.

The pandemic made life much harder in terms of not being able to visit first hand some of the projects we support, which usually helps me so much in the putting together of the books but other than that, and the challenge of finding ways to get on press to print the books, it has not impacted my work enormously.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to add just how overwhelmed I am by the continued and ever-growing support this series has managed to attract. From our annual celebrity campaign, which this year included Ricky Gervais, Kevin Pietersen and Roger Taylor of Queen, to the nearly 200 photographers who have freely given their work, and the thousands who support our Kickstarter campaigns. 

It truly is a monumental team effort. I simply want to thank each and every person who has helped us in any way at all, and emphasise, just look at what we can do when we work together.

Want to learn more about Margot Raggett’s series and the projects it helps fund? You can follow her on Instagram @MargotRaggett, or visit the Remembering Wildlife website to order your own copy of Remembering African Wild Dogs or any of the other books in the series.