3°PLACE BIRDS AND BATS
Michael Viljoen, wildlife photographer, was born and bred in South Africa and is truly African at heart, and has a deep-seated love for the last remaining true wilderness areas and it’s animals. He uses his photography to express this passion while at the same time trying to create awareness of the urgency of conservation and protection of wildlife and wild habitat! Michael’s passion often takes him to places far removed from the normal pathways, to remote and less travelled destinations, in order to capture animals in their natural environment. This regularly puts him in a situation where he is up close and personal with wild animals and that is why his photos often arouse feelings of intimacy with the creatures he depicts. These images strive to portray another world, one of drama and poignancy where the very souls of the animals seem to be revealed…. with the aim not to only exhibit their beauty but also to highlight their fragility in a world where they are struggling against powerful forces. The human population has an insatiable hunger for land, water and food and is competing with wild animals for these finite resources, often putting whole ecological systems under threat. In Africa especially, poaching is rampant, not only for bush meat but also for ivory and Rhino horn. We are at a crossroad and the sad truth is that if more is not done to save our environment, many of the animals depicted in these photographs will not be there for our children to see and experience. From an early age Michael was exposed to wildlife and hunting and has spent lots of time in the bush. He has always been a conservationist at heart and transformed from hunter to photographer years ago. His photography is self-taught and he will be the first to tell you that it is a continual learning experience. It is his means to interact with nature and wildlife and his knowledge and understanding of animal behavior gained over many years, give him an edge in capturing photographs with a different and fresh approach. The patience required for wildlife photography is legendary but the allure of capturing a moment of beauty and observing unusual behavior is more than enough motivation for the many hundreds of hours waiting in the bush for the right light or the right moment! Michael has done work for African Parks – a non-profit organization that is currently managing seven parks totaling 4,1 million hectares in six countries in Africa, with plans to expand to more countries. Working with African Parks, his photographs were exhibited at prestigious venues, in order to raise awareness and also to help with fundraising for conservation projects.Additionally he has photographed for The Peace Parks Foundation, which has played a big role in the creation of various Trans-Frontier Parks in Southern Africa. Currently they are using some of his Rhino photographs in the fight against Rhino poaching.