National Geographic photographer captures rare white-thighed hornbill at North Florida Wildlife Center

A rare species of bird is calling the North Florida Wildlife Center home, as a world renowned photographer captures her essence for his project.
Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 7:19 PM EST
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LAMONT, FL (WCTV) - A rare species of bird is calling the North Florida Wildlife Center home, as a world renowned National Geographic photographer captures her essence for his project.

“I’m very excited, hornbills are very charismatic animals. They are super smart,” said Joel Sartore.

Sartore is a National Geographic photographer and founded the National Geographic Photo Ark 15 years ago.

He has already captured more than 12,000 endangered species.

“That’s really the goal of the project is to get the public to care about the extinction crisis and want to save species while there is still time,” he explained.

Sartore used studio lighting and a black and white background to see the animal’s true color and get the perfect shot.

He flew from Nebraska to North Florida on Saturday to capture North Florida Wildlife Center’s newest resident, Matilda.

Matilda is a white-thighed hornbill, the only one in the entire United States.

“White-thighed hornbills are native to Africa. There are several individuals in captivity in Africa and also in Europe,” explained Ryan David Reines, the director of North Florida Wildlife Center.

David Reines said it is unclear how old Matilda is, but they can tell by her build and condition of her cask that she is a young adult.

Moments after Sartore captured her photograph, Matilda was released into her aviary to join her new friend.

“She is going to be partnered up with another hornbill we have that does not currently have a mate whose name is Einstein, he’s our white crested or white tail hornbill,” explained David Reines.

For photographers like Sartore, he hopes by capturing Matilda’s beauty it will continue to tell her story for years to come.

“So if we can really get people to look these animals in the eye, they will see there is great intelligence and grace there and beauty and they have a right to exist,” said Sartore.

North Florida Wildlife Center said white-thighed hornbills are very long lived birds and under the right care, they can live beyond their 40s.

Meanwhile Joel Sartore’s trip to North Florida didn’t last long, the next day he hopped on a plane to Costa Rica to photograph more animals for his Photo Ark.

If you would like to check out Sartore’s work, click here.

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