Pedro Jarque Krebs: “The only thing left of many wild animals will be pictures.”

The Peruvian photographer on patience, flamingo confrontations and the fragile natural world
By Graeme Green
Pedro Jarque Krebs is a wildlife and landscape photographer. He studied at Sorbonne University in Paris. Pedro often works in close proximity with animals in enclosed or semi-wild conditions, including for his recent book, Fragile, which highlights the fragility of the natural world.

What’s the idea behind the photos in Fragile?

Fragile is a compilation of my work from the last few years, in which I’ve been making a series of portraits of animals isolated from their context, with a black background, as in a photographic studio. The idea is to establish a direct link between the animal and the viewer without distractions, to highlight the beauty of the animals and make people aware of their great fragility, hence the title.

Photo by Pedro Jarque Krebs

How concerned are you by how many animals are disappearing and how rapidly?

The UN recently issued a warning that if action isn‘t taken soon, up to one million species could disappear from the planet in the next few decades. Only four per cent of all animal species are wild. The remaining 96 per cent are humans and the animals for our consumption. With these figures, it’s hard not to feel concerned.

The main cause of this is the expansion of human dominance. In the last 50 years, wild animal populations have been reduced by 60 per cent, while human populations have doubled. We are the most numerous mammal on the planet, just above rats. Our growing needs are squandering natural resources and annihilating wild species for the benefit of domestic species for our food. I find it sad to think that probably the only thing left of many wild animals will be just pictures of them.

Photo by Pedro Jarque Krebs

Of the animals you photographed, which ones are the most in danger or close to extinction?

Most of the species I’ve photographed are at greater or lesser risk of extinction, but all of them are at risk. Beyond the iconic species, such as rhinos, elephants, polar bears or big cats, there are lesser-known species that are going through a critical time, including many amphibians whose populations have been reduced by 80 per cent in recent years.

Of the animals I’ve photographed, the blue iguana is probably one of the most threatened. There are only 750 specimens left in the world, although a few years ago there were only 10 to 25 specimens.

Is there a lot of interesting wildlife in Peru?

Previously Peru wasn’t so well-known as a destination for wildlife photography. But that’s changing. Today, it’s one of the most visited destinations for birding in Latin America, and overall Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

Photo by Pedro Jarque Krebs

Remember that 76 per cent of its territory is made up of the Amazon rainforest. It’s the number one country in the world with the greatest diversity of butterflies, third in birds, third in amphibians, fourth in mammals, and sixth in reptiles. The animals that I most like to photograph from the Peruvian fauna are the jaguar and the condor.

What’s the most remarkable wildlife moment you’ve ever witnessed and photographed?

It would probably be a tiger mating or a battle between flamingos. Flamingos live in large groups and are usually relatively quiet, unless they start competing for food, territory or partners. On one of my visits to a natural reserve of American flamingos in Spain, I had the opportunity to see several confrontations between flamingos that had established themselves in bands of two or three. The noise and pecking didn’t stop, and I was able to take several pictures of these scenes.

One of these photos won the main prize of Bird Photographer of the Year in 2018.

Photo by Pedro Jarque Krebs

But what has always moved me most is the communication that can be established with great apes, such as chimpanzees or gorillas. I’m very interested in the question of consciousness in animals, perhaps because of my philosophical background.

What’s your favourite country for wildlife photography?

My photographic work is done with animals in any situation, whether in the wild or in captivity. What interests me is to be able to get as close as possible to the animal to make the kind of portraits I do. For that reason, my pictures are often taken in zoos, nature reserves or sanctuaries, with animals in captivity or semi-freedom. 

Photo by Pedro Jarque Krebs

But as a favourite country for taking pictures in the wild, Peru, my country, has one of the greatest riches in biodiversity in the world. That’s not only because of the immense Amazon rainforest, but also in the central regions, the Andes mountain range, and the coast. The latter, bathed by the Humboldt current of cold water from Antarctica, is the ideal environment for an infinite number of unique species that inhabit these regions.

A very interesting and relatively accessible place is the Paracas Nature Reserve and the Ballestas Islands, about 300 kilometres south of Lima, the capital. There you can see a large number of sea lions, Humboldt penguins and many species of guano birds, such as cormorants, pelicans, boobies, earrings and guanays, in their natural environment. It is one of my favourite places for wildlife.

Photo by Pedro Jarque Krebs

What tip would you give other wildlife photographers to improve their pictures?

The most important thing for photographing animals is patience. Although you also have to count on a bit of luck, you have to have, above all, patience and a lot of attention. You have to know the habits of the species you want to photograph and wait without distractions, because a second of distraction can mean losing the expected picture. In my experience, generally the best photo is one of the last ones I make from the session.

Are you involved with any wildlife charities or causes? Do you think photographs can help people care more about the natural world?

I have a special inclination for the work done by the Rainfer Center in Spain, which is a rescue centre for primates that come from situations of exploitation, species trafficking or illegal trade. They shelter a large number of chimpanzees that have been subjected to extreme, inhumane situations and there they have a second chance.

Recently, I had the opportunity to make a photographic project about them that I will soon publish, which I’ve called The Other Refugees. All my photographic work is aimed at raising awareness of the need to act. I have met many people who have begun to have a different relationship with animals from my photos, which is very satisfying for me.

Pedro Jarque Krebs’ website:

Fragile, by Pedro Jarque Krebs:

Follow him on Instagram: @pjarquek.

Graeme Green is a photographer and journalist:

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NOTE: The best way to solve the crises facing the planet and its wildlife is by having open, honest, respectful conversations and hearing diverse voices from around the world. The New Big 5 project does not necessarily support or agree with every opinion or idea expressed by photographers, conservationists or organisations featured on the New Big 5 website. The many different wildlife charities, photographers, film-makers and conservationists we’ve collaborated with also do not necessarily support or agree with every idea or opinion expressed by other people or organisations on the website. It’s ok to disagree and debate. But we hope the opinions and ideas can inspire people, make people think, and be part of the conversation to help our planet and the animals that live on it.

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