Famed photographer comes to Riverbanks for talk on photoing every kept animal in world

A Yellow-bellied slider isn’t a cowardly person on ice. It’s a turtle. The kind of turtle South Carolinians see all the time near ponds or, if you’re in Columbia, hanging out on the rocks in the Congaree, Saluda or Broad rivers.

The turtle is also one that Joel Sartore photographed at Riverbanks Zoo.

Sartore is an esteemed photographer for National Geographic undertaking a massive project he calls “The Photo Ark.” The mission of the 13-year-old project is to document every animal living in captivity to promote conservation. At least two of the pictures in his collection are of animals living at Riverbanks. He’s released three books of photos from his Photo Ark collection.

Sartore is coming to speak about The Photo Ark and his endeavor to photograph some of the world’s rarest and endangered animals at Riverbanks Zoo on Oct. 10. The gates of the zoo open at 5:30 p.m. for Sartore’s appearance and he begins his talk at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the event can be purchased online at Joel Sartore’s website under the “Speaking Engagements” link.

Published in 2017, his first book in the series titled “The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document The World’s Animals” features the photo of Riverbanks’ Yellow-bellied slider.

While the turtle might be common in the Southeast and the Palmetto State, the shell-hiding animal in the picture isn’t so common. The Yellow-bellied slider photographed by Sartore at Riverbanks has two heads.

In his book Satore said the Riverbanks turtle is the only two-headed animal he ever photographed.

“What were they thinking under that shell?” he wrote for the photo’s caption.

Satore also photographed Riverbanks Eastern coral snake, a venomous snake found in South Carolina which is distinguished by its distinct black, yellow and red bands.

Having worked with over 500 facilities that house animals, Satore has come to believe a certain element of the photographs elicit people’s compassion.

“It’s the eye contact that moves people,” Sartore says on his site. “It engages their feelings of compassion and desire to help (conservation efforts).”

With two heads and four eyes, Riverbanks’ Yellow-bellied slider is working twice as hard to help.

David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.