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Wildlife photographer shows the impact of climate change on animals at COP28 meeting

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

By now, you've probably heard about all the big names who gathered this month at the United Nations' COP28 climate conference in Dubai to try, again, to reach consensus on solutions to address the warming of the planet. Someone else was there, and you might have seen his work even if you didn't know his name - wildlife photographer Dmitry Kokh, who brought his images of animals.

DMITRY KOKH: They don't have any voice. They cannot talk with us. So I hope that somehow, with my humble efforts, I can provide them a little bit of voice to speak with people through my photographs.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

His pictures highlight humanlike qualities in the animal's expressions - a cute crabeater seal with a hesitant gaze, a dancing penguin, a Baikal seal waving.

KOKH: I'm trying to make them cute, to make them look like people in some situations to have this emotional connection.

MARTIN: During a trip to the uninhabited, remote island of Kolyuchin off the coast of Eastern Russia, he stumbled onto polar bears. They had taken over an abandoned weather station. His images went viral after they were published in 2022.

KOKH: I got so many messages from people who told me this photograph opened my eyes to the problems of polar bears.

FADEL: The trip happened over the summer, and the bears, hunting for scarce food, traveled to the island.

KOKH: When people see the picture with this destroyed houses and the bears who invaded those houses, they start to think, somehow, what is wrong with the climate? What is wrong with our politics of the climate?

MARTIN: More recently, Kokh has snapped images of sperm whales on Mauritius island and traveled to South Georgia Island and Antarctica. His travels have led him to a grim conclusion.

KOKH: Our grandkids won't see many things that we see right now. They will live on some other planet.

FADEL: But Kokh, who's also an IT engineer, hopes his pictures of this planet will open people's eyes to the effects of climate change.

KOKH: I think even single photograph can change people's minds if it's powerful enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEEN DAZE'S "AUTUMNAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.