Speaking for species through a lens
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George Jett is an invaluable member of Rainforest Trust. After retiring from over 30 years at the Environmental Protection Agency, he spends much of his time traveling the world and documenting the species he encounters. He is an exceptional source of photographic information, having documented 401 species of birds in his home state of Maryland during his lifetime – something no one else has done. In 2008, George did a big Maryland photographic fundraising year and documented 307 species – a record for Maryland, and one that no one else has come close to achieving. That project raised over $10,000 for conservation.
“A few young bucks have tried to catch me, but haven’t succeeded,” George proudly stated.
As an avid traveler, his collection also boasts international species. He and his wife, Dr. Gwen Brewer, try to take a few trips a year.
“Ethiopia and South Africa are my top folders currently, in terms of number of species photographed,” George said. “I am also working right now with a woman on butterflies of the Andes that I photographed in Peru.”
George was drawn to the rainforest and the plight of its species after a birding trip to Costa Rica. “I was budding into a serious birder back then,” he reminisced. “[My friends and I] flew into a small research station at Peninsula de Osa on their recommendation. When we got off the plane, there were birds and butterflies everywhere, just surrounding us. It was incredible.”
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Most birders keep a list of the species they see in a journal or date book, making note of when and where they see each one. George thinks of his photos as his version of a journal.
“I want to catch people’s eyes and capture their minds,” George explained.
The idea is that by sharing these wonderful creatures with the world via his photographs, George can spread knowledge about the many species he sees and inspire others to care about what happens to them. He described a trip to El Dorado Nature Reserve in Colombia:
“The last time I was there, they had used some of my photographs on banners to show people what [some of the species there] looked like. I really enjoyed being there – being able to see and contribute to conserving the animals.”
Originally drawn to the mission by his friend and Rainforest Trust CEO, Dr. Paul Salaman, George appreciates the urgency of the nonprofit’s conservation work.
“There is an agile salamander in Guatemala completely endemic to this one little spot – truly found nowhere else in the world – and Rainforest Trust needed to protect the tiny spot for the salamander,” he explained. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see it (the salamander), but it was the only place on Earth they existed, so I donated. It’s incredible that Rainforest Trust does that.”
George’s generosity has helped save over 24,242 acres so far.
A portion of George’s extensive photo collection is available at: www.georgejett.net.