Shao Jian Feng, 26, holds a saltwater crocodile in his home on the outskirts of Beijing. This juvenile is only 2½ years old, but when fully grown, can reach up to 20 feet, making it the world’s largest reptile. (Sean Gallagher)

Three years ago, author Elizabeth Kolbert argued that Earth was experiencing its sixth extinction — an accelerated and global phenomenon characterized by the mass disappearance of entire species. The planet experienced five such mass events in its history, including at the end of Permian Age, commonly associated with the end of the dinosaur era. But, Kolbert writes, the sixth extinction is distinct from all its predecessors: It’s the first one caused by man.

For National Geographic photographer Sean Gallagher, Kolbert’s book vividly lays out the severity of the crisis. “Through habitat destruction, pollution and climate change, species are disappearing across the world at alarming rates,” he tells In Sight.

A study published in the summer in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms Gallagher’s fears: In the past 100 years, some of the 177 most common mammals have lost 30 percent or more of their geographic ranges and “more than 40% of the species have experienced severe population declines.” The study, written by professors at Stanford and Mexico City, called it “biological annihilation.”

Yet Gallagher feels this mass extinction event remains largely unknown among the general public. “The issue is covered from time to time in mainstream media, but it isn’t getting the attention it so desperately needs,” he says. That’s why he, with 24 other photographers, launched the Everyday Extinction feed on Instagram.

“I have been using Instagram as a key way to share environmental issues with my audience, but I realized that there was no one feed that was highlighting the biodiversity extinction crisis,” Gallagher tells In Sight. Inspired by the Everyday Africa feed, which attempt to combat the usual cliches associated with the continent, Everyday Extinction’s aim is to raise awareness of this ongoing crisis through the work of established photographers and scientists alike. “I think [the latter] is very important as it provides a unique viewpoint from those working on the ground to address this crisis,” he adds.

Here’s a selection of images shared on the Everyday Extinction account, which launched Oct. 1.


A peatland drainage canal separates recent rain forest clearance from the forested remains of tiger habitat in a palm oil concession in Riau, Indonesia. (John Novis)

A slain European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) lies on a veterinarian’s table after being shot on spring migration. (Kieran Dodds)

There hasn’t been a more dangerous time to be a pangolin (Pholidota). The species has become the most trafficked mammal in the world. They are illegally traded for their scales, as bush meat or for medicinal purposes. But the threat of their extinction rarely makes news. (Adrian Steirn)

A long-tailed macaque kept in a small cage while on sale at a local market in Medan, Northern Sumatra. (Photo by Patrick Brown)

This was Hope, a four-year-old South African female white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) that was attacked by poachers in 2015. She was darted with tranquilizing drugs and her horn was hacked off, and she was then left for dead. Against all odds, she survived. (Adrian Steirn)

More In Sight:

Showing the human side of seal hunting

‘As long as I have Weimaraners, I will photograph them.’ William Wegman’s lesser-known dog Polaroids.

‘This Land’: America’s beauty in photographs

In Sight is The Washington Post photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.