I spent 3 weeks at the Iberian Wolf Recovery Centre in Portugal.
As a volunteer worker I helped out in general forest maintenance, feeding & road repairing. It never felt like work though. (except for my aching back, that I felt)
(images of me below, they were taken by my good friend Hélder, an amazing photographer with a smile as wide as the world)
They assigned us to watch over a herd of sheep and goats, we did a better job taking pictures from them. Never ask 2 photographers to do a sheperd’s job.
But the most exciting job was making a photo documentary of these wonderful creatures. Some of the wolves are easier to spot, like Faia. But most of them are much more shy and still have the natural instinct to avoid human presence. There is something about looking straight into the eyes of a wolf, and never feel the same again after. It changes you. I loved observing them. Although it took a lot of patience and most of the time you end up sitting there alone with the ants and your imaginary mind, wondering how nice it could have been to have slept a couple hours more instead. When a wolf doesn’t want to come out there is not much you can do except stay longer or come back early in the morning. But when they do come out… wow, I can still envision every moment, no matter how brief they were, the sound, the smell, the silhouettes.
The picture below is Arga, one of my favorite images. She is the dominant wolf of the sisters. It took more than 2 weeks for her to get used to my presence, my smell, my voice, and my camera. It took a lot of patience, sore butt cheeks, ant bites, but in the end I was so happy she came a bit closer! This picture was one of the first observations, I was sitting there for hours not seeing anything, when I scouted through my telephoto lens, I suddenly saw her sitting in the shade, she was staring at me the whole time!!! How ‘wolf’ of her.
This is Lobito. He is temporarily in a quarantined enclosure. The centre is considering to pair him with another female wolf. I really love this guy. There is something very exceptional about him, the way he moves, the way he looks, he is such a beautiful animal. To be honest, he didn’t really look much like a typical wolf. Each time when he came sprinting for his meat stuffed chicken, he brought a mega huge smile on my face. He was very shy and almost impossible to get a clear picture from. This was one of the rare moments where I as a photographer wanted to see more with my own eyes instead of making pictures. Most of the time when he appeared I put down my camera and just looked at him instead, trying to find that connection. But I couldn’t, I felt so much anxiety in his eyes… the horror some of the wolves must have gone through before ending up in this rescue centre… Wolves are still demonized as horrible creatures and being treated as such.
They are truly beautiful and amazing, as are the people working and volunteering in the centre.
… and Gilo. It’s hard for me to find words for you man. You old strong stubborn dog. I’m glad you finally made it to the top of the hill with me once agian. May you rest in peace my friend.
For more information about the Iberian wolf, please visit Groupo Lobo.