Wildlife photographer takeover: Donal Boyd

Donal Boyd is an American wildlife conservationist and photographer currently based in Southern Africa. His intimate portraits of the worlds most threatened wildlife establish a sense of closeness, familiarity, and emotional connection between viewers and the subjects he depicts. Donal’s highly aesthetic imagery is accomplished through distilling the most visually punctual elements of wildlife through post-processing techniques that push the boundaries of traditional wildlife portraiture. Ultimately, Donal presents his art as a form of ‘visual advocacy’ to promote the conservation of wildlife and nature through the depiction of each individual animal’s portrait and story.

His primary outlet for expression is social media where his punctual visuals and eccentric captions have garnered a large following that is eager to learn more about conservation projects and support environmental initiatives that are presented through Donal’s channels.

Donal spends the majority of his time out in nature with wildlife and largely developed his own approach to portraiture over the past few years as the photographer in residence for Erindi Private Game Reserve in Namibia. Erindi was the first place that Donal gained personal experience in conservation and since visiting for the first time in 2016, he’s chronicled the people, projects, and wildlife on the Reserve to share with audiences around the world.

Recently, Donal was also chosen as the photographer for the cover image of the Remembering Cheetahs book, which was just released last October and is still available for purchase. A portion of the funds from the book have been dedicated to support CCF projects and the forward of the book was  written by our very own Dr Laurie Marker. In fact, the cover image was actually captured at Erindi, the very setting for the body of work that Donal has produced on cheetah conservation during his tenure as the photographer in residence at the reserve over the years.

Please enjoy the following images and short written piece by Donal about his work documenting cheetahs in Namibia at Erindi. Thank you to Donal for sharing these beautiful images with us – we hope you enjoy them and the stories that go along with them as much as we have!

‘Hi there! Donal Boyd here for the start of a takeover of the CCF UK IG. I’ll be sharing a collection of photo memories captured at Erindi over the years following the progress of Cheetahs that have been rewilded by CCF in collaboration with Erindi.’
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‘This first image showcases a cheetah cub born to a cheetah which had been released back into the wild at Erindi Namibia by CCF  back in 2019.The cubs she birthed were her first litter out in the wild. A milestone. Why is this significant? Well… because it marks a crucial step forward. The wild birth of a cheetah is ever more special amidst the plethora of threats facing the survival of the species. As cheetah populations are put under further strain due illegal wildlife trade and human- wildlife conflicts it’s crucial that reserves like Erindi exist as islands of protection for the restoration of cheetahs. When a cub is born in the wild at Erindi we celebrate for it is the next generation of wild cheetah and the potential parent of many generation to come!’


‘The collaboration between Erindi and CCF has been crucial in understanding the best practices of rewilding cheetah and how to successfully safeguard their numbers in Namibia and lessons learnt here can be useful across the continent.’
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‘The next few photos showcase CCF cheetahs at Erindi that have been rewilded more recently or are the second or even third generation of successful wild births. Progress.’
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‘The CCF and Erindi partnership is testament that the relentless pursuit to save the cheetah is working… so please enjoy the following photographs as they are the fruits of many a person’s labor. We’re hopeful that they will inspire you to learn more about cheetahs, their plight, and how you can support their revival.’

‘The following few images showcase the most recent cubs born to Savannah (now the second generation of a lineage emanating from another Cheetah rewilded to @erindinamibia by CCF) at various points in their life. From the early days to most recently now being fully independent from their Mom (photos not in order of age). ‘

‘If you’ve been following @erindinamibia and the Cheetah Conservation Fund (@ccfcheetah), you’ll know this is the son of Savanna. The cub is now a second-generation cheetah born in the wild to rewilded cheetahs in an effort to help restore the population of cheetahs across Africa. It’s part of the conservation program at Erindi in collaboration with CCF. They’re responsible for the hope that we all have for cheetahs.’

‘Now, I must say. I’ve never been looked at by a cheetah in quite the same way. His glossy eyes filled with light, a sense of calm, and something else. After going through the many portraits I’ve taken of this cheetah since 2018, I’ve realized an astonishing trend. Unlike most cheetahs, who seem to frown as young cubs, he didn’t. His gaze was empathetic. Compassionate. Understanding, perhaps of his importance for the future of the species.’

‘Today he and his brother roam the reserve as a coalition. As they enter adulthood, strong and fit, they represent hope for cheetahs. This particular cheetah still looks at me the same way, you’ll see what I mean if you’ve followed his portrait series.’

‘What do you think his stare speaks?’

‘This is Savanna. Over the past few years, I’ve spent countless hours with wild cheetah at @erindinamibia. Tracking on foot, witnessing the gentleness of a mother as her cubs feed on milk, the excitement of a hunt, tense encounters of cheetah with other big cats, and the countless other often unpredictable behaviors that distinguish cheetahs. I’ve also witnessed firsthand the reality of their demise across Africa.’

‘Cheetahs are threatened by a multitude of factors. Population fragmentation, illicit pet trade, persecution by farmers protecting their livestock. And there are few safe places left for respite from such pressures. Coupled with a naturally high cub mortality rate, it’s been difficult for cheetahs to gain traction at this critical juncture for the future of their species.’

‘Though, Savanna has been a light of hope. She’s shown us that we can win this battle to save the cheetah. As long as we allow cheetah places to be wild, they can thrive.’

Dinner for 1. Another cheetah rewilded to Erindi through the collaboration with CCF. It’s been a real privilege to witness the progress of this program over the years. 

‘Respectfully fierce.’

‘Braved and beaten.’

‘The years of bushwhacked nights and calamitous scrambles paint not-so-subtle dramas. Oh, the things this old male has seen.’

‘This male cheetah is the definition of a legend. Over the years of his long and healthy life, he’s birthed generations of cheetahs. Battled for the love of suitors. Struggled for food. Fought rival leopards and won. He’s made it into and out of the most hectic of situations. All because he had a wild place to live.’

Thank you so much CCF and Erindi for your dedication to this species! 

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