Many of us are familiar with the ‘Big Five’ as a safari term, but how many of us knew of its roots in colonial-era hunting? One photographer wants to change that—by highlighting the plight of global wildlife today via his celebrity- and expert-backed New Big 5 project. We talk to Graeme Green.

If you’ve ever been on safari, you’ll be familiar with the term, the ‘Big Five’. Referring to the elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and Cape buffalo, it’s often used as a wishlist for the ‘best’ animals to see.

But what some people might not know is the phrase was coined during colonial times because these were the hardest animals to hunt on foot. That’s why journalist and photographer Graeme Green decided to launch a global project, the New Big 5, with a more modern, refreshing take on engaging with wildlife—one that was about shooting animals with cameras, not guns.

After a global vote in 2020 to elect a New Big 5, the elephant, lion, polar bear, gorilla and tiger came out as the winners in early 2021—- you can see a short film announcing the winners here. All are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as either critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.

The campaign has had widespread endorsement—from wildlife experts, campaigners and photographers such as Jane Goodall, Chris Packham, Joanna Lumley, Moby, Ami Vitale, Paula Kahumbu, Paul Nicklen and Marsel van Oosten, to wildlife charities such as Save The Elephants, WWF, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Greenpeace, Wildlife Direct, African Wildlife Foundation, The Ellen Fund and Polar Bears International.

Already, the New Big 5 project is increasing awareness of the ever-pressing need to address the challenges facing wildlife and habitats. We caught up with the man behind it all, Graeme Green.