Language: Tetralingual in English, Spanish, French, and Italian
Published in partnership with the Sahara Conservation Fund, this book features parallel texts in four languages and contains essays written by Jose María Gil-Sánchez, one of the foremost experts on Saharan wildlife.
Sahara: Erg | Reg is the result of 12 years of fieldwork. After exploring the Sahara desert through its dune fields (a landform known as ergs, from the Arabic word for dune field), the author has concentrated his photographic efforts on rocky areas (the reg, a landform also known as desert pavement). These are the last refuge for the few species of carnivorous and ungulate mammals that have not yet disappeared. To photograph them, he has walked hundreds of kilometres, performed long fixed stakeouts during tens of days, and prepared customized camera traps powered by solar panels.
Arid environments are strongly neglected from the conservation point of view. Considered unattractive and seemingly lifeless environments, they have attracted little funding and conservation efforts. Many species of large Saharan mammals have become extinct in recent decades, and those that remain have reduced their distribution range by at least 90%. Uncontrolled hunting is the main culprit of this catastrophe.
As a photographer, Mellone has always been more attracted by open environments than by forests. After numerous expeditions to the Sahara desert, he decided to focus his project on an abrupt region of the Atlantic Sahara. The abundance of cliffs, island mountains and ravines has made this region a refuge for some species of carnivorous and ungulate mammals, as Spanish biologists of the Harmusch association have revealed in recent years.
In a project like the present one, wildlife observations come in dribs and drabs and good photographs with an even lower frequency. Besides performing long fixed stakeouts, he concentrated his efforts on photo-trapping techniques, designing his own system that allowed him to power the cameras for long periods of time with solar panels. The result of this technique is the photograph of two Cuvier’s gazelles, captured by a camera that worked for more than 10 weeks, recording only four passages of this species.
The Sahara desert still has intact areas that allow for a bright future for its biodiversity. Hopefully, conservation projects will be successful, again making rocky plateaus and sand dunes the home of antelopes and cheetahs, as was occurring until a few decades ago.
Ugo Mellone is the author of two books based on long term personal projects: Acróbatas, and Sahara: Erg|Reg. His essays have been published in National Geographic (Spanish edition), Terre Sauvage, BBC Wildlife, The Guardian, Audubon, bioGraphic. Ugo was the winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year for the Invertebrates category in 2015, and a finalist in the Landscape category in the same year. He furthermore won the Montphoto/WWF Spain grant for conservation photojournalism in 2019.