Did you know that, juging by the way we're going so far,  it won't be long until half (yes, HALF) of the plant and animal species we share this planet with are threatened with extinction? True story. Enter: The National Geographic Photo Ark, a part-art-part-conservation project aiming to snap every animal in zoos and sanctuaries around the world, all in the name of conservation and biodiversity. 

Zoo date: An epic animal exhibition is coming to Melbourne
Image: Orange-bellied Parrot, photographed at Healesville Sanctuary by Joel Sartore.

This winter,  the project arrives on our shores for the first time, setting up shop at Melbourne Zoo. Aiming to create awareness surrounding endangered animals, the Photo Ark is an ongoing collaboration with wildlife photographer Joel Sartore, who has set a goal to take the portrait of a whopping 12,000 species (an estimate, but, still) of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, from the cute to not-so-cute, currently residing in zoos and sanctuaries around the globe. So far, he's achieved half of that. The aim? To create an archive of global biodiversity that highlights the plight of the world's most endangered wildlife and the importance of conservation. Of course, the photo ark also serves as a wonderful record of these species' existence (many of which most of us have probably never heard of).

Zoo date: An epic animal exhibition is coming to Melbourne

Image: Five-month-old Mandrill in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea photgraphed by Joel Sartore.

"The National Geographic Photo Ark has already inspired millions around the world with the message that it is not too late to save some of the world's most endangered species," says Katheryn Keane, Vice President of Exhibitions of the National Geographic Society. "Joel Sartore has demonstrated what one man can do using the power of photography-and now National Geographic wants to inspire people all over the globe to contribute to this global challenge."

So far, Sartore has visited 40 countries in his quest, and this July, the exhibition arrives in Melbourne, featuring portraits taken at Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary. "Joel Sartore portrays these precious species in such a captivating way, it's hard not to be moved by his portraits," muses Jenny Gray, Zoos Victoria CEO. "Some of the species featured are virtually unknown and it's such a brilliant way to connect zoo visitors and people around the world to conservation, especially the type of conservation happening in zoos all over the world. Without zoos, some of these species would not exist and we're just so lucky that someone like Joel has managed to capture their beauty before it's too late. Now the rest is up to us. It's up to you and me to do something about it."

Of course, there's no need to wait until July to show your support, Zoos Victoria offers a variety of ways to get involved with animal conservation. And as we all know, the first step is education - hence why we're still glued to our screens watching these Sir David Attenborough-hosted world tours.

National Geographic The Photo Ark arrives at Melbourne Zoo July 1 - October 1, zoo.org.au/photoark

Zoo date: An epic animal exhibition is coming to Melbourne