Atka, Wolf Ambassador
(all photographs by Steven Acres, visit http://stevenacr.es to view more of his work)
Last week, the New York Obscura Society hosted the Wolf Conservation Center of South Salem, New York, at Greenpoint’s Broken Land bar for an evening of cocktails and a discussion of our historic relationship with wolves, the part we’ve played in decimating our country’s critically endangered wolf species, and our necessary role in their survival.
Atka, 11-year old Arctic gray wolf, and the star of the night
Our featured guest for the night was Atka, an 11-year old Arctic gray wolf and one of the center’s three Wolf Ambassadors. Raised by the center’s staff since he was a young pup of three weeks old, Atka is comfortable in the presence of humans and frequently travels around the Northeast, making appearances at schools and museums to aid in educating the public about the plight of our nation’s wolves and to encourage a greater involvement in conservation efforts.
Spencer from the Wolf Conservation Center leading the evening’s programming
Awaiting Atka’s arrival
While Atka is certainly the celebrity of the Wolf Conservation Center, the center’s real focus is on the captive breeding and preparation for release of Red and Mexican gray wolves, both highly endangered species which were at one point hunted to the brink of extinction in the wild. Unlike Atka, these wolves are kept in heavily wooded enclosures with as little human interaction as possible. A healthy fear of humans is crucial to a wolf’s ability to survive upon release. Centuries of negative mythology and misinformation still plague wolves, making humans one of the greatest threats to native wolf populations.
Our guest of honor arrives
Atka waited in his greenroom van with his German Shepherd companion during the WCC’s presentation, making his grand entrance as a finale to the night. Followed by a handler, he paced the length of the bar, undeniably majestic in his winter coat and seemingly un-phased by the myriad of camera lights and excited murmurs of his admirers.
A pretty phenomenal photo op…
Atka displays an impressive set of teeth
We watched in awe as he roamed the space with a surprising amount of comfort and ease, pausing at one point to drink water from a bar glass. Once he’d thoroughly checked out the bar and made his rounds, he patiently lay down by the front door, yawning widely to show his indifference to the occasion. Already a pro at public appearances like this, Atka was returned to his greenroom, leaving us thrilled to have had such an intimate encounter with such an impressive animal. Petitions were signed for wolf protection efforts, donations were made, and a room full of people were inspired to become more involved with wolf conservation.
Atka reclines with his handler, Rebecca
Here are more photographs of Atka, the Wolf Ambassador, by Steven Acres:
Our visit from Atka, the Wolf Ambassador took place December 3 at Broken Land in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
You can stay up to date with conservation efforts, new programs, and events on the Wolf Conservation Center’s website; and check out what Atka does with his free time by logging onto his personal live web cam.
The Obscura Society is the real-world exploration arm of Atlas Obscura We seek out secret histories, unusual access, and opportunities for our community to explore strange and overlooked places hidden all around us. Join us on our next adventure! And click here to read about previous events.