Photographers' Blog

Circus animals of Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico

By Henry Romero

When I was a child back in Colombia I used to go to the circus every New Year’s Eve with my parents. It was always a special moment. I remember the lights, the clowns, the acrobats and the beautiful animals performing tricks that made us laugh and gaze at them in awe.

A tiger jumps through a ring of fire during a show at the Atayde Hermanos Circus in Mexico City August 8, 2014. Mexico City's government overwhelmingly passed a law on June 2014, which imposed stiff penalties of up to $60,000 on circuses in the capital that use animals such as lions, camels and horses in their performances. Circuses have one year to comply with the ruling. Picture taken August 8, 2014. REUTERS/Henry Romero (MEXICO - Tags: ANIMALS POLITICS SOCIETY)

But that was some 40 years ago and now, although I still like the acrobats and clowns at the circus, I’m not so sure about seeing the animals perform any more.  

I’ve never taken my own kids to a circus with animals. I just don’t see the point of looking at a tiger that has been coached to jump through a burning ring, or an elephant sitting like a person, or a monkey dressed in a tiny outfit. In my personal opinion, it sends the wrong message to our children about respecting animals.

Audience members watch a show at the Fuentes Boys Circus in Mexico City July 31, 2014. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Soon, however, these kinds of shows will be a thing on the past here. This year, Mexico City’s government passed a law, which comes into force in the middle of next year, imposing heavy fines on circuses if they use animals in their performances.

A trainer moves a llama during a show at the Atayde Hermanos Circus in Mexico City August 8, 2014. REUTERS/Henry Romero

The change has made circus owners here very angry, and the president of the circus worker’s union says they are being targeted. “It’s a direct attack against Mexican circuses, it’s not in favor of the animals,” he said, pointing out that by contrast, bullfighters are still allowed to perform in the country. 

Pakistan’s beasts of burden

Choa Saidan Shah, Pakistan
By Sara Farid

A donkey carrying sacks of coal walks through the narrow tunnels of a coal mine, in Choa Saidan Shah in Punjab province April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Farid

The miners call their donkeys their “biggest treasure”, an animal whose strength and patience lets them work in some of the world’s most dangerous mines. But life in Pakistan’s mines is dangerous for everyone – there’s a constant risk of cave-ins, and the black dust floating in the air slowly fills up the lungs of both man and beast.

A young miner leads his team of donkeys back to the coal face to collect more coal underground in Choa Saidan Shah in Punjab province April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Farid

The donkeys make twenty trips a day from the depths of the mine to the storage site where they dump the coal. For each trip, they are loaded up with coal sacks weighing 20 kg (44 lbs) each. The teams of four to six animals are guided to the surface, unloaded, then obediently turn and walk again towards the black hole.

A young miner rushes his donkeys back into the coal mine to fetch another load of coal in Choa Saidan Shah in Punjab Province May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Farid

A miner with a stick in his hand walks his donkeys into the depths of a coal mine in Choa Saidan Shah in Punjab province April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Farid

The workers have made a choice to be down here, I think, even if it’s a bad choice made by poor people with few options. The donkeys haven’t chosen this life, but nevertheless they trudge trustingly up and down the tunnels, wounds on their backs and faces covered with coal dust. Why no bandages? I asked the miners. They laughed. Life inside the mines is hard for everyone.

The crime of dog kidnapping

Mexico City, Mexico

By Edgard Garrido

A woman approached me while I was taking pictures of a leaflet with information on a purebred dog that had gone missing in Parque Mexico. She was on a bike and she had a dog with her whose head easily reached my belly. She asked me if I was doing a story and she introduced herself as Mariam Luzcan “a protector of dogs and a true dog lover”. She was dressed in black and covered with what I suppose was dog hair and lots of dirt, she smelled like dog too. But I liked her so we agreed to meet again in a couple of days and do a story together on missing dogs.

In Mexico City, dog kidnapping has become another way of making an illegal, but quick, buck. It is becoming more common as many of the capital dwellers own lots of dogs. And I mean lots – not one or two, but four or even six or seven pooches at a time. Of course there is a wide range of businesses dedicated to the well-being of man’s best friend. There are dog hairdressers, dog clothing lines, specialty food stores, dog hotels, companies that arrange adoptions for “orphaned” dogs, security for dogs, massages for dogs, crematoriums for dogs, you name it.

In a country where half of the population lives in poverty and where drug violence has killed more than 70,000 people so far, I find this overwhelming love towards an animal which I have never been able to relate to, a bit disturbing.

Flying with man’s best friend

Salt Lake City, Utah

By Jim Urquhart

Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz once said, “All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.”

For me there is a simple truth in that statement. I have many failings and weaknesses that I am continually trying to learn from. Some I am just learning to accept, new ones get pointed out daily by others. That is just me. But I have the privilege of owning and caring for a dog.

GALLERY: FLYING DOG

Spending time with most dogs you will probably find they want nothing more than to be close to you and be at your side as you experience the world. Food, water and loving attention is all you need to provide to win a dog’s heart. It is a simple price. But the admission into their hearts is worth more than their weight in gold.

Racing greyhounds fall between the cracks

West Yorkshire, England

By Chris Helgren

I met Alice at a rescue center in West Yorkshire. She was skin and bones, flea-ridden, and half the weight of the dog she should have been. Alice was a greyhound bred for racing, who was picked up wandering the busy Doncaster Road, the victim of an uncaring owner who had dumped her rather than continue feeding her. She was brought to Tia Greyhound & Lurcher Rescue center, a sanctuary sited on the edge of a moor near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.

Tia was borne of the need to house dogs which were either abandoned or whose owners or trainers could not find space at regular welfare kennels. The Retired Greyhound Trust is doing an admirable job in housing and arranging for homes for about 4,000 dogs per year through their 72 branches, but their space is limited to about 800 kennels. Also, kennels charge up to 300 pounds for a new dog to be admitted. What happens in the cases seen by Rothery in Yorkshire is that if a greyhound owner cannot place their dog in one of these kennels, the pressure is on to move it out of their care in other ways, such as by advertising via websites Gumtree or Preloved. These new onward owners are not vetted, and there is no return policy if it doesn’t work out.

Debra Rothery, who runs the Tia center, said that at any given time they house 80 dogs which would “otherwise be dead”. The animals coming into her care are from a region surrounding the center, where there are six regulated and non-regulated racetracks. She said that about 50% of her greyhounds were abandoned, the remainder brought in by owners and trainers. Rothery said that the operating costs of Tia, which run at £1000 per day, are met by donations.

The tiger, the pig and the cage

Sumatra Island, Indonesia

By Beawiharta

Over a three-week period in February, I covered two very different animal-related assignments in Indonesia – the slaughtering of snakes in West Java and the preservation of the endangered tiger in Sumatra.

In West Java, Wakira along with his 10 workers kill hundreds of snakes each day for their skin at his slaughterhouse in Cirebon. While in Sumatra, real estate tycoon Tomy Winata saves and releases tigers into the wild at his Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation. I didn’t enjoy the snake slaughterhouse assignment because snakes are dangerous and disgusting, but I really liked visiting the tigers in Tambling.

After a nearly 90 minute flight on a Super Puma helicopter from Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, we landed at the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation on the southern tip of Sumatra Island. The 45,000 hectare forest reserve can only be reached by boat or plane. As soon as we reached the Sumatran Tiger Rescue Centre on our golf cart, we could immediately hear the roars of the tigers. Seeing three ferocious tigers up close was shocking to me. At times, it was difficult to move and I trembled in fear as the view from my camera lens made me forget that they were actually caged up.

The lost dogs of Ciudad Juarez

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

By Jose Luis Gonzalez

As a photojournalist living and working in Ciudad Juarez I’m used to seeing dead people being picked up off the streets.

The last few years have been brutal, with violence and shoot-outs every day and dead people everywhere. But it is much calmer now and corpses lying in puddles of blood are not as common a sight as they used to be. Nevertheless, some weeks ago I drove through a neighborhood and saw a couple of men dressed in hooded, white coveralls picking up another kind of corpse: a dead dog. They threw it into a container pulled by a truck and when they took off I started to follow them.

They stopped every so often, picking up another dead dog from the streets and throwing it into the container. They were collecting a lot of dead animals and when I approached the truck, I could see that there was a whole pile of them.

Among wolves

Merzig, Germany

By Lisi Niesner

“You can join me and pick up the deer carcass”, German wolf researcher Werner Freund invited me as he climbed into his lorry. I quickly jumped in. A rotten smell of meat hit me. I thought I wouldn’t smell it after a while but this proved to be a very false assumption. We chatted while driving and he told me about his education as a gardener and his first botanical job at the Stuttgart zoo. Soon, his job turned into a predator zookeeper after the initial bear keeper was injured. “I have cataracts, but have heard it can be treated very well today”, he suddenly added. I started monitoring his driving suspiciously until we reached a house, not far from the French border. There it lay in the snow, directly on the driveway. He asked me to give him a hand, and in view of the fact that Werner Freund is almost 80 years old, it was just polite to help him load the animal’s cadaver. On the way back I told him I had never loaded or even touched a dead deer, which seemed to amuse him.

GALLERY: LIVING WITH WOLVES

Back at his home he changed clothes to confront the Mongolian wolves pack with a familiar odor. I was curious. Werner opened the door of the fence and entered the enclosure. First the alpha male wolf Heiko, came towards him and licked his mouth which is a sign of acknowledgment and a sign of membership of the pack. After this ritual Werner got the deer cadaver, put it on the snowy ground, lay down and held it in a manner as if it were his prey. As a child I was told, like most other children, the tale of little red riding hood making me wary of the big bad wolf with bared teeth on display. Unexpectedly the pack was shy and approached carefully. Werner took over his role and bit into the leg of the deer but spat out the raw meat. I was too busy trying to shoot pictures through the wire-netting fence, to wonder what was going on in front of me. None of the wolves competed with him for the food.

In the afternoon I met Werner at the enclosure of the Arctic wolves, he had changed his jacket again. It was terrific watching the beautiful white animals howling in anticipation. They recognize the sound of Werner’s car and were excited long before he arrived at the gate. “From the moment the wolf cubs taste meat and blood, they turn into predators and cannot be domesticated like dogs”, he said while entering the enclosure with a bucket of meat. From when the Arctic wolf Monty, named after the horse whisperer Monty Roberts, and the female wolf Deborah had a litter of cubs, Werner began feeding the cubs from the mouth. It was incredible that the whole pack adopted this behavior.

Farewell to Fafá

By Ueslei Marcelino

Once upon a time, there was Fafá.

A brave lioness, wild by nature, strong and imposing, Fafá was born and raised in the Brasilia Zoo, and she was undoubtedly one of its biggest attractions.

The star’s last show, however, was a most unusual scene, inside a CAT scanner. Fafá, nearly 18 years old, had stopped eating, had bleeding nostrils, and suffered seizures, and everyone who cared for her at the zoo became concerned.

A complex plan was orchestrated by the zoo to take the lioness to a veterinary clinic. After a heavy dose of sedatives, she was moved from her cage to a litter and transported to the clinic.

My day with Cocoa, the New York goat

By Allison Joyce


A few weeks ago, while I was at the Empire Hotel having a drink with friends, a latecomer arrived and laughingly said that on his way, he had passed by a goat hanging out at Lincoln Center. We were incredulous until he showed us a photo he had snapped on his phone and sure enough, there it was, a goat actually hanging out in the Lincoln Center fountain! Within days I read a story on Gawker titled “Amazing Pizza Goat Risks Overexposure,” which stated that the “pizza goat”, aka Cocoa, had dined at Serafina. I thought that this would make an incredible visual “only in New York” sort of story, so I tracked down the goat’s owner, Cyrus Fakroddin, and met them at their home last weekend in Summitt, New Jersey with the Reuters TV crew.

We followed Cyrus and Cocoa around the home they share as Cocoa wandered about, lounged in front of a warm fire, hung out with Cyrus’s pet chickens, and even jumped up onto the kitchen counter to snack on some fresh fruit. Before we headed into the city for the day, we ran an errand at the post office, and when confronted with their “no goats allowed” policy Cyrus simply told them that she was a service goat and that was that– we were in! Walking around downtown Summitt, it was clear that Cyrus and Cocoa were local celebrities; they were greeted many times by their local fans.

After the post office we headed out to Manhattan. We went to Central Park, where Cyrus serenaded Cocoa to sleep by playing his harmonica. We then hopped on the subway to go to Little Italy for lunch at an outdoor cafe, finally ending the night in Times Square, where Cocoa followed Cyrus into Forever 21 to browse. They were quickly escorted out by a laughing security guard. After their shopping excursion, Cyrus put Cocoa down for another nap under the glowing lights of the square.