By Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries
PULLMAN, Wash. – A winter-wooly bison, a lonely cheetah and more wildlife photographs by fourth-year veterinary student Kristen Lucibello are on display through December at the Animal Health Library, Wegner Hall 170, Washington State University.
The twice-yearly Art in the Library exhibit features animal-themed works, typically from artists with a connection to the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine. For more information, visit http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/news/art.
Too close for comfort
Many of the photographs came out of hikes and drives through state and national parks in Utah where Lucibello started her veterinary studies.
She and 29 others are part of the first class to complete the first two years of their training at Utah State University, which partners with WSU through the Washington-Idaho-Montana-Utah (WIMU) regional program in veterinary medicine.
On a winter visit to Antelope Island State Park, Lucibello photographed a roaming American bison. The park has one of the largest and oldest publicly owned bison herds in the nation.
She admits she got pretty close to the massive bull. How close? When you see the photograph, look for the individual strands of the bison’s steel wool-like coat on his head and the ice crystals stuck to his chin hair.
“It wasn’t smart, but he was a beautiful bull,” she said. “I probably don’t have much fear to begin with.”
Since arriving in Pullman for the second half of her professional program, Lucibello has taken advantage of other opportunities to photograph wildlife up close.
When she interned at Wildlife Safari in Winston, Ore., for a month in May 2014, she met Sanurra, a cheetah paired with an Anatolian shepherd dog named Ellie since 2006 when the two were a cub and a pup respectively.
Anatolians are part of a conservation effort to save wild cheetahs from extinction. In Africa, farmers fearing for their livestock often shoot cheetahs on their land, threatening their survival. The Cheetah Conservation Fund started a livestock guarding dog program (http://cheetah.org/what-we-do/human-wildlife-conflict/) in 1994 to give farmers the dogs to scare off cheetahs.
But Anatolians also make superb companions for cheetahs, and Ellie and Sanurra bonded quickly as odd siblings of sorts. Lucibello witnessed how strong their attachment was when Ellie underwent surgery for a torn ligament in her leg and was moved away from Sanurra temporarily to recover.
“Sanurra was so distressed without her friend that she had to be moved to an enclosure closer to Ellie,” Lucibello recalled. “You couldn’t separate them.”
Her photograph of Sanurra is stunning. Beyond the other-worldly stare of the wild brought close with a telephoto lens are a longing and confusion uncomfortably familiar to two-leggeds: loneliness for a dear friend on the face of an untamed and untamable animal.
“That was an awesome experience,” Lucibello said. “While I was at Wildlife Safari I also bottle-fed a baby cheetah that is now at the San Diego Zoo with a Rhodesian ridgeback for a companion. I absolutely love big cats.”
Lucibello will graduate this spring and plans to return to Utah to seek a job in shelter medicine initially, she said, then transition to wildlife medicine and public health. She is ever drawn to wild landscapes, the creatures that live there and their intersection with humans.
“These fields are very much connected,” she said. “When we encroach on their environment, we not only hurt the animals but we also hurt ourselves. By preserving both, we preserve ourselves.”
Lucibello’s photography is another form of preservation. She took a photography class as an undergraduate to combat stress, she said, but it’s been a pastime for her family long before that. She started taking pictures using her father’s Pentax film camera.
Two brothers also see the world through the camera lens. Then again, their shared love of photography could have something to do with their last name: Lucibello in Italian means “beautiful light.”
“I thought it was interesting because photography depends so much on the light,” she said.
Kristen Lucibello, WSU veterinary student and photographer, 475-355-6489, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries public relations/communication coordinator, 509-335-6744, email@example.com