Forum > Photography > Ethical wildlife/bird photography

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 31, 2011

 

Here is a write-up by Prof.Ulhas Rane who is moderating maharashtrapakshimitra@yahoogroups.com.  It is a valuable piece of writing for all photographers.

"The news in Loksatta and subsequent messages on various E-groups about the  destruction of bird nests in Chandrapur forests in Maharashtra by a so-called wildlifer / nature photographer is shocking. It made me sad that the disease of unethical birdwatching / photography which emerged over the last 15 / 20 years has grown to such enormous scale, pehaps due to the advent of technology and easy availability of equipment - whether digital camera, powerful flashes, voice recorder or mobile phone.  The market potential for such 'rare' items also increased due to mushrooming of glossy magazines, books, newspapers and even TV media. This is affecting  our wildlfe adversely and would further destroy our already endengerd rare  species of wildlife, particularly birds. I have noted and written / talked about unethical nature observations /photography / collection over the last over 25 years and there are simple 'dos and don'ts' everyone need to follow to not only enjoy nature experiences yourself but also to leave them undisturbed for the others to enjoy. Most of us are aware of such norms. However now we need to add more  such guidelines / rules because of the advent ot technolgy and new tricks.


Going in large groups in the wild regions, disturbing natural evosystems with over-active movements (sometimes called 'enthusiasm'!), loud noise, throwing litter (now plastic water bottles), getting drunk and out of control (including throwing empty bottles particularly in the streams), shouting and screaming with excitement when one sees something new, collecting rare plants / flowers / insects etc. are common flaws incurred by many 'nature lovers'.

The next stage is more serious - climbing trees and inspecting nests, collecting nests and eggs, trying to go very close to wildlife to have a 'good' looks, encircling resting wildlife for tourists to get a closer look,
getting down from the vehicle / elephant in the sanctuarlies / national parks (where one is not allowed to walk) to get a good picture of a rare butterfly or even to collect the same (this happens mostly by bribing forest guards / drivers / mahuts). This contiues to the next stage of trading wildlife as collection items / momentoes.

The next category is wildlife photographers - Nest photography with insensitivity by carrying out 'gardening' (removing leaves, weeds, grass etc. around the nest) to get a better / clear picture. In a process, the nests are left prone to predators' attack and many times the birds are compelled to abandon them. The chicks are tortured / lured to open their beaks / give good poses etc. Powerful flashes are used to get 'bright & beautiful' pictures without considering that the creatures may get blinded. Then finally to have the exclusivity of one's rare picture, destroy the nest / animal so that no one else could get an opportunity. Many lure local tribals with money to show nests or attract / trap birds, animals using their traditional methods. Then this becomes another busines for tribals which is cleverly termed as employment generation / poverty alleviation!

Relatively recent emergence is the use of tape recorders / players - This comes with some amount of graduation / advancement of one's nature study endeavours. Many birds respond to the calls of their mates / colleagues. So  this is used to track the birds, particularly rare, elusive and crepuscular / nocturnal birds. The recorded calls are played in the wild and those rare  birds are attracted / fooled to come near you so that you could have a  'good' look, take close-up pictures and then laugh / enjoy how the foolish  bird was cheated. Many times cell phones are used to play this trick. This is being done in the remote forests (particularly Norheast region) not just  by photographers but mainly by so called 'wildlife tour organisers'. They
guarantee you of showing rare bird / animal so that you join such a tour by paying hefty amounts.
All this is happenning because 'Wildlife' has become a big business and any  business is likely to become exploitative. Unfortunately so called 'nature lovers' do not realise that they destroy the 'item' which fetches them money / fame / name. It is more unfortunate that it is being rampantly done under  the garb of Nature Awareness / Study Programmes.


Many times good wildlifers tend towards these tricks due to ignorance, over enthusiasm, competition, jealously or one-upmanship. Even when they are cautioned they become defensive and continue in what they believe! We must take strong action against this attitude and destructive behaviour of a few individuals which brings a bad name to the most beautiful hobby and entire fraternily of nature lovers. I am sure the forest department will take appropriate action in this particular case, but the authentic nature groups should also take initiative to cure this disease.

It must be ensured that only serious wildlife researchers are allowed to collect data using right techniques for scientific purpose, and that too after obtaining requisit permissions from the forest department / authorities, however difficult it may be. We need to inculcate simple ethics in upcoming nature lovers by making them  experience / enjoy the natural ecosystem. Calls, pugmarks, scratch marks, smells etc. are the evidences of the existance of wildlife in the ecosystem  and one should enjoy the excitement of being a 'nature detective'. This  would give you satisfaction, provide you more enthusism even though you may  not have 'seen' a single creature. Seeing is of course fun and that eventually comes when you become 'wild', go again and again without  disturbing the natural environment and become a part of ecosystem. Such love  for nature would culminate to wildlife study and nature conservation. We should enjoy nature by following simple ethics of doing what is good for wildlife. 

Prof. Ulhas Rane
'Brindavan', 227, Rajmahal Vilas Extn. II
HIG Colony, First Main Road
Bengaluru - 560 094
Phone: 080-23417366
Cell: 09448149236
Email: ulhasrane@gmail.com
Web: www.envirodesigners.com

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