Remember the subject is more IMPORTANT than the PHOTOGRAPH!
These days many people have access to a decent camera, a rugged off road motor vehicle and time to visit many natural wildlife habitats in and around the country. My question is how ethical are you as wildlife and nature photographer
I would like to highlight some of the ETHICS that we should all practice and hope people will use them as a guideline to become better ethical nature photographers.
- First and foremost, view wildlife from a safe distance for both you and them. Respect their spatial needs. If the animal interrupts its behavior (resting, feeding, mating, nursing of young, hunting etc.), then you are too close and must distance yourself! Don’t overstay your welcome, just like human’s animals also need their space & time alone.
- Never force an action. Be patient! The most beautiful photographs result from natural action.
- Never come between a parent and its offspring. This is unacceptable behavior. Also don’t spend countless hours with sensitive animals & their young. Sometimes animals become too relaxed & less alert to immediate treats/dangers from competitors & other predators that can kill them or their young.
- Never crowd, pursue, prevent escape, make deliberate noises to distract, startle or harass wildlife. This is stressful and wastes valuable energy in needless flight. The impact is cumulative.
- Never feed or leave food (baiting) for wildlife. Habituation due to handouts can result in disease or even death of that animal and injury to you.
- Never encroach on nests or dens as certain species will abandon their young.
- Never interfere with animals engaged in breeding, nesting, or caring for young.
- Learn to recognize wildlife alarm signals/distress calls and never forget that these animals are NOT tame no matter how docile or cuddly they appear.
- Do not damage or remove any plant, life form or natural object. Do pack out trash.
- Acquaint yourself with and respect the behaviors and ecosystems of the wildlife you may encounter. By doing so, you will enrich your experience tremendously
- Most significant, remember that the welfare of the subject and habitat are irrefutably more important than the photograph.
- Do not cut/mutilate plant parts to get a clear background in your photograph. Either try and avoid them or integrate them.
- Please do not ask or pay individuals from local, indigenous and non-indigenous communities to collect animals or find the whereabouts of sensitive species so as to photograph them later on.
- Please do not crowd around animals preventing movement, pursue them relentlessly or harass them by purposely making sounds or invoking movement.
- Nesting photographs have generally been banned by numerous photography groups. Another crucial point is the proximity to nests, as numerous birds do not stay on their nests when humans are in close and constant proximity. Try and not disturb them from nesting too.
- Migrant birds and mammals are often weary of the long migratory path. It is not advisable to approach or pursue them during the initial days of arrival.
- Avoid bird call playback. If not avoidable, do not overdo it. Playing back bird calls has been known to change the birds’ behavior and their activity patterns.
- Some reptiles are venomous, great care should be taken when photographing potentially venomous species. If you are not familiar with the species, leave it alone. If you know a snake is venomous and unsure of its potential strike distance, stay well back when taking photographs.
- Avoid disrupting the behavior of reptiles and amphibians. Some reptiles and amphibians guard their nests and eggs and may abandon them if they are disturbed. Mating animals and those depositing eggs should not be disturbed.
- Try and not handle delicate insects like butterflies and moths.
- Do not drive off the dedicated path. Off road driving of motor vehicles can cause several changes to the ecosystem.
- If you are photographing an animal, and it appears to be distressed, don’t continue to do so. A perfect example of this is when you spot a bird in a tree, and move closer to capture some images. If it begins to fly around you calling, it is likely you are near a nest and causing distress to the bird. Back away, and move on to elsewhere. Many birds can be legally photographed at the nest, but disturbing them to the extent they waste much energy chasing you are still unethical.
- If you have an idea on how to capture an image and you’re asking yourself questions about whether or not it is ethical, then it most likely isn’t. Putting wildlife first is of the utmost importance. An image is not worth the disturbance, or even life, of an animal.
- Strong lights affect nocturnal species. Avoid the use of high-intensity flash or lights.
- Lastly use your COMMON SENSE!!