Think Before You Shoot: How to be an Ethical Wildlife Photographer

Handy tips for shooting in the wild.  
Tiger tourism
Illustration: Rohan Chakravarty

A great photograph doubles the joy of a wonderful sighting in the wild. It stays on as evidence of a memorable encounter, when the tiger turned back to look straight at you as it sauntered regally across the track, or adorable baby wild boars tumbled over one another in their eagerness to follow their mama.

Sometimes, in the pursuit of that picture, our enthusiasm can get the better of us. In the interest of acting thoughtfully towards the wildlife we love so much, wildlife photographer Ramki Sreenivasan and filmmaker Shekar Dattatri have put together a little booklet, which has a helpful list of things to watch out for. Peppered with colourful illustrations by Rohan Chakravarty and Sumit Sen, Stop! Don’t Shoot Like That—A Simple Guide to Ethical Wildlife Photography alerts travellers to the potential harm of their actions. We extracted a few handy tips:

CROWDING ANIMALS Most of us have seen safari jeeps crowding around a spot, as visitors clamour to take pictures. This either drives the animal off or can even aggravate it. It’s best to maintain a safe distance and drive away when more visitors approach the spot.

HANDLING CRITTERS Picking up or touching amphibians and reptiles to get close-up shots startles them and exposes them to infections. Click them in their natural habitat, it’s less harmful and the resulting photos are more honest.

MIMICKING BIRDCALL Photographers sometimes play a recording of bird call to draw out an elusive winged creature. This can be very disruptive, especially during breeding season when it distracts birds from their courtship and nest guarding.

NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY To shoot nocturnal creatures like nightjars, owls, and lorises, travellers frequently end up using flash or external lights, harming the animals’ sensitive eyes. A more empathetic approach would be to use a night vision camera.

MOBILE MENACE Any loud conversations in a sanctuary are a no-no. And nothing is worse than the alien sound of a ringing phone. Put that mobile on silent and enjoy the sounds of the jungle.

OFF-ROADING To stretch their stay in the wild, visitors often linger till the last minute and then drive pell-mell to reach the exit in time to avoid being fined. Speeding, off-roading, or taking shortcuts in the forest can frighten animals and damage delicate habitats like salt flats and grasslands.

Read the booklet on www.conservationindia.org/resources/ethics.

Appeared in the September 2016 issue as “Law of the Jungle”.

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    Kareena Gianani is Associate Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She loves stumbling upon hole-in-the-wall bookshops, old towns and collecting owl souvenirs in all shapes and sizes.

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    Rohan Chakravarty is a cartoonist, illustrator and animation designer. He believes that there is always a funny side to the serious things in life.

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