Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wildlife Watching Ethics

There are many people nowadays who are into wildlife and photographing wildlife. It is good to see more and more people coming to appreciate the beauty of mother nature. When I was a kid only myself and a handful were really interested about this. I would encourage everyone to observe, travel and appreciate what mother nature has given us in Sri Lanka. We are blessed with things which most other countries will envy. And yet we tend to take these for granted.

What I like to enlighten and highlight to you all today are the ethics of Wildlife watching. There always needs to be a code of conduct on how you approach and view wildlife and nature.

Below are a list of things which I would like to share with you

  • The animal is more important that the photograph- this is the cardinal rule in wildlife photography. Doing things to disturb or manipulate the animals behavior for the sake of a photograph goes against all basic principles of wildlife photography. I have come across cases where some disturb an animal to capture the perfect shot. Eg- Throwing a stone at a leopard for it to turn around and look at the camera, disturbing a flock of birds to get a flight shot, lifting overhanging branches and leaves in a forest to get a clear view of a roosting owl. These all are things which should not be done as a principle. If you miss the shot, too bad, that is the way of nature and sometimes its even better to just put the camera down and enjoy the sighting with ones own eyes.

  • Do not disturb bird nests- The main reason for this is because most birds would abandon nests if it is disturbed. This will obviously end up with the chick dying. If you do see a nest observe it at a distance and only with minimal disturbance. Do not use flash to enhance the light as this will disturb the animals and possible damage the eyes as well. Best is to set up a hide in a good distance to observe the adult birds when perched nearby rather than the nest itself.

  • Minimise the use of flash on nocturnal animals- The use of flash is sometimes used to light up a dark area. But this needs to be done with care especially with nocturnal animals like the Loris and Owls as this can damage their eyes and disturb them.

  • Do not use bird calls to lure animals- This is common practice among guides in Sinharaja etc and is not a recommended thing because most calls are mating calls which when played repeatedly can affect the breeding patterns of these birds.

  • Observe park rules- It is important to observe park rules when inside a national park. Below are the park rules issued by the Wildlife Department.

  • Do not feed the animals- This is obviously something anyone with common sense would know. The dangers to the animal can be severe illness or death of not being able to digest its unnatural food. the dangers to humans is the animal becoming a nuisance to the public. This is the case with Gemunu the tusker who is a menace now in Yala. Videos of him are widely available on youtube.
Please take this in a positive light and try to carry out ones activities with these ethics in mind. Also encourage your friends and others to follow the same.

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