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Thread: Wild Life Photographers : Positive Intrusion & where to draw a line?

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    Default Wild Life Photographers : Positive Intrusion & where to draw a line?

    A photo-journalist / wild life photographers’ lack of attachment at critical juncture has always intrigued me. But lately, it has been troubling me a lot.

    Case 1: Many a award winning photographers / journalists, especially in civil war torn hotspots in Africa have taken stunning & tragic photographs of human suffering. As with most photographs, these snaps have a story to tell. The viewer understands the past and present situation revolving the photograph. Often, I have seen, the photographer in his quest of being objective represents the truth in its starkest form. Many a times, the photographer, though being in a vantage position to help positively, mutates into a mute and attentive documentarians of the scene around him.

    Case 2: Tigers are mostly solitary animals; especially the alpha males. It’s a well documented fact, at times; dominant males would kill male cubs to pre-emptively tilt the balance towards them. This incident was most brutally documented in a series by a renowned Tiger conservationist.

    A similar situation arose with a pride of lions in Africa. Two cheetah cubs were finished off by a lioness that was expanding her pride's territory. This incident was also documented and shown on a TV program.

    My question is this:
    I do accept the cardinal rule of the photographer being “there” and yet NOT being “there” and to be as unobtrusive as possible. And please do not think that when I say lack of attachment I implicitly mean a lack of empathy.

    I also understand that the jungle has its own rules; that perhaps its Darwin’s law of evolution taking its course and that is nature's way of ensuring that the fittest survive.

    Now lets’ pause for a moment. Here we are taking about nearly endangered species! The cheetah and for that matter the Royal Bengal Tiger have low birth rates and statistically their young ones have an uphill task to reach maturity!

    Hence, when we, the photographers, TV documentarians are cognizant of the significance of the situation, why we can't be “positively obtrusive"? Is it asking for too much to lend a helping hand to save an extremely precious & endangered life?
    Last edited by Ranbir Mahapatra; 11-12-2008 at 10:50 AM.

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    Ranbir,
    OK, but let's be practical. Normally, the documentaries and willdife films are made by two kinds of people: a) those who wish to increase visibility as documetarians and are receiving funding for their work and b) those who are doing it to increase awareness and spread the word of wildlife. In this case let's leave out the third faction that does it only for the money.
    Actually, both factions are actually bringing out a situation from which the general public can understand what plagues wildlife and get their thought processes going. What we should be worried about in terms of how much a human should penetrate a jungle, is the fact that, increasingly, our wildlife is turning accustomed to human intrusion (tigers, leopards, etc), whereas our elephants are beginning to resent such intrusion. Clearly we are on a collision path, but practically, if none of us watch TV, none of us would know what a tiger looks like in the wild, for the simple fact that we don't have the time, resources to stay for a year in a willdlife reserve to catch a glimpse of the tiger. In both cases we are heading for a severe man-animal conflict. But the upside is that maybe enough people can watch these documentaries and fight for conservation.
    You have mentioned the declining numbers of alpha males and their inherited desire to control - this is evolution at work, and cannot be considered unnatural. Our main issue here is whether we can sustain a gene pool in varied habitats.
    Rgds, Naren

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    Naren. You are right in your views that already we are seeing chronic man-animal conflict and perhaps, my suggestion would lead to more such antagonism.

    Talking about sustaining gene pool in natural habitat, let me for the moment play the devil's advocate.

    Accordining to Darwinian law of evolution, the fittest survives. A dominant male tiger's desire to control by killing male cubs is natural. The latest tiger census puts the number the tiger population in India between 1165 and 1657. I am not sure whether we have a census / knowledge of the male-female ratio yet. Hence the diversity of the genepool is questionable. And if the genepool is not diverse (already much strained due to small population + not much chance for movement) else, tigers would be susceptible to some disease
    and get wiped out.

    Now lets talk practical.

    In 2002 tiger census, the tiger population was around 3400. Today its around 1165. At this rate, probably we wont be doing a tiger census in near future.

    My point is this: saving wildlife has to be a two pronged effort. First in developing a sustainable natural habitat, anti-poaching etc, and second, to proactively lend a helping hand to the survival of a diverse "gene pool".

    Already the odds of survival of certain species are in red. Should we not break the rule (positively) and do something?
    Last edited by Ranbir Mahapatra; 11-12-2008 at 11:38 AM.

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    Ranbir,
    The numbers presented in the tiger census makes me uncomfortable. For e.g., the number of tigers operating in stipulated study areas don't seem to be sustainable. However, evolution might have stepped in and increased the adapatability of tigers to their smaller environs.
    The gene pool should be allowed to combine with natural selection. But this is a view that some conservationists disagree with, e.g., the rehabilitation of tigers into Sariska - this now potentially creates a new gene pool.
    If we are to save our tigers, we must eradicate the threats that face them - i.e. prey loss due to habitat destruction, disease ridden prey (in cases where cattle are lifted by tigers in areas close to human habitation), human encroachment, etc. The tiger is staunch and he will survive, but we need to work from the bottom rung of the apex to ensure he survives.
    Even 1165 tigers to me seems a little too high, of course, we all know the Govt. had been hoodwinking all of us with inflated tiger numbers over the years, and at least now we're coming to terms with this fact.
    What we can do is champion their cause in population circles, the more people that join the fight for the tiger's survival, the better. It calls for sustained effort from India's youth and educated mass to do something for their wildlife.

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    I agree Naren.
    Here I would invite fellow conservationists to pitch in with the concrete ways to take it forward.

    Naren mentioned about working from "the bottom rung to the apex" methodology. Okay, being part of the IT bandwagon , I was wondering if we can do the following (based on pmbok guidelines):

    • Create a Project Tiger (with realistic scope and objective)
    • Define constraints (time, cost, resources, etc)
    • Define proper risk assessment (create strong risk mitigation & contingency plans)
    • Provide strong estimation (work breakdown structure or other technique)
    • Define quality benchmarks.
    • Complete & sustain the project.


    We have to brainstorm and collaborate with different cross-section to get the right "inputs" and look to implement it.

    Purpose is to document and implement intelligent (not whimsical, utopian ideas) about conservation.

    Narens' comment on Govt hoodwinking about numbers is troubling me greatly.
    I would also like to caution Naren that though the tiger is a survivor, evolution has a long time-foot print. It might be too late.

    We need to act.

    Can somebody moderate / lead this pls?
    Sabyasachi: would you suggest we create a new thread on it.

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    Ranbir,
    It's not too late to save the Tiger. We still have hope and as long as there's hope, there's possibility, probability and survival.
    It becomes too late when all efforts to save the tiger are negated or wind down. We are seeing an increase in tiger saving programmes only because people are now sitting up and taking notice.
    Rgds, Naren

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    We often feel a tremendous urge to play God. Especially when we feel that a carnivore (read strong) is going to kill a herbivore or a cub or fawn of any animal (read weak). We always feel sympathy for the so called weak.

    However, we don’t realise the ways of nature.

    The concept of survival of the fittest just doesn’t mean brute force. It also means that in any species the strongest genes are passed on to the next generation. That is the way of evolution. For eg. during the breeding season most of the birds and animals display breeding plumage and colouration or other changes to indicate their maturity. The females are able to choose the best genes for their future generations. An elephant in estrous would prefer a big male tusker over other smaller tuskers. A tigress would prefer the big dominant male. Peacocks with bigger feathers get preference over males will less developed feathers etc etc.

    When a tiger or any carnivore is about to kill a deer fawn, most of the people sympathise with the fawn. However, we should realise that a carnivore like a tiger is designed to eat meat. It can’t survive on anything else. So if you prevent it from killing one animal, then it will have to kill another. No way, you can turn it into a vegetarian. We should also understand that in nature nothing goes waste. Energy is transformed, but not wasted. A deer fawn kill would ensure the survival of a tigress and small cubs. A larger kill would also be scavenged by birds and carnivores after it is left by the tiger or leopard or lion, who ever killed it. After the vultures have scavenged on the last remaining morsel of flesh stuck in the body, several insects and other organisms start their work and decay the carcass or what ever is left of it. So there is no concept of waste unlike in our “civilized” world.

    Now consider another scenario: A tigress has left behind its small cubs and gone in search of food. In the meantime, a pack of hyenas reach the spot and are about to kill the cubs. Or a leopard is there and is about to kill the tiger cubs who are defenseless. Again, the wildlife photographer – will be a mute spectator and will document the moment. I am sure you will accuse him or her as cruel. But s/he won’t interfere in the ways of nature. The photographer chooses not to act as God.

    Let’s modify the scenario further: The tigress has left behind the cubs in search of food. And this National Park though huge, has its tiger population recently decimated by poachers. She is the last remaining adult tiger. If the cubs die, then there is a real chance of the tiger population becoming locally extinct. In this situation, if a pack of hyenas or a leopard is about to kill the cubs, what will you do? Will you keep on documenting it or try to shoo away the attacker(s)?

    It is believed – and rightly so – that we generally mess up. When left alone, Nature has a self healing capacity. So we should leave alone nature. The only act of “God” that we can play is to just stop destroying nature and just leave it alone. The forest will regenerate on its own. Wildlife will multiply when left alone. It is better that our conscience is woken up not when the situation is irreversible, but when there is still time left to act.

    Consider another scenario: A large adult male tiger (say B2 of Bandhavgarh) who is now getting old and is increasingly getting injured in fights with other younger males. He has still a couple of years left in him. If he is injured, then he can’t hunt. During the period he is recovering, he needs to eat. In the absence of food, either he may die during the recovery period or if he survives by catching small animals or by scavenging, he would be very weak. So post recovery, he won’t be able to come back to peak fitness and is likely to be killed in another fight. So is the forest department justified if they somehow intervene to help the injured tiger?

    The proponents of saving or “positive intrusion” or playing “God” would say that it is good to help the species fight the odds. On the other hand the opponents would say that you are trying to interfere in the ways of nature.

    It is not just black or white. There are shades of gray in-between.

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    Lately the Shades of Grey seems to be the dominant color....

    Tell me something..... as you talk of "Playing God" or " Positive intrusion"... where does one draw the line.....???

    I would love to moderate on this one....

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    I am actually in two minds now

    When I started this thread I was definitely on the "play God" side as Sabyasachi put it. But now, I would say I am in the "grey"!

    My starting premise was: It was us humans who brought about this mess. So isn't it our obligation now to make up for past crimes?

    But now, even if we have good intention, if we act, how can we be sure about the repercussions? Would it have a deleterious effect? How much of risk mitigation can be actually planed out?

    I think the need of the hour, is to positively intrude in situations pertaining to habitat protection and infrastructure management for the same. And we should be seriously considering pitching in when we feel there is a threat to the "gene pool" diversity, be it man / animal.

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    Default Wildlife documentaries infringe animals' privacy, says report

    Wildlife documentary makers are infringing animals' rights to privacy by filming their most private and intimate moments, according to a new study.

    Footage of animals giving birth in their burrows or mating crosses an ethical line that film-makers should respect, according to Brett Mills, a lecturer in film studies at the University of East Anglia.

    Mills compiled a report on animals' rights to privacy after reviewing scenes from the BBC's 2009 wildlife series "Nature's Great Events". Among the offending footage was film of a narwhal whale that appeared to have retreated from view beneath the Arctic ice sheet.

    "Instead of thinking we'll leave it alone, film-makers decide the only solution is to develop new technology so they can film it," Mills said.

    "We have an assumption that humans have some right to privacy, so why do we not assume that for other species, particularly when they are engaging in behaviour that suggests they don't want to be seen?"

    In 2008 the BBC was inundated with complaints after Springwatch presenter Bill Oddie described an encounter between two beetles: "He crash-lands on top of a likely looking lady. There's a bit of luck! One thing's for sure: this boy is horny!"

    Mills said filming such encounters with miniature cameras was a level of surveillance humans would most likely object to. "The key thing in most wildlife documentaries is filming those very private moments of mating or giving birth. Many of these activities, in the human realm, are considered deeply private, but with other species we don't recognise that," he said. Mills' report appears in the Journal of Media and Cultural Studies.

    Mills said that while it might seem odd to claim animals have a right to privacy, the idea should not be dismissed. "We can never really know if animals are giving consent, but they do often engage in forms of behaviour which suggest they'd rather not encounter humans," he said.

    The BBC's Natural History unit in Bristol said: "Constantly developing filming technology gives wildlife film-makers the ability to film animal behaviour with minimal disruption to the animal. Film-makers work very closely with scientists whose work studying the complexity of animal lives is vital for wildlife conservation.

    "Natural history films play a major role in spreading knowledge of their work. And understanding the world around is vital in the continuing endeavour to preserve our ecosystem."

    Link - http://www.guardian.co.uk/environmen...fringe-privacy
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

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    There is a lot of ambiguity to Bret Mills' report. The logic proposed by the researcher could potentially be taken to absurd levels. Here Bret is holding up typical "human societal" propriety to the animal world.

    What really should be of concern is the intrusion factor and its effects. To take a unique image if one builds a hide by tampering with surrounding flora - that is a problem. If I make too much of noise while I filming wildlife - that is a problem. If my friends make loud noise by seeing a tiger nap - that is a problem.

    As long as we are discreet; it should not be a problem.

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    Default Man vs God...

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni blamed the "IPL parties" for India's debacle at the World cup T20 in West Indies.Then somebody countered by asking; "Why he didn't say this before the tournament started?!"

    We all talk as per our convenience.Man has been playing God for many years to come.Why is that there are man made water holes in many of the Tiger reserves of India?Many of the Tiger photos on Indiawilds are of Tigers moving around these waterholes......

    Many more are of Tigers either taking rest or taking a stroll on man made roads(Not tarred of course!)

    Man is the ultimate God for Animals.He decides whether they should survive or not.

    Many a cattle were culled in europe a few years ago.Why is that nobody shed some tears for that?

    Lets now imagine a situation.All the Tigers of Ranthanbore are carrying a deadly virus.Any man comes even close to 1Km radius can be infected with the virus and no cure exists.What you do in such a situation?

    So it is Man who decides the fate of animals.Sabyasachi says we should not play God.We already have.......

    All these Tiger reserves are made by men.We have already intervened in their natural survival.Why is that there is no "Hyena reserves" in India.

    Is it because that the Tiger is more photogenic?Or is it because that it is on the top of the food pyramid?

    In reality men looked at animals only after he settled down in his life.Befeore that he had no time for animal survival.

    All those wildlife documentaries have intervened in the natural way the animals behave, and entertained us.Steve Irwin asked Larry King "Havn't I entertained You".But of course at the cost of the animals.He of course had not harmed any animal.But still intervened in their natural behaviour.

    Animals having courtship is diffrent from humans.We are "civilized".Animals are not.If they were; why are they not wearing clothes?!

    We take pictures of Tgers,Elephants,Gaurs and Langurs in the Gundlupet- Ooty road.Havn't we intervened in their natural surroundings?We constructed roads and resorts so that we can stay and travel comfortably.

    We have looked at animal comfort only after we have reached a certain level of comfort.The only consolation is that there are still a "Few Good men" existing in this world who would see that all those magnificient animals survive for the future generations to see....

    Regards

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    Indeed even Ullas Karanth says in his book 'A view from the machan' that man has already infringed the jungle life and made irreversible impact that, now a retreat would mean more harm than good. Of course the point again is debatable. A thorough scientific study can only confirm. Then again a study again means disturbing the natural course of life?

    I agree with Sabyasachi that we must not play god.. but we can make sure about their sustainability by protecting their surviving habitats.

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    Default Tourists intervene to stop Tigers fighting in Tadoba

    Interference by the resort owner in the Tiger fight, to save the two tigers..right or wrong?

    Tourists intervene to stop Tigers fighting in Tadoba

    To be at the right spot at the right time is what every tiger lover hopes for. Nagpur resident Vishal Chaudhari, 38, who operates a resort witnessed a fight between two male tigers in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra's Chandrapur district on November 25. Tadoba has around 43 tigers.

    "It was my 55th safari in Tadoba over 12 years and I have sighted around 30 tigers so far. But what unfolded before me is every wildlife lover's dream. My friends, Gulshan Chaudhari and Rajendra Lakudkar, two others and I were in a gypsy on the Kosekanar Road near Jamni area. The first tiger whose name we do not know was sitting on the eastern side of the road. Suddenly, the second tiger named Leopard Face or Gabbar appeared from the west side and walked past our gypsy," he narrates. "Leopard Face crossed the road, roared and challenged the bigger male. A roaring match went on for a few minutes and we thought it may not lead to a fight. But soon both stood on their hind legs, face-to-face and the battle of Tadoba started."

    "After a few minutes of pawing, I could see that they had each other's throat in their jaws. It was a death-lock which lasted for 20 seconds and blood was oozing. I was sure that one of them would die. I asked my guide if we could do anything to save them. He said no. Though tourists are advised to remain silent and not disturb wildlife, I deliberately began shouting at the two gypsies ahead of us to move. I told my friends to shout as well," he admits. "The ruse worked. The tigers got confused and walked away.

    source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/h...w/26440409.cms
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

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