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Archive for the UK Wildlife Category
Join me in my old home town of York in March for the RSPB Members’ Weekend. I will be presenting the after dinner talk on Friday the 27th before delivering a photo workshop on Saturday the 28th, which will include an opportunity to have your work critiqued.
The RSPB is not only one of the largest charities in the UK but it conserves birdlife the world over. I’m incredibly proud to be presenting my work, experiences and knowledge to such a powerful and passionate body of members.
For more information, head over to the RSPB’s website at rspb.org.uk
I’m proud and excited to announce that my badger vaccination story the alternative is a winner of the 2013 British Wildlife Photography Awards. The six-image portfolio picked up the top award in the Documentary category – my second win in as many years of entering the category (my last win was in 2011 as I served as a judge of the competition in 2012).
The set of photographs documents the process of trapping and vaccinating badgers against bovine TB. Many of the UK’s most influential scientists, NGOs and landowners – such as The Wildlife Trusts and The National Trust – believe vaccination is a viable alternative to culling. Yet, the government has chosen to press ahead with a cull in England, claiming that culling badgers is the best method for controlling bovine TB in Britain’s cattle. Find out more on the Badger Trust website.
This six image edit is taken from my autumn 2011 BBC Wildlife magazine cover feature Kill or Cure, which also featured as an online gallery on their website discoverwildlife.com. You can also see a more complete set of images on my website conservationphotojournalism.com
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the awards in London as I am currently working in Africa but I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to all winners in the 2013 British Wildlife Photography Awards. Please support the awards by attending the exhibition as it travels around the UK and by buying the book on the BWPA website.
I am really pleased to say that canvas prints of my photographs are now available to buy from the online shop on my website. The collection available includes limited editions, new and never before seen images, award-winning shots and some old favourites. I personally selected those images that could have a real impact on any wall. To see the selection, go to conservationphotojournalism.com/canvasses
Canvasses are available in two sizes – A1 and A2 – and are sorted into six categories – Limited Editions, Black and White, African Wildlife, European Wildlife, Landscapes and North American Wildlife. Fine art prints of my work will also be available shortly, so please keep an eye on conservationphotojournalism.com/shop.
So this short blog post is a result of a recent conversation I had with somebody about fox hunting. The conversation was civil and chatty enough but the underlying debate was based on the fact that this person was admitting to me that they enjoy fox hunting and have continued doing it since the ban came to pass.
Now, in case you were in any doubt, I don’t support fox hunting. Not only do I happen to like foxes – young or old, rural or urban, bushy-tailed or mangy – but if there is a problem with urban foxes in the UK then it certainly isn’t going to be sorted out by calling in the horse and hound. London is a city that feels the need to use PA systems to remind pedestrians every two minutes that the weather today has been ‘inclement’ (of course it has, it’s the the UK…). It would be a wet dream for the paperwork department in the Health and Safety Executive if anyone honestly thought that it would be a good idea to send a pack of dogs and a posse of galloping horses through the streets to rid the nation’s capital of these so-called vermin. Realistically, if there is any problem with urban foxes then it is a Defra issue and the government needs to stop talking about hunting and focus on humane control informed by statistics and research, not by passion and opinion.
Luckily, my conversational corival agreed. However, where our views began to part was at the mention of the ‘T’ word – tradition. This word is a particular favourite of the pro-hunting fraternity. While I do agree that many countryside traditions should be upheld, I think it’s time anyone who believes the fox hunting community is getting even the slightest rough deal because they can’t practice their tradition needs a healthy dose of perspective. Last year I was lucky enough to spend some time in the company of the San Bushman of the Kalahari. If you really want to appreciate how a ban on hunting threatens tradition, do yourself a favour and pack your sandals, book a flight to Botswana and take a wander into the desert. Hunting restrictions there threaten the very future of one of the oldest and most important cultures we know – a culture from which every one of us hails.
Strangely, I didn’t quite pick up the same vibe of desperation or feel the same sense of sympathy when looking into the eyes of my wealthy, London-based melancholist as I had when sat in the sand opposite a tribal elder contemplating a future without the right to hunt, without the ability to provide for his family, without a role in society, without a formal education to fall back on…without an alternative.
I’ve heard them called necklaces, nooses and ASBO’s (a reference to the electronic tags used to curb anti-social behaviour in the United Kingdom) but isn’t it time we learned to love the radio collar? These devices (which include tags for whales and harnesses for birds) have allowed researchers to record essential and surprising information about animal behaviour for years. Our understanding of the natural world would not be what it is without this technology yet many conservationists, wildlife lovers and photographers continue to turn their noses up at them. What I want to know is can the radio transmitter’s role in solving wildlife crime cases – as we saw recently recently in the case of an unfortunate Scottish golden eagle – help to convince the remaining detractors?
I would not have been able to capture the photographs in my African wild dog book Underdogs were it not for the radio collars worn by several wild dogs on various Southern African reserves. These endangered carnivores regularly cover such great distances that they were recently reclassified by the UN as a migratory species. The vital efforts of the researchers I worked alongside simply would not be possible without this technology. Without it, finding wild dogs would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Radio collars do not only allow researchers to track the movements of animals, they also allow researchers to find their study animals quickly for observation and other crucial work.
The introduction of GPS technology has both improved the efficiency of wildlife tracking and research as well as gifted us some mind-blowing insights into the movements of animals. We now know that African wild dogs disperse over distances greater than 450 kilometres to form new packs and that great white sharks will make the 11,000 kilometre migration between South African shores and the waters off Australia. The findings from research projects where GPS tracking has been utilised helps to broaden our thinking as conservationists and to inform protection policy both locally and collaboratively. The BirdLife Flyways Programme is a great example of how the mapping of migratory movements of species by using GPS technology can allow for a more evidence-based and targetted approach to conservation across borders and promote the safe passage of species.
One additional benefit of tracking technology that surprises many people (and one which I hope will help to convince those who continue to question the merits of this conservation lifeline) is the increased ability to prevent and solve wildlife crime. Radio tracking collars and transmitters can act as a deterrent to would-be persecutors. Although, sadly, a GPS collar was not a deterrent in the case of this magnificent free-roaming lion that was shot on a farm near South Africa’s border with Botswana in 2009, the signal from the collar did lead concerned researchers to the crime scene. In Scotland recently, RSPB staff were able to use GPS data to piece together the final movements of a golden eagle found with two broken legs. The data secured from the GPS transmitter worn by the young eagle, together with the results of the post-mortem, helped the RSPB to come to its conclusion that the eagle had been the victim of persecution.
The recorded persecution of golden eagles in Scotland is believed to be dropping. Surely it is now time to appreciate the role that technology – alongside relationship management, education, habitat restoration, control of invasive species and policy review – plays in such success stories? It could well be that you already recognise and appreciate all of the science but just can’t get the thought out of your mind that a wild dog wearing a collar looks too much like your dog at home. If that is the case, when you next catch Rover humping the sofa and find yourself driving Fido to the groomers, challenge yourself to consider your perception of what makes an animal wild. Think about the sheer number of creatures that are in decline and struggling to find their place in our developed world and ask yourself if the fitting of a radio transmitter that could help to save a species really makes an animal less wild and more like Rover.
What I hope, more than anything, is that you won’t settle on the fallacy that keeping all of nature looking pretty and picture perfect is somehow more important than improving our understanding of the natural world and our ability to conserve it.