Archive for Conservation

Badger vaccination story wins BWPA

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Exhibition, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

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.

What do you do when you meet a hero?

Posted in Conservation, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

So last night I had the privilege of meeting Sir David Attenborough at a Galapagos Conservation Trust event at BAFTA on London’s Piccadilly. The question is: what do you do when you meet an inspiration, someone who through their life’s work has influenced your decisions about your own career? Some people go quiet in awe, some people go straight in for the autograph, others ask for their photograph to be taken with that person.

So what did I do? Happily, I don’t actually get star-struck and so it was none of the above. As he had given so much to an appreciative audience on a fantastic evening barely three weeks after having heart surgery, I chose to give something back to him – something he could take away – in the form of a signed copy of my book Underdogs with a personal letter of appreciation slipped inside. My love for African wild dogs and my drive to understand them and share their plight has been influenced by memorable scenes in series such as Trials of Life and Planet Earth. Beyond that though, Sir David’s greatest influence on my own work has been in his ethical appreciation for the natural world around him and avoiding sensationalising wildlife encounters by provoking behaviour just for better ratings.

Sir David continues to lead his field of wildlife film-making and he uses his position to engage people in the most uncomfortable and pressing issues facing our own species and our planet. His recent heart surgery should also come as a reminder that he is merely human. For those reasons, among many more, he needs to be respected and treated with dignity. I hope that others will remember this if they should ever get the chance to meet this incredibly inspiring man. While I completely understand the desire to have a record of such meaningful events in life, a digital photograph could be lost on a phone or stolen on a laptop whereas a shared moment with a warm handshake and the exchange of a few sincere words will stay with you for ever. I know it will stay with me. I just hope he likes the book…

One last push – please help by donating…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Take Action, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

© Neil Aldridge

When I set out to photograph my African wild dog project Underdogs four and half years ago I did so with two goals – to raise awareness of this incredible species and to make a financial contribution towards their conservation. Now, with a major new project on the horizon, I am launching one final push to raise funds for their protection. Please donate to my campaign on indiegogo.com. 100% of the money raised will be donated to wild dog conservation projects in Africa and used to send you ‘perks’ – personal thank yous for donating.

This project has been everything from exciting and fun to testing and emotional. The highs of winning international awards with photographs from this story contrast severely with the lows of coming to terms with knowing that every dog that I followed day-in-day-out in South African has since been killed. I am proud to think that the project has succeeded in raising awareness of the wild dog’s plight. Millions of people around the world have seen this work through international exhibitions, sales of my book, magazine features and online galleries. However, it is contributing to efforts on the ground that will make the greatest impact to the future of this species and this 48-day campaign aims to achieve just that.

Please donate what you can. If you can afford to give between £10 and £25, I will send you a print of one of my award-winning photographs. Any donation between £25 and £100 will see you receive a signed copy of my African wild dog book Underdogs. Donations over £100 will earn you a signed copy of my book and a print of an award-winning photograph in recognition of your generosity. I understand that not everyone can donate but that doesn’t mean you can’t help. Please send this link to others who may be able to contribute.

The African wild dog is in trouble. There are as few wild dogs in Africa as their are Tigers in Asia but, as pack animals, only a small number will ever breed. This means that the future of the entire species rests on only about 10% of the total number of wild dogs remaining – so about 400 individuals. We need to help equip those with the skills to save the species with the right tools. On the campaign page you will see a list of things that I am aiming to help projects access. Your help is appreciated and will make a difference. Thank you!

To donate, visit indiegogo.com/projects/save-the-african-wild-dog/x/3412838

A quick blog on fox hunting…

Posted in Conservation, European Wildlife, UK Wildlife, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

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.

Botswana travel feature in BBC Wildlife…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation Photography, Photography, Travel, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

In April 2012 I travelled to northern Botswana for BBC Wildlife magazine to photograph the intricate relationship between wildlife and water and see how the annual flooding of the Okavango Delta dictates animal movements and behaviour. I’m pleased to say that this portfolio features in the March 2013 issue of BBC Wildlife.

© Neil Aldridge

The photographs illustrate editor Sophie Stafford’s insightful travel feature, which covers research surveying how wildlife populations have changed and moved with recent flood patterns. You can see a selection of photographs from this story in a new gallery on my website. In this gallery, I show how Selinda lions spend their free time, how the yawn of a hippo can make you think twice about getting closer and how one of the Okavango Delta’s smallest inhabitants influences the fortunes of the region’s wildlife.

© Neil Aldridge

Botswana is an incredible country and remains my favourite location for photography and wildlife watching. If you’re thinking about going, be sure to pick up a copy of the March issue of the magazine and give Sophie’s article a read. Also, keep an eye on my website for upcoming photography tours to Botswana.

See more on my website conservationphotojournalism.com

Help…I’m drowning in nostalgia!

Posted in Photography, Travel, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

A quick glance around you in the run up to new year’s eve is likely to reveal newspapers each featuring special ‘2012 in review’ supplements, a television set showing one panel show’s ‘special Christmas edition’ after another (probably all filmed sometime in August), websites showcasing their ‘pictures of the year’ and a host of blogs by photographers reviewing their achievements in the year gone by. I was tempted to wade in and join the nostalgic party but if I – someone who neither owns a television nor buys newspapers – feel somewhat overwhelmed then I’m guessing you could do without one more person jumping up and down shouting “look what I did, look what I did”, right?

I also figured that if you did come to this blog expecting a what-was-what in the world of Conservation Photojournalism in 2012, it would be a lot simpler for you to use one finger to just scroll your mouse down the page and pick out the highlights that I bothered to write at the time, thereby saving ten of my fingers the effort of revisiting old news.

In the midst of all this nostalgia, I’m really looking forward to 2013. The first few weeks of the year will be taken up with a plethora of competition submissions of various sizes and guises, the completion of my first ebook and the launch of a range of high quality photographic prints for sale via my website. In terms of destinations, I will be exploring new locations like the Galapagos Islands and returning to old favourites like the Highlands of Scotland. I also have the first of my new photo tours to Estonia in partnership with Remo Savisaar running in May. Finally, with my African wild dog book Underdogs now firmly on the shelves of shops or (hopefully) living rooms, I will be putting the finishing touches to the proposal for my new, dream project and hopefully doing the first recce trip later in the year. Stay tuned…2013 is going to be a great year!

UNDERDOGS reviewed in Environment Magazine

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

A review of Underdogs – my African wild dog book – features in the latest issue of the magazine Environment. The magazine is a collaboration between some of Africa’s leading environmental organisations, including the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) with whom I worked while photographing Underdogs. The editor of Environment, Dr John Ledger, reviews the book and says:

“This is more than a ‘coffee table’ book because, although it is a large-format hard-cover edition, beautifully illustrated by the author’s excellent photographs, it also has a very informative text that imparts the scientific aspects of Wild Dog conservation…This is a lovely book to have and a very worthwhile read.”

To read the review of Underdogs in full, see the latest issue of Environment online at environmentmag.co.za/ebook/Env-12 or subscribe at environmentmag.co.za. Underdogs is now available across South Africa at leading stores, such as Exclusive Books, Estoril Books and PNA.

To order a signed copy of Underdogs, please visit my website.

Enough with the radio transmitter bashing…

Posted in Conservation, UK Wildlife, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

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.

If you do one thing…

Posted in Conservation, European Wildlife, Take Action, UK Wildlife, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

Sign the e-petition to ask politicians to stop the cull of badgers. The petition needs at least 100,000 people to sign it before government will consider debating the issue in parliament. However, because the badger cull debate has already seen its fair share of u-turns and ignoring of scientific findings by authorities, those of us fighting the cull want to see as many signatures recorded as possible, making public opinion on the matter simply impossible to ignore.

I am going to assume that because you are on my blog, you are either my mother or you have at least some interest in wildlife and conservation. I am also going to assume that because you are still reading this piece, you find the issue surrounding the badger cull in Britain of interest. In which case, I will ask you again to please sign the e-petition.

If you’re still uncertain about what you’re signing and fear that you may be aligning yourself with extreme animal rights activists and an anti-farmer movement, fear not. The petition merely requests government employs an alternative approach to culling badgers in the control of TB in cattle. Vaccination is already a viable alternative but it is being developed even further with plans to make an oral vaccine for badgers widely available. Those of you that follow my work will recall my 2011 BBC Wildlife feature that highlighted vaccination as a viable alternative to culling. There is further information about all of the options and science on the Badger Trust website.

The UK has already extirpated a long list of animals, many of which were seen to be somehow incompatible with humans and our farming practices in particular. Don’t let the badger join the lynx, white-tailed eagle, osprey, wild boar and wolf. Sign the petition!

Why I do what I do – the WWF interview…

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

Many people stare blankly back at me when I tell them I’m a conservation photojournalist, leading me to translate my occupation into the more comprehensible term ‘wildlife photographer’. In their latest blog post, WWF asks what drives me, who inspires me and how I go about photographing conservation issues. In answering all of those questions, I hope to explain just what it is that I do…and why.

It’s a huge privilege for me to have the world’s biggest wildlife conservation organisation and one of the world’s most recognisable brands interested in my work. This interview follows my success in the 2011 British Wildlife Photography Awards and also marks the announcement of the winners of the 2012 competition, of which I was a judge. WWF is a major sponsor of the British Wildlife Photography Awards and you can keep up to date with the winners on the BWPA website.

 See the full post on the WWF UK Blog…