Archive for Conservation

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.

Advertisements

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…

Underdogs is on the shelves in South Africa…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

I am really proud and excited to announce that my acclaimed African wild dog book Underdogs is now available to buy in the shops across South Africa. This 156-page coffee-table conservation book focuses on the Southern African population of this endangered carnivore and so South Africa has always been a major market for the title.

African wild dogs suffered in 2011 with many packs being hit hard by poaching and persecution. 2012 has seen high profile support for the conservation of this iconic and charismatic carnivore in South Africa. I simply hope that Underdogs can add to people’s understanding of these creatures and play at least a small role in securing their future in South Africa and beyond.

Download a provisional list of outlets selling Underdogs (this list will be updated wherever possible).

You can see a gallery of photographs and read more about Underdogs on my website, where it is also possible to order a signed copy of the book.

Tell better stories…

Posted in Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Exhibition, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

Join me on the Canon stand at the British Birdfair for seminars on telling wildlife stories with your camera. Every day from Friday the 17th to Sunday the 19th of August I will be talking through the shots I have to get and the decisions I have to make to tell award-winning stories and keep my editors happy. Download the seminar schedule here

As a Canon photographer, I will be showing just why my equipment choice allows me to work on books and magazine features while thinking about my online audience at the same time. During the seminars I will be trying to convince you to photograph more than just pretty wildlife portraits.

Having just returned from promoting my new African wild dog book Underdogs and picking up an award in the International Conservation Photography Awards in the United States, I will be revealing the importance of being able to photograph wildlife, landscapes and people to pulling together a project that matters. You will also have the chance to ask me your questions on equipment, the industry and how I captured the work that I will be showing you.

This year’s Birdfair will also see me delivering a lecture on the Limpopo Valley on Sunday the 19th in marquee 2 and spending time on the Estonia Nature Tours stand to talk about my upcoming 2013 photo tour in partnership with leading Estonian photographer Remo Savisaar. See the tour itinerary here.

Remember that a signed copy of Underdogs is also available in the Birdfair auction. See you there…

Are The Dog Days Over…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

In 2009 I was lucky enough to spend time with a pack of African wild dogs and their one month old pups at their den site deep in the Limpopo river forest. The time spent with them still rates as my favourite wildlife experience and the photographs that I took feature heavily in my new African wild dog book Underdogs. This is why it was so hard to receive the news that the pack was found dead from deliberate poisoning recently.

Andrei Snyman of Botswana’s Northern Tuli Predator Project reported that the pack had been found dead at their new den site agonsingly soon after the alpha female had given birth to a new litter of pups. To make matters worse, a male leopard, African wild cat and African hawk eagle were also found poisoned after feeding on two carcasses laced with Temic – a highly toxic poison. Two men have been arrested in connection with the incident and claim that they lost livestock to the animals (although it cannot be said which species was responsible for the predation).

The incident spells the end of the line (for now) for the Tuli wild dog pack – once a much celebrated success story following their high profile cross-border translocation from South Africa. The incident also threatens the viable future of the wild dog in the Limpopo Valley following on from the removal of the Venetia Limpopo pack just across the river in South Africa in 2010. With wild dog numbers so low and populations so sparsely distributed, sub-populations like the Limpopo Valley population are essential for the future of the species as young wild dogs can disperse to form new packs and keep the gene pool healthy.

This news came to me just days before my African wild dog book Underdogs arrives in South Africa. The story of the Tuli pack features in the book and I am really proud to be supporting wild dog conservation through sales so please do visit my website to order your signed copy. Every copy sold will make a real difference on the ground to those few wild dogs remaining and to the people dedicating their lives to protecting these charismatic yet marginalised predators.

Order Underdogs on my website conservationphotojournalism.com

International Conservation Photography Awards

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, Exhibition, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

Six photographs from my African wild dog book Underdogs have won an award at the International Conservation Photography Awards in Seattle, USA.

In total, seven of my images feature in the winning portfolio currently exhibited at Seattle’s Burke Museum. You can also see the images on the competition’s website icpawards.com. The six African wild dog photographs feature in the Documenting a Conservation Project category. My image of the colourful Viru bog in Estonia features as highly commended in the Landscape category (join me in Estonia in 2013).

The awards were held at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture on Friday the 29th of June. I also presented a talk to visitors and fellow photographers on my work with fellow ICPA winner and conservation photographer Sam Owen at the public opening of the exhibition on Saturday 30 June.

The Underdogs project has enjoyed great success internationally. This prestigious award is the project’s latest achievement in a list that includes the 2010 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and an ILCP exhibition in the United States.

See the Underdogs gallery on my website or get your signed copy of the book via the online shop.