Photographers Disturbing Elephants, Corbett

Hymakar Valluru

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

Photography has huge and obvious advantages in terms of recreation, education, documentation, conservation, and of course, personal satisfaction. However, there are serious downsides. A growing body of evidence suggests that unrestrained and irresponsible behaviour by nature photographers has negative impacts at all ecological levels, ranging from individual species to ecosystems. Conservation India is working towards publishing a set of guidelines for ethical photography in India.

A bunch of photographers in safari vehicles were getting very close to a herd of elephants that were bathing in the Ramganga in Dhikala, Corbett Tiger Reserve. There were calves in the herd and the elephants were visibly agitated at the proximity of the jeeps.

The poor elephants huddled together in a row, waiting for the vehicles to move so they could cross. Probably wanting dramatic close-ups, the jeeps gave no room for the elephants to cross. The nervous elephants mustered some courage and a few hesitantly crossed the road.

Elephants are the largest land mammals and one can photograph them comfortably from a distance. Wildlife tourists should maintain a safe distance so that the welfare of the wildlife is never compromised. These “experienced” photographers who had telephoto lenses with a further reach, and were in open grasslands, could have easily watched from much further away, instead of getting close and disturbing the elephants. Further, given the narrow jeep trails, the vehicles could have been in serious trouble if the elephants had charged. I observed this on all three evenings I spent in Dhikala.

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