Distance and safety above all, that is for us but most importantly them! They are the number one victims –We are not…. So for their sake don’t get close. Know and respect the viewing regulations and observe proper etiquette regardless.

➭ Distance and Safety

A Simple rule to follow: Don’t get close. Know and respect the viewing regulations.

Safety for yourselves and the animal can equally be thought of in terms of distance. Whilst surely it speaks for itself, this is the one aspect that a lot of us forget in the moment. We are there to see the animals, and we are caught up in our own excitement – so easy to forget that there could be consequences in creeping closer and closer to the animals especially with a camera in hand wanting to always get that better than the last ‘one’ shot/memory. Sometimes it becomes an obsessive disease. In all cases, this is detrimental to the wildlife, but it is potentially lethal for the viewers as well as was the case for those visitors who were gored by a bison in Yellowstone [MM15].

Besides straight direct safety issues, getting too close can also have terrible consequences for the health of animals [VB09]. We need to bring attention to the case of the Great Apes. By not respecting the distance regulations, we simply endangered them by potentially exposing them to pathogens and human diseases that they can ‘catch’ (as they are genetically close to us), and are not immune against and often will die from if exposed to (Read: A Visit to a Rwandan Gorilla Family [BS16(2)]). If you plan to visit great apes, please take the time to read the EwA Great Apes Rules.

So get to know and respect accredited viewing regulations and guidelines prior to your wildlife viewing event. These regulations are out there and there are tons of them contrary to what one might think (explore few examples here). If you are not too sure about which to follow, then ask the organization who is hosting you, although also make sure that their regulations are accredited regulations (and when in doubt you can always ask us).

Allow for an additional distance buffer as the viewing rules are generally minimal and not at all optimal for wildlife.

➭ Use Binoculars, Spotting Scopes, Telephoto Lenses…

You don’t need to get that close to get that picture to prove that you were there: a zoom will do.

Long lenses, your regular point-and-shoot camera will do the trick. Refrain from the continuous capture of that pic or from ‘snapping’ altogether and enjoy observing – someone else took it already anyway and made it readily available on the internet. Use binoculars instead so that you really get a chance to ‘see’ and ‘observe’ wildlife. Taking pictures constraints the sight into a frame, and you miss on the real action that is the whole environment. Looking with your own eyes rather than through a frame will get you better connected with the environment and therefore will increase your awareness as well as a sense of awe.

⚠ And when you shoot out there, we strongly advise you to scrub all the GPS data from your nature & wildlife pics (How to). Poachers and collectors are scanning social media to scout endangered wildlife for illegal trade. No endangered species is spared (See the case with rattlesnakes poaching)

Take some time to check as well the Wildlife Photography and Filming references provided in this etiquette.

➭ The Wildlife Selfie Dilemma

Let’s drop the narcissistic self and instead reach ‘out’ to fully appreciate the wonders of Nature. Be aware. Be Earthwise Aware.

Avoid selfies with wildlife altogether. There is a reason why animals are vigilant, alert. They constantly check their surroundings for opportunities and threats. It does not mean that they are not at peace or enjoying themselves, they are just aware. So be aware as well. Recognize that in a lot of cases, wildlife selfies are inappropriate and can be plainly dangerous to all. Indeed, when you are behind the camera, you “don’t see” anymore or only what is in the minimal field of view of the frame.

Ironically besides the death of wildlife due to our mindless selfie-mania and recklessness, we also make it more dangerous for ourselves. It is said that 49 selfie-related deaths have been recorded since 2014, outweighing deaths due to shark attacks and even deaths on Mount Everest [LA15]. Not all of these were animal selfie-related but a good proportion was.

So then if we must, when is an animal selfie trophy OK?

  • When neither you or the animal are put in a dangerous situation
  • When the wildlife has not been incited for a wild reaction
  • When the animal has not been put into that position purely for the selfie
  • When the selfie does not perpetuates animal cruelty
  • When there is a reasonable distance between you and the animal
  • When nature itself isn’t disturbed
  • When the selfie doesn’t stand for selfishness

Generally, ‘unethical practices of those who photograph wildlife for self-serving purposes have given the whole field a bad name. Bill McKibben, author of “The End of Nature” has proposed a moratorium on new wildlife photos, to prevent further aggravation of endangered animals. He argues there are plenty of photos already out there for use in prints and publications. As more incidents of unethical behavior by photographers occur, the privilege of photographing wild animals will become more and more restricted. Still, no amount of harassment or disruption of wildlife in any way justifies the increasingly popular use of game farms by so-called wildlife photographers [JR16].

Unethical wildlife viewing: Examples and references.

Take some time to check as well the Wildlife Photography and Filming references provided in this etiquette.

Next Wild Rule

Home / Engage / The EwA Wildness Etiquette / 1 – The Greater the Distance, the Better for All!
◊ The references mentioned in this page are listed in the Extended Bibliography.

The EwA Wildness Etiquette
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