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Conservation Photography

Conservation Photography

We were all born wild animals, which is why we respond viscerally to raw nature. Our urbanised existences may have greatly diminished our opportunities to connect with nature on a daily basis, but while that instinctive relationship may have diminished, it is never lost.

This is why Sanctuary purposefully uses images from some of the most talented nature photographers to remind us of our wild origins. Through such images, millions who have not been able to navigate that magic bridge between urbania and the wilderness are able to replenish purpose and inspiration.

Conservation photography is the active use of the photographic process and its products, within the parameters of photojournalism, to advocate for conservation outcomes. It seeks to use powerful static images and stirring words to give us pause to think and reconsider our direction in life. Not intended to be ‘pretty pictures’ we hope that photojournalism of this kind will boost our conservation advocacy objectives in ways that benefit both people and wildernesses. We hope more people take to conservation photography in the years ahead so that we are collectively encouraged to think and act in ways that nudge policies and human behaviour towards living in harmony with wild nature.

Nikit Surve Hunter Hunted: A carefully positioned ‘camera-trap’ vividly encapsulates the dilemma facing India… how can we reverse our onslaught on the natural world upon which we are totally dependent. The Indian leopard’s Panthera pardus fusca ability to adapt and tolerate humans is legend, but here in Mumbai we are pushing these cats to the brink by stealthily encroaching upon its wild domain in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a vital source of pure drinking water.

Location: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Maharashtra Details: Camera: Cuddeback 1200, Shutter speed: 1/400 sec., Aperture: f/2.7, ISO 100 Image taken: March 5, 2015; 5:46 p.m.

Satpal Singh Plastic Fantastic?: The image of a rhesus macaque Macaca mulatta on the banks of the holy Ganga, would have been interesting enough without the plastic bag, but with it, a ‘pretty picture’ turned into an evocative plea for sanity. Gifted the most complicated brains in the world, we humans seem to have been denied the foresight to ward off the dire consequences of choking our biosphere with disposable plastics. Worshipped by millions, the declaration of the Ganga as a ‘living entity’ means little to the myriad lifeforms dependent on its flow if we are unable to escape the ‘have your river and pollute it too’ syndrome that outrageously defines India’s development today.

Location: Narora IBA-10, Ganga river, Bulandshahar, Uttar Pradesh Details: Camera: Nikon D7100, Lens: 150-500 mm. f/5.0-6.3, Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec., Aperture: f/6.3, ISO 500, Focal length: 300 mm. Image taken: March 8, 2015; 5:42 p.m.

Bhavesh Patel Wetlands or Wastelands?: Wetlands – rich and biodiverse ecosystems – store as much carbon as currently exists in our atmosphere, but they happen to be even more threatened than our forests. Bathed by beautiful golden light, these Great White Pelicans Pelecanus onocrotalus in Bhuj, Gujarat, are poignantly framed by the constructions that probably spell their doom as urbania engulfs wild wetlands, which are dismissed by municipalities and ‘developers’ across India as wastelands.

Location: Bhuj, Gujarat Details: Camera: Nikon D750, Lens: 150-600 mm. f/5.0-6.3, Shutter speed: 1/640 sec., Aperture: f/14, ISO 200, Focal length: 170 mm. Image taken: January 7, 2015; 8:31 a.m.

Tapan Sheth Living on the Edge: A desert fox Vulpes vulpes pusilla pup warily raises its head out of its den as a truck, possibly carrying materials that promise to destroy its fragile home, approaches. As India proceeds to emulate western countries in its race to ‘develop’, it seems to have forgotten lessons taught to us by our ancestors that the only way to a safe and happy existence is to live with and respect nature as a supreme force to whose imperatives we must bow… not the other way round.

Location: Little Rann of Kutchh, Gujarat Details: Camera: Canon EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF 500 mm. f/4L IS II USM, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec., Aperture: f/8, ISO 100, Focal length: 500 mm. Image taken: March 13, 2014; 3:03 p.m.

Digant Desai The Big Fish: This is not an image of a whale shark trapped in nets. Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua, is referred to by divers as the Galapagos of Indonesia. Here, in the manner of seagulls that tail fishing boats, the world’s largest fish, the whale shark Rhincodon typus, has learned to take sustenance from the droppings of fish catch hauled in by local fisherfolk. Not harmed by the fishing community, what we see here is a demonstration of quasi worship with fishing boats putting out ikan puri, tiny fish food, as an offering to these gentle giants. The tradition dates back several generations, but was only recently ‘discovered’ by divers who frequent these waters to swim among dugongs and a diversity of marine life. Definitely a far cry from the carnage brutally unleashed by mechanised trawl fishing mafias across the globe.

Location: Cenderawasih Bay, Papua, Indonesia Details: Camera: Canon 7D (Nauticam Housing Twin Inon Z240 strobes at different settings, Large dome), Lens: 10-17 mm. fisheye, Shutter speed: 1/60 sec., Aperture: f/18, ISO 100, Focal length: 10 mm. Image taken: July 1, 2012; 7:12 a.m.

Samyak Kaninde Too Close for Comfort: While wildlife tourism is a vital conservation tool, the over-habituation of large carnivores such as this curious Bengal tiger Panthera tigris tigris photographed in the Umred-Karhandla Sanctuary, can lead to provocative situations in which even one panicked tourist could trigger an aggressive response. India needs to rethink its wildlife tourism priorities and undertake a massive orientation and education programme for forest staff, guides, locals and visitors to ensure that both humans and animals stay safe, even as every visitor is turned into an ambassador for wild nature.

Location: Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra Details: Camera: Canon EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF 300 mm. f/4L IS USM, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec., Aperture: f/5.6, ISO 320, Focal length: 300 mm. Image taken: January 1, 2016; 8:34 a.m.

Sandeep Dhumal Oh, Rats!: This grim image is of a lesser bamboo rat Cannomys badius, probably hunted for food, which is critical to the ecotones in which it is found. Virtually all habitats next to which humans live are now retreating under the destructive attrition that has become the handmaiden of India’s development paradigm. Of course this is not the only creature facing the double-barrelled assault of habitat loss and hunting. It hardly helps that the illegal wildlife trade and an eroding respect for nature, that once typified Indian attitudes, are combining to turn Homo sapiens into the most potent agent of biodiversity annihilation since the dawn of life on Earth.

Location: Arunachal Pradesh Details: Camera: Canon EOS 5D mark III, Lens: Canon EF 16-35 mm. f/2.8L II USM, Shutter speed: 1/60 sec., Aperture: f/7.1, ISO 640, Focal length: 27 mm. Image taken: May 29, 2015; 8:49 a.m.

Manas Paran Cat Conflict: In Guwahati, Assam, people lived in harmony with their land for centuries. But as with so many other geographies, this city on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra has altered its relationship with nature. Today, encroachments and pollution rule the day, stealing habitats from wild animals as diverse as elephants, river dolphins and this unfortunate Indian leopard Panthera pardus fusca, all of which are forced into conflict with their much more powerful neighbour, Homo sapiens. The incident was aggravated when an unruly crowd harassed the already traumatised leopard, which strayed into an urban human settlement. Cornered and harangued, the leopard attacked a man who had tried to chase it away with an iron rod as hundreds blocked its only escape route to freedom. It took the hard-pressed Forest Department almost 45 minutes to immobilise the cat, after spending three arduous hours trying to control the crowd that had gathered for apparent entertainment.

Location: Guwahati, Assam Details: Camera: Nikon D300S, Lens: 18-55 mm. f/3.5-5.6, Shutter speed: 1/125 sec., Aperture: f/4.8, ISO 400, Focal length: 32 mm. Image taken: January 07, 2012; 1:18 p.m.

Viraj Khorjuwekar Territorial Warning: Sanctuary celebrates the fact that India is demonstrating to the world that we can and will shift our energy priorities away from carbon towards wind and solar, among other options. But that old cliché holds good… the way to hell is paved by good intentions. Establishing windfarms smack in the middle of vulnerable biodiversity hotspots amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. These farms need approach roads and infrastructures that must be set up keeping in mind both wind speeds and the imperative of protecting ecosystems that sequester and store carbon and supply us with water.

Species: Fan-throated lizard Sarada sp. Location: Satara, Maharashtra Details: Camera: Canon EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF-S 18-55 mm. f/3.5-5.6, Shutter speed: 1/640 sec., Aperture: f/8.0, ISO 200, Focal length: 40 mm. Image taken: May 26, 2013; 11:13 a.m.

Tapan Sheth Deadly Crossing: One of the last remaining 500 odd Asiatic lions Panthera leo persica negotiates a dangerous railway track running through its primary abode, the Gir National Park, Saurashtra, Gujarat. Linear intrusions such as these railway tracks need to be realigned away from our biodiversity vaults, which are a vital water source that need to be recognised by planners as ‘infrastructures’ of great commercial value. These are carbon sinks, flood control and climate moderation devices, without which humans will be unable to negotiate survival in an age of galloping climate change.

Location: Sasan Gir, Gujarat Details: Camera: Canon EOS 5D mark III, Lens Canon EF 300 mm. f/2.8L IS USM, Shutter speed 1/320 sec., Aperture f/2.8, ISO 250, Focal length: 300 mm. Image taken: October 24, 2014; 7:28 a.m.

First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVII No. 8, August 2017.


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