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Old August 12th, 2006, 06:04 PM   #136
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Moving away from the DDT discussion and back to issues of proximity and disturbance of wild animals, I have to add to Jacques most recent view.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques Mersereau
Many animals we see on shows are essentially 'actors' in that they
have been raised as pets. Others have been injured and rehabbed
or find themselves born in a zoo. There are a million scenarios and
we could try and go through them one by one, but I would refer
to animals in these situations as "humanized". That means that
without human assistance they would not survive very long in the wild.

Then there are WILD animals. Personally, those are the ones I try to
keep from being humanized.

Flipper was humanized. The great white shark is wild. Treadwell's grizzlies
are wild. When a person's filmmaking effort results in a wild animal
becoming "humanized", especially a large wild predator, that person
has essentially created a dangerous monster.
As a recent college graduate with a degree in biology, I have a bit different view. Proximity and the level of acceptable disturbance while shooting wildlife shouldn't be dictated by whether it's wild or not, or based on the animals size. Rather, as videographers, we need to know our subject and know how interacting with it will affect it. It is important to understand the organisms typical interactions with people, the organisms life cycle, the organisms feeding preferences and so on.

The two primary considerations I think about are energetics and habituation to human contact. For example, disturbing a desert animal, such as a lizard, can cause it to drop all fluids in an attempt to get away. Those fluids and the energy it spent getting away could be impossible to reaquire depending on the environmental conditions. Habituation to human contact is something that can range widely from species to species. Spending a lot of time around an organism can allow it to get used to you, however that's not always a good thing for the animal (even if it leads to some good footage). Typically, animals that have very little contact with people should stay that way. This includes animals that aren't top predators. If a game animal gets habituated to human contact through spending time with a videographer, and then runs into Elmer Fudd, it may not realize the danger associated with humans until too late.
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Old August 12th, 2006, 11:44 PM   #137
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Fletcher,

I agree with you on your statement. I was saying somewhat the same thing earlier on, definitely not as elequently. To be a good videographer, observer, hunter or anything relative to the use of wildlife you have to be a natural biologist first, or behaviorist, or a combo of both I reckon. I have spent my life studying animal behaviors and I am astounded by new things all the time and I am certain it will stay that way for the rest of my life. These days I keep one of my cameras with me all the time.

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Old August 14th, 2006, 07:57 AM   #138
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I agree with you too Fletcher.
Stressing animals during times of hardship can cause death
and is ANOTHER factor in the ethics of documenting nature.
BUT, I also believe what I said remains true. If that lizard was in a cage
or other enclosure and being fed as much food and water as it wants
then it is not in as much danger as a wild lizard who is barely surviving harsh elements. Wild creatures, imo, need to be handled with more
care and forethought.
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Old September 3rd, 2006, 04:27 AM   #139
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques Mersereau
..... If that lizard was in a cage
or other enclosure and being fed as much food and water as it wants
then it is not in as much danger as a wild lizard who is barely surviving harsh elements. Wild creatures, imo, need to be handled with more
care and forethought.

.... just refreshing a favourite quote from the voice of experience
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Old September 4th, 2006, 08:21 PM   #140
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I know what you mean about thinking it a blessing to be able to power yourself long distances Steve. I was obsessed with that feeling for a while when riding my bike. It just seemed very strange to be able to ride a bike 100 miles in a day. It gives you a feeling of power or something I guess.

Now I have trouble with my health and I do miss that feeling. I use powered transportation now to get me out to the places I used to walk. Probably a lot of people think it's wrong to do that but it's the only way I can get there and I just can't give it up. It isn't like I'm out making new trails or anything. But I like being able to get out to the wild and there's only one way I can do it now.

I take lots of risks doing it because a break down can be a big problem for me. I guess there's something of Steve Irwin in all of us. It just shows up in different ways.

I try very hard not to disturb the wildlife I shoot (with a camera of course). I'm not one to invade a beaver lodge with a camera. I'm happy just to video them on top of the water. It's good that some people do video them in all aspects of their life. You just never know when we might lose a species and video will be all that we have left.
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Old September 4th, 2006, 09:26 PM   #141
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Phelps
It's good that some people do video them in all aspects of their life. You just never know when we might lose a species and video will be all that we have left.
Do you recall that chilling passage in the movie, "Soylent Green", when one character was willing to turn himself in to be euthanized, if they would let him eat one fresh tomato and watch 15 minutes of film, showing wild birds, deer and fish, which were all extinct by that time?
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Old September 4th, 2006, 10:02 PM   #142
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We're thankfully a long way from that extreme but I do like watching video of Tasmanian tigers. That's the only place we will ever see one again because they went extinct back in the 1930's.
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Old September 5th, 2006, 04:40 AM   #143
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Meerkat Manor

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Shaw
I haven't seen it mentioned here yet, so what about the new TV series 'Meerkat Manor'? The narration anthropomorphizes the actions of wild animals for the sake of entertainment, which works to some extent but leaves me feeling uneasy about the whole thing. I don't feel like I'm gaining an appreciation for Meerkats as a species or nature in general so much as being lured into thinking of the animals portrayed as individuals in a soap opera. The background setting is allegedly a scientific study of these animals, but can that be maintained if the animals are personalized so much? Maybe I'm just used to a drier documentary approach, but what do other people think?

As far as living with bears is concerned, I've camped in the wilds of Alaska and never had an urge to have a close encounter with a grizzly bear. Same goes for moose or caribou or other large animals: I can appreciate them just fine from a distance. If I was hired to do a nature documentary I'd buy telephoto lenses, not move in with the subjects of the film.
I've been trying to figure out how I feel about your comment as I've watched several half-hours of Meerkat Manor since July. Overall I'd say it was quite tight on script and even though it was blatantly prying into the social interactions within a meerkat tribe and their neighbours it seemed to do so without invading their "territory" or their "privacy". Meerkats' world seems to be very sharply defined as to what constitutes a threat ... it's either another meerkat (or troupe of meerkats) or it's a raptor overhead. I've watched them in Dublin Zoo and even in captivity they have this tightly focussed view of life's dangers. In that respect, the documentary studied one of the tribe, Mozart, to great effect. To me they appeared to do so with considerable insight as well as video skills and enormous patience. Yes there were words used that amounted to anthromorphising but I'm not sure I could have understood a drier language ... it would have to have been a scientific lingo and I would be lost rapidly listening to that ... I was relieved that sentimentality and nostalgia were largely excluded, along with side shots of any tearful or breathless female presenter, however pretty, with trembling upper lip. I'd go further and say that I found the script and editing to be drier than that of "Osprey Homecoming" and all the better for that.
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Old September 5th, 2006, 08:49 AM   #144
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As everyone on this board has heard, Steve Irwin died yesterday.
This is a big blow. No one can deny that Steve has had a very
positive roll in educating people about wildlife.
I watched a hour long show with Larry King and Steve Irwin that
was rebroadcast last night. One interesting topic concerned
zoos and people using wild animals in shows.

Now, most know that Steve owns a zoo in AU. and is very much
in favor of everyone who humanly keeps and uses animals. His
reasoning being that many many animals are in grave danger of
becoming extinct and he (we) must get people to "know" animals
and to love them so that they will protect them and their habitat.
In short, his crazy means justified his ends. He had planned on
opening a zoo in Las Vegas to try and make as many people
personally familiar with wildlife.

Now, Steve Irwin, may he rest in peace, knows a hell of a lot more
than I do about the state of animal welfare in this world and his
attitude was that of desperation and of time running out.
Take action NOW!

IMO, each of us must do what our heart's tell us.
Personally, if I can make people love wild animals without
unnecessarily harassing them that is what I am going to try and do.
Steve's methods took a different approach imo, but his heart
was in the right place . . . conservation and protection.

My heartfelt best wishes go out to Steve Irwin's family and friends.
We lost a good man and there are now some big shoes that need to
be filled.
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Old September 5th, 2006, 09:10 AM   #145
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Steve Irwin vs. Timothy Treadwell

I don't mean to speak ill of the dead, but it's very curious to me the difference in people's reaction to Irwin's death compared to that of Treadwell. As far as I can tell:
- both built their reputations by putting themselves in extremely dangerous situations and then publicizing (sensationalizing, perhaps?) them;
- both had a consistent habit of "pushing the envelope" (some might say "harassing") their interactions with wildlife;
- both dedicated themselves to wildlife education and conservation;
- and both died as a result of ignoring normal precautions and warning signs from very dangerous animals.

Yet Treadwell is vilified as a dangerous lunatic and Irwin is lionized as a conservation hero. Why? I see no fundamental difference in their behavior. Is it just because Irwin had a network television contract and Treadwell did not?
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Old September 5th, 2006, 10:44 AM   #146
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I wonder also if it's because Steve Irwin - despite his escapades - was seen as more 'normal' than Treadwell. Irwin had a wife, child and business. His exploits were showmanship. His main face was entertainment paired with danger much like Houdini or Evel Knievel. I don't think anyone doubted these performers' intelligence or sanity - only that they preferred to risk their lives in obviously dangerous stunts but the audience trusts that they have the background and the preparation to pull themselves out of it.

Treadwell, if one goes by Grizzly Man, had something very wrong in the head that placed himself in constant danger. Whereas a magician or stunt performer recognizes the inherent danger in the risk they are about to undertake in the short time of their performance, it didn't seem like Treadwell understood the danger he was in in all the time he spent out there in the woods.
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Old September 5th, 2006, 01:27 PM   #147
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**Disclaimer**
I may have some facts wrong here, if so,
I hope I will be properly informed.

I think it could be stated that although Irwin puts himself in danger,
that he actually started out in the business of capturing and relocating
crocs . . . many of them he took back to his zoo where they were
at least allowed to live.

Capturing crocs is a dangerous business. Relocating them and taking
care of them (these days) could be considered noble.
Steve had been doing both since boyhood. Working with wildlife
was always his passion and people would call him to take care
of 'problem' animals. I am not sure what the deal is in AU, but
here one would need the proper licenses and training to do what
he did. If that is the case, I am pretty sure Irwin was licensed.
Treadwell went out on his own. No one ever asked Tim to do
what he did, and he did it without supervision, knowledge or
any kind reasonable guidelines from what I could tell.

Treadwell IMO was a lost soul looking for some
grounding/reason in his life . . .
almost panicked and desperate sounding. The bears
where a thin straw for him to try and hang on to.

Irwin was set in his life's calling very early on.
Many times Tim talks of self-esteem, how he had found himself in
the bears and that he would now die for them(?).
All Irwin wanted was for you, me and everyone else
to see how fabulous, cool and beautiful ALL animals are.

Although both guys sought to make city people aware
of wildlife in order that they might then want to protect it (that's good),
Treadwell seemed far more fixated with
proving his bravado to the viewers (bad).
His work is very egocentric and "troubled"
whereas Irwin's work is enthusiastic and gregarious.

Steve *always* seemed to be fixated on the animals . . .
"WhAT A BEAUTY!"

Treadwell's on himself, "Like a Samuri, I will lay down my life
for these bears."

Another difference, Steve's death was a freak accident
that had little to do with his "dangerous" work.

Treadwell's death was 100% predictable and resulted in the death
of that which he claimed to love and want to protect.
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Old September 5th, 2006, 01:50 PM   #148
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FWIW I don't believe Irwin actually died from pushing the envelope too much which is ironic because he did push it so often. He was the victim of a freak occurence really.

They weren't even filming stingrays at the time. They were filming sharks. He just happened upon a stingray at the wrong time and place they say.

It's very rare for a stingray to act so defensively but it does happen. Apparently if you approach them from above they are more apt to react defensively and that is what Irwin did.

People ride on stingrays quite often so they aren't usually considered extremely dangerous. Irwin just had his number come up in a way that was unexpected. I believe that's what happened anyway.

We have all assumed since yesterday that he was killed doing what he did so often - pushing his luck. He wasn't. He was killed in a way any ocean swimmer could be killed. That's the information I've been seeing. It could be wrong of course.
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Old September 5th, 2006, 02:42 PM   #149
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Thanks, Jeff for the info.

You are right, that if its true that Irwin did not deliberately provoke that stingray, then it is indeed ironic. As you point out, Irwin's career was based on "pushing his luck."

Which still leaves me bewildered. If we're talking about ethical behavior, the experience level, emotional health, "professionalism," financial backing, popularity, cultural icon status, or even motives, of the person engaging in that behavior really shouldn't matter. If it's wrong and dangerous to harass wildlife for entertainment value, then it should be wrong for ANYONE to do so, no matter who they are. No one should be above the law. I will agree that it may be worth violating the principle of "don't harass wildlife" if a higher cause is clearly being served, such as capturing, tagging and releasing an endangered tiger or shark in order to promote science-based conservation of the species. But if the purposes are purely for financial gain or entertainment value, then I'd have to classify that as unethical.

Let's also keep in mind that we know Timothy Treadwell primarily through Werner Herzog's eyes and we know Steve Irwin primarily through his own series, "Crocodile Hunter." I'm sure there is more to each of these individuals -- both good and bad -- than these two admittedly biased sources will reveal.

So, let's strip away all the trappings of personality, charisma, celebrity, alleged mental health and professional accreditation. Let's look at what both of these two men actually did in the field and judge them equally. Is their behavior ethical and acceptable or not? If you say one is and one isn't, please explain how that can be, when on the surface their actions appear identical.
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Old September 5th, 2006, 03:08 PM   #150
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I fail to see how their actions were identical, or even similar.
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