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Old February 17th, 2006, 04:21 PM   #16
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I have also seen docs, where man has lived with the wolf, gorillas, etc. While it is both entertaining and informative, I still stand by my statement, that there should be no interaction.

People down here are surrounded by Gators, and they don't heed this warning. Since man has already displaced them, they have to struggle for food and habitat. Then, you have those folk who think it is cool to feed the little gators... which grow up to be big gators with no fear of man. Usually, it is someone's dog that gets eaten, but humans have been attacked as well.

And Meryem- the biggest difference between man living among Caribou, and man living among Grizzlies... Caribou aren't known for eating people.
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Old February 17th, 2006, 04:28 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Meryem Ersoz
this comment by keith points to something that i'm really curious about. is there a line drawn between humans and non-humans that should not be crossed? i mean, i've read all of the discussions about "grizzly man" on this site, and every thread contains condemnatory comments about what tim treadwell was doing--"being" the bear. the grizzly man as keith says, found out the hard way, and yet no one seems to have a problem with "winged migration" or "being caribou," where the filmmakers are similarly collapsing the category of the observer and the observed....

is the only difference that tim treadwell was consumed by his subject? how is it that one set of filmmakers are heroes and the other considered a nut when their shooting practices are in some ways so similar? and their metaphysics "be the bear"--"be the bird"--"be the caribou" are absolutely identical.

in "grizzly man," there was a native american briefly interviewed who was highly offended by what tim did, because he said it crossed a sacred line recognized by his ancestors between humans and beasts. he appeared to care less that the guy died than that his behaviors were taboo, in violation of a sacred distinction between humans and beasts.

does this even matter anymore?

if it only matters if you get munched by your subject, i.e. if it's every bear or man for himself, or, as richard says, just a matter of personal choice and not a matter of ethics at all, then perhaps the sacred line between animals and beasts is in a state of collapse in spite of what we humans do, rather than because of what we humans do. or, to put it another way, if we have no ethics regarding animals, then indeed we can't distinguish ourselves.

i like what rod said about we are what we shoot. i wonder if there is a corollary to that: we are "how" we shoot....

gives me a lot to ponder....thanks for persisting, y'all....
Meryem,

An interesting discussion indeed. And thanks to those who have responded with well thought out and rational posts. I 'personally' view us homo sapiens as animals, albeit highly developed ones (in some areas). We are civilized, but what does that actually mean? It means we 'overcome' the desire to do what we would 'natuarally' do.

I have done lots of hunting and fishing and I only kill for two reasons... food, or self-defense. I have never sent anything to the taxidermist. And frankly, by being respectful of nature, I haven't had to deploy that second reason in a long time (grew up around lots of snakes).

Ironically Meryem, I am guessing that wildlife films of wolves, coyotes, or dingos have led mankind to an understanding of the canine world that I now benefit greatly from in my daily interactions with Misty. For those who don't know, Misty is my 80 pound, 5 year old Black Labrador Retriever. The books I have read about her breed and dogs in general are things I see in her natural behavior everyday. I understand why she does or needs things in a certain canine way. And at the same time, she tries to do some things in a 'human' way. Almost uncanny times just how much she understands but that's for a different thread.

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Old February 17th, 2006, 04:45 PM   #18
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Ethics of Wildlife filming

Hey Meryem - brother!

You've redeemed my view - I am not alone.

The 'how you shoot' corollary is perfect to the general point about ethics.

If our instincts determine what we do, its how we do what we do, that counts. Unfortunately, it opens up a whole new argument about predetermination and free will. In my case, I think the only choice I have, is to do what I do as best I can - with what energy and intensity my life has left me at 61.

Rod Compton

'You are what you shoot..., its all in synchronicity - the results will speak for themselves.
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Old February 17th, 2006, 04:55 PM   #19
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p.p.s, Oh and Meryem, just to underline the synchronicity, the little critter I am working on at the moment, I just found out was imported from the States two hundred years ago, it ain't fierce, but it is a wise one - Athene noctua.

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Old February 17th, 2006, 04:58 PM   #20
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Hope you enjoy the pic

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Old February 17th, 2006, 08:28 PM   #21
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that's a gorgeous photo. i've been walking around looking for an owl for about two weeks with no luck.

which is odd, because often when i want to shoot something, it shows up. my favorite story about this is shooting a certain species of black squirrel which used to run rampant in these parts. i was telling a friend about how i used to see these all the time and was wondering what happened to them. my friend told someone else, who knew a member of the wildlife management staff, and, indeed there had been a plague which wiped out most of the population. the next week, when i was out hiking with this same friend, lo and behold a black squirrel appeared. it was quite magical. something along those lines. i'd been taking this same hike several times a week, for a period of years, without ever seeing one, and as soon as this conversation took place, one showed up. and more recently, its mate. which is a good sign.

i have found that i have very good connections to the fur animals. i can think a fox, for instance, and it won't be too long before i can video a fox. but the birds just, uh, give me the bird. i've had lousy luck with shooting video of birds. but oddly, since i gave up trying to video birds and now only do still photographs of birds, they seem to be more willing subjects. which is weird to me, because the lenses only get bigger with still photography. they don't seem to mind so much.

okay, maybe now i'm venturing into my own crackpot territory (well, with rod as my stalwart friend in animal shamanism), but i'm pretty sure i'm not alone in this....what makes some people bird people or fish people or fur people. or even phallus impudicus people, like my friend rod! heh.

i find too much synchronicity in wildlife videography to be convinced that it is complete dumb luck or coincidence. or maybe that's just a yearning for more magic, mystery, beauty, and wonder than a rationalist view of the world is capable of providing, i don't know....
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Old February 17th, 2006, 11:57 PM   #22
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Getting back to the ethicity of using animal actors and specifically about the "Winged Migration" production: Sometimes, for a dramatic presentation, it's the only way it could be done. However, I don't like it at all, if it portrays something unnatural or worse yet, anthropomorphic. When they use trained critters in documentaries and don't openly reveal it, I'm offended. But, there seems to have been no attempt to deceive anyone in this movie, so why should we object?

The training of birds to fly alongside motorized vehicles dates back a couple of decades and has had some practical benefits for preserving endangered species and for up-close studies of their aerodynamics. I believe this started
when some biologists hand-raised a brood of Snow Geese on the tundra in Canada. They became attached to the people and followed them everywhere, even flying alongside their van. They hoped to bring them back to the U.S., to a wildlife studies center. But, the border guards wouldn't let them bring the wild birds across in the van. So, they let out the geese on the Canadian side and drove across into the U.S. Without hesitation, the geese flew across on their own, swooped down on the van and were invited back inside for the rest of the trip. This is all on video and if anyone knows the title of this program and where it could be seen again, please speak up.

The true-life "Father Goose" story was about someone who wanted to try something like this to help rare Trumpeter Swans and Whooping Cranes re-establish migratory patterns that had been lost. He used Canada Geese to prove out the theory that it could be done with ultralight aircraft as guide vehicles. After it was shown this could work, it was used successfully with both these swans and cranes. The movie that came from this was well-received and may have sparked an interest in Nature in many people. It's likely the producers of "Winged Migration" had learned the technique from these earlier projects.

Regarding the ethics of manipulating wild species in this way, for either movie/TV production or for preservation, it is highly controversial and many people come down on opposite sides of the issue. There are some purists who oppose all the efforts to save these endangered species, including California Condors, if any captive breeding or transplanting is involved. Others, like myself, completely support such last-ditch efforts, as we would have surely lost most of those mentioned, without it. The Nene goose and the Laysan Duck are two other examples that would be gone, if we hadn't done something to offset the damage we had either directly caused or had been instrumental in setting in motion. I see the use of film/video in support of the preservation of wildlife as coming under the heading of interceding on their behalf, rather than interfering with them. Not to say that some people haven't abused wildlife under the pretense of helping them and really serving no interest other than their wish to make a successful movie or video. This falls into the same category as Japan and Iceland killing a substantial number of whales, in order to do "scientific studies" on them.

If you're going to pursue wildlife to make movies or video, ask yourself if you will be telling truth or fiction and who or what is going to benefit from it?
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Old February 18th, 2006, 03:04 AM   #23
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Ok Stephen, keep us on track.

Going back two and a half decades, a very good acquaintance of mine was experimenting with some of the techniques you were referring to - in particular with model aircraft and helicopters. Simultaneously, one rather disgusting way he tried of controlling the flight path of insects was to glue them to a travelling metal stylus. I am very gratified that you and every other person that has contributed find this type of practice unethical. This proves to me that wildlife filming has been taken out of the hands of the intellectuals, who mostly worked indoors under controlled conditions, and is now in the hands of true lovers of wildlife.

Rod Compton

P.S Meryem, as soon as I get to grips with finishing my web site I shall put some movie footage up of the owl film. Incidentally, at the moment I am working and living in a very urban area near London and I am astonished at the diversity of wildlife around here.
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Old February 18th, 2006, 06:16 AM   #24
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This is real can of worms that has been opened up here but I think that we are looking at a wide range of issues here; posts have touched on the practice of imprinting species (especially birds) through to the human animals that have convinced themselves that they can go beyond the bounds of their physical form and become for example, the non- human animal that is the bear.

There have been a number of really valid points made in these threads but I think that they have got a little muddled.

In relation to the Treadwell story. I don't believe that we can compare the work that he was doing in Alaska and some of the other material mentioned as we are talking about very different issues. In Treadwells work we are talking about somebody who was obviously a passionate conservationist but who, as the other other posts and general opinion seem to echo, pushed the limits of what is acceptable fieldwork. This led to a somewhat unsuccessful experiment in the habituation of wild Grizzly bears.
Winged Migration was a cinematic spectacular that involved the imprinting of several hundred migratory species. It gave the public a deeper insight into the mechanics of flight, the migratory instinct and so on, that earlier films with the technology and knowhow available were able to. It gave the scientists involved a really unique chance to learn a little more. It also sparked another fierce ethical debate on the practice of imprinting animals. This has been going on in the name of science for years so it is not a new practice or debate. In everyday life we are responsible for a multitude of injustices: Chicken anybody, Turkey, or would you like some battery eggs with your milk fattened bacon?

In a bizarre reversed twist I can recommend that you try to see "A Natural History of the Laboratory Rat'; in this a group of lab rats were released into an wire enclosed farmyard set. They were filmed trying to adjust to life in the 'wild', drinking from puddles not bottles, meeting wild rats, experiencing rain for the first time and seeing how each rat coped. Very interesting and full of ethical irony.

I cannot speak for Being Caribou. I am not familiar with the exact details of the shoot but man has a very different history of interaction with the caribou and the caribou in the ANWR have been exploited by the Gwich’in Inuit for many generations. The Sami in northern europe live alongside reindeer daily, wild or partially domesticated. Much of the best wildlife footage come out of many days, weeks and months of following and 'shadowing' particular species and this inevitably leads to a partial habituation. When we film the cats, elephants and other big species here we do not go over trying to get cosy with them, respect for their space is absolutely fundamental to any work that we do. Some people do not work like this, others do. Some will push this space to get the money shot. Treadwell got too close.

There is a proliferation of 'wildlife' programming on the major networks that began with Steve Irwin and has mutated into the 'Wild Boyz'. The Elecam series ended with the death of a elephant through repeated tranquilization with M99, all in the name of TV. These programs raise difficult questions and highlight the numerous ethical questions about the level of interaction between the filmmakers and the subjects being filmed, and the techniques being used... it is no surprise that you never bump into these guys at the festivals.

I think that we must all remember that this is an industry like any other, and like any industry it has its issues. I personally could not do the work that I do if I did not use some captive subjects. For a film about mangroves we set up a large saltwater tank, actually a kids paddling pool, in which we planted mangrove pneumatophores and some old roots for 'decoration' and pumped 24/7 changing the water every day. Into this we introduced Tiger shrimps (Penaeus) so that we could film them going about their business. This setup meant that I could get otherwise impossible close-up shots that were essential for the sequence, this film has gone on to be used as a policy tool for making decisions about mangrove preservation and the placement of aquaculture projects here. This project did have its casualties, I still have a slight guilt about the tiger shrimp that arced itself between the water and the pepper light above the tank.

Filmmakers for Conservation is an organization that I would suggest you take a look at and strongly recommend that you support. This link will take you directly to the FFC guidelines for ethical filming.

http://www.filmmakersforconservation...hip/ethics.htm

I think that there has been a lot of emotive stuff said about the ethics of filming. I think we have to keep a bit of perspective and I trust that we all are as passionate about the food that we are eating and the way that it is produced as we are about the invertebrate species.

PS Meryem, speaking for myself I am a Mosquito and Tick person, wherever I go they appear. Jellyfish too actually.

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Old February 18th, 2006, 08:15 AM   #25
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Meryem said -

"or, as richard says, just a matter of personal choice and not a matter of ethics at all,"

Funny, I don't ever recall saying that. In fact, those words appear nowhere in my post. Weird that you should infer it.

My point being, that ethics are personal - as indeed are religion, and politics.

I will stand by my comment -

"At what point does your effort cross the line into exploitation or abuse?

Frankly, whatever you might decide is the line, someone else isn't going to agree with it. That's life. "


I specifically did NOT illustrate what that line was to me, personally. I made the point that interacting with animals on ANY level - as filmmaker, farmer, zookeeper, naturalist, sportsman, scientist - has SOME effect. It's not much different than asking the question "Can a reporter be OBJECTIVE". The mere fact of deciding to observe,(Who,What,When,Where,Why) creates a subjective point of view. Set up a camera in some place where it wouldn't NORMALLY exist to observe wildlife... (And frankly, that's anywhere) and your immediate concern is how to minimize it's effect on the life being observed.


Ethics, Religion, Politics - These ARE personal choices. But that doesn't make them non-existant as Meryem implied I said.

Meryem - my question to you is - Do you believe that there is one objective ethical approach to filmming wildlife? And that someone who differes from that approach is "un-ethical" in your view? I would not go so far as to assume that is your position.

Is the point of this thread, to determine everyone's particular ethical standards in filmming wildlife, and then to discuss the various reasons why they do or don't coincide or perhaps clash? Is that in the hopes of changing someone's mind? Or just in the spirit of cordial debate?
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Old February 19th, 2006, 04:20 PM   #26
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Hi Richard,

Meryem might not be willing to come right out and say it, but my experience of forty years in the field informs me that ethical standards have evolved into a much more enlightened and caring approach to wildlife filming. You guys are what you are - more caring and more passionate than your forbears, just because things have moved on.

'No animals were harmed in the making of this movie' - would not have appeared anywhere in credits when I was younger. The fact they do now indicates nothing less than a consensus of opinion. Which is to my understanding a general ethic.

The more objective the film maker the more objective the film, of that I have no doubt.

Rod Compton
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Old February 19th, 2006, 05:20 PM   #27
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apologies, richard, if i mis-interpreted your comments, truly...i read the combination of your opening question, "is there ever a right answer?" and your closing comment "it's a personal choice" as implying that personal choice is the only answer. and that discussions such as these are self-indulgent or unnecessary or thinly veiled smokescreens for someone's (read: my) personal agenda, given that we will do as we do do.

doo-doo?

if i have mis-read you in any way, please please please feel free to elaborate, correct, re-interpret, etc. mis-reading anyone is never my intent. i really have no agenda here, beyond civil discussion. opening this thread was really about seeing these recent films, having them generate a bunch of questions in my head, and turning to those who i perceive as experts in the "doing" of wildlife shooting rather than the "viewing" of it. i have no personal agenda, though i have my own opinions, naturally.

usually, i don't feel that i disturb wildlife in general, though there have been occasions which have felt more invasive than others. i'm interested in a bit of self-scrutiny around these instances, to move these reactions from the gut level to the level of understanding them. and i am curious how others react to the same. several folks here have been very helpful in enabling my own ruminations. and i'm wondering why certain moments give me those gut responses and certain moments do not. as i ruminate, fulminate, and listen to what others have to say on the subject, i am getting a bit more clear on how to listen to my own internal compass on these matters. and a bit more clear on what was puzzling me in viewing the films previously named....

as rod pointed out, we generally live in more humane times, not less humane times, where filmmakers make it a point to not harm their subjects.

in the early 1900s, thomas edison's cronies electrocuted an elephant to prove edison's theories about electricity. imagine the public outcry if something so cavalier was done as a public spectacle by a contemporary filmmaker or videographer....

p.s. just read james' post about the filmmakers who shot the tranking of an elephant, funny how history recycles without repeating....
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Old February 20th, 2006, 02:38 AM   #28
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The tranquilisation of the elephant was actually far more than to film the actual darting operation. The elephant died after being being tranquilised a number of times with the drug M99, the only thing that will drop an elephant is to be darted with this very powerful drug. This is used when elephants are having a radio collar fitted, or are having tusks microchipped etc. In this case the animal had a video camera fitted onto a collar and the tranquilisation was so that the filmmakers could retreive footage. This was done a number of times; the elephant died.

On a slightly different note, there is an article here that may well be of interest for this thread. David Attenborough talks about his films....
http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1713421,00.html
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Old February 20th, 2006, 08:41 AM   #29
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On the one hand, I agree that we are living in more 'humane' times when it comes to treatment of animals... when it comes to treatment of humans, I'm not so sure. But that's the topic of another thread.

Part of the difficulty in applying 'ethics' to any sort of documentary is "What do I as an objective observer - owe to my subject's well being." This comes up in crime and combat photography all the time. The same can be said of "Nature" photography.

One type of wildlife photography might be just passive observation over time. Show up, hide out, roll film, hope for the best.

But what happens when the subject of your study, IS A STUDY ITSELF? In other words, you are documenting the study of migration habits, and therefore shooting the rangers or vets as they tranq and handle the animal. To take it to the extreme, what if your subject is poaching? See where it gets tricky?

There is a parlor game, I believe its called “Scruples”, wherein people sit around and ask each other pointed questions to determine their personal positions regarding ethical situations. One might draw a card that asks “If you found a wallet, what would you do?” The question will have variations such as “There is NO name” – “It has $5 dollars in it” – “It has 5,000 dollars in it” Other questions might be “You found out a friend of yours is cheating on their spouse, what do you do? Tell the spouse? Remain quiet? Tell the friend you know? Would YOU want to be told?” etc. etc.

In the interest of cordial debate that I assume the thread was started in – I will posit a question for ethical debate among wildlife filmmakers.

Assume you have invested a great deal of time and money in filming your subject. Now assume, suddenly before your eyes, the subject’s life is threatened. What do you do when

1)The subject falls to a natural physical threat: IE gets stuck in quicksand, trapped by a falling tree, caught in a natural fire, etc.

2)The subject falls to a threat by being STARTLED by you. Is spooked by your presence and falls off the cliff, is stuck in quicksand, dashes into danger.

3)Falls prey to a man-made danger IE Might wander into electrical field, drink poisonous water, stray onto highway , wander into land mines, etc.

4)Is attacked by a natural predator.

5)Is attacked by a predator, and left for dead, but you could save it.

6)Is attacked by a human predator. The human is lawfully hunting your subject, and has every legal right to kill it, no matter what your personal objection to the ethics of hunting might be.

7)Is attacked by a human predator, that is ILLEGALLY hunting your subject… and the topic of your film is the danger of poaching?

These questions will have various answers, depending on one’s personal ethical viewpoint. I think they will also illustrate the various concepts and personal boundaries regarding the definitions of ‘interfere’ and ‘influence’.

It's easy enough to say "I will not harm an animal". But does that extend to "I will not SAVE an animal?"
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Old February 20th, 2006, 09:54 AM   #30
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I think it was Miliken who said something about how simply observing a thing shapes how it will act and react. I have used that all my life. If you want to understand wildlife, in my view, it should be done with a long lens from far away.

As soon as an animal senses the presence of a foreign "animal" it is going to react differently. The idea that someone can wheel a small radio controlled car with a mic and a camera fitted with lights or an IR emitter on it down into a animals den, and not expect it to alter the actions of an animal (or insect) is an odd one.

Sort of like saying hey, if a race of really large green people with 2 heads pulled the roof off your house and replaced it with glass, lights and a camera, you would go about your daily life. I find that just silly. And yet we find people who slice away half a Gopher hole and do just that, or they string up radar like devices to catch bats in flight, etc. (I can only imagine a cartoon of a blinded bat hitting a tree here)

I think a drive to fame and possibly fortune drives an awful lot of what we do. I am in a rousing online discussion right now on the concept of - can art be judged? It goes hand in hand with defining art vs entertainment. This discussion sort of splits things in the catagories of the persuit of scientific knowledge vs entertainment.

What is the goal of shooting wildlife? Are we simply making pretty moving images of an eagle soaring over the peaks at Yellowstone or are we trying to make a saleable movie that will attract an audience? If the later, what is the motivation there? To do it well and technically accurate? To make money? To get publicity for ones self or perhaps political interest, as in conservation movements or hunting advocacy?

Everything to me ultimatly comes down to the underlying philosophy of "why"? Why is someone making a documentary on Bears? Why in hell is he living with them if he is trying to make a documentary on bears? He has tainted any natural reaction of the animals by attempting to live with them, etc. Why then is he doing this? Hey, he may have been a great guy, and I am sorry anyone has to go out the way he did but, I don't think anyone can deny, he was not fully loaded but he probably knew all the risk he was taking.

In the case of the bear film, the documentary was not focused on the bears. The thing we are all studying was the guy making the film. It's his story we are watching, not the bears. We do see their reactions to him in their space but mostly we see him.

So, for me, after the why?, I have to ask, how? Was it done in a way that truely is detached? I often wonder if the folks shooting these don't feel compelled to "help" nature a bit. I would have a tough time watching a baby rabbit starve to death or a a wounded animal crawling off to die without treatment. I would not be a good animal documentary person due to that.

Anyway, more fodder for discussion.

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