When Wildlife Photography Isn't Really Wild

Wildlife-wild.jpg

Whether you're really into wildlife photography or just a casual fan, chances are you've come across plenty of shots that aren't - strictly speaking - legitimate.  There are a significant number of photos, according to Audubon's Ted Williams, that aren't of wildlife at all.

Many of the animals you see on posters, calendars and in magazines are actually animals in captivity, some of which were raised on farms.  Aside from the obvious ethical issues of using pictures that don't represent actual wild animals, the practice could actually hinder conservation efforts.

"Animals like snow leopards are in desperate trouble," Ted writes in The Utne Reader, "but why should people believe this when they see sleek, healthy snow leopards every time they walk into a bookstore or open a 'wildlife' calendar?"

It's also a disservice to photographers interested in capturing wild animals in their photographs.  Ted says that he knows photographers whose business has dried up thanks to farm raised animals.  "I talked to one wildlife photographer who has quit submitting deer photos to hook-and-bullet publications because he can't compete with all the photographers who rent or own penned deer bred for freakishly large antlers."

Most magazines devoted to wildlife won't publish photos of captive animals.  If they do, they often indicate that in the credit, but a Williams writes "Credits often go unread."