Thursday, May 29, 2008

Race to Save Virginia Range Wild Horses

The Federal Government has cut back development payments to a number of Native American tribes. As a result the Cheyenne River Sioux in South Dakota are at risk of losing their Tribal Park lands. They have had to remove most of the bison and about 300 Virginia Range wild horses.

It is paramount that this herd remain intact since the herd in Nevada where these horses originated is under attack by the state advocating total removal of all horses. If Nevada should prevail, it would mean that this herd is the only viable group of Virginia Range wild horses left in our country.

The International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB) has been caring for these horses and is scrambling to find alternative habitat.

ISPMB needs your help in funding the following:
  • $9,000 to pay an acquired hay bill.
  • $7,000 for a portable loading chute so they can draw coggins on each of the Virginia Range for transport out of state.
  • $8,000 to bring in a vet and draw Coggins on 100 horses (cost of vet plus lab for 115 animals including the foals).
The task of saving the 317 Virginia Range wild horses from slaughter over the past six months against insurmountable odds is almost complete, thanks to ISPMB.

I urge all of you to dig into your pocketbooks and help the Virginia Range wild horses. Many of you have been with me on the Reservation and photographed these magnificent creatures. The horse depicted above is part of the Virginia Range herd and was photographed by me during one of my photography workshops.

These historic animals deserve nothing less than freedom and a chance to survive. We must show the world that we can protect horses so there is no need for equine slaughter plants in our country.

Click in ISPMB's website at on their Pay Pal account and make a donation now. It's that easy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting Close To Your Subject

Super telephotos are not always the answer to getting those frame-filling images so desired by art directors for use on magazine covers. You  still need to get close to your subject.

The secret of approaching any wild animal is for it to accept you as part of its natural surroundings and not feel threatened by your presence.

When approaching members of the deer and sheep family, I often use what I call the "grazing approach." It's a technique I learned while observing herds of elk. Individual animals were constantly moving about, yet the herd appeared to stay in one place. Despite appearances, however, the entire herd was gradually advancing toward ungrazed areas.

Once you have spotted a particular subject, remain where it can see you. Do not attempt to get any closer at first. Sit down or mill about, but stay where you are at least five minutes; then you can begin your approach.

Never walk directly to your subject. Pick a direction of travel that will take you past the animal. After going some distance, turn around and walk past the subject again, altering the direction of travel so you pas a few feet closer. Continue this zigzag approach until you are within photographic range.

While zigzagging, act as if you were grazing. Walk slowly, stop often and mill about, occasionally even sitting down for a minute or two. Watch for any change in your subject's behavior while at the same time avoiding direct eye contact. Stop the moment you detect any change. You will avoid stressing your subject as long as it can anticipate your actions and not feel threatened. 

Regarding stress, it is best to approach most members of the deer and sheep family from the downhill side. Since these species tend to escape predators by fleeing uphill, this avoids cutting off any potential escape route that in turn may cause them to exhibit signs of stress. I have found mountain goats are often the exception to this rule, appearing to be more comfortable when approached from above.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pandas of Earthquake Stricken China

The 8.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated China's Sichuan Province on Monday, May 12, struck in the heart of the Wolong Nature Reserve, its epicenter situated less than 10 miles from the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, home to some 86 pandas. The Center, like most of the surrounding towns and villages was destroyed. Although all directors, veterinarians and staff members escaped serious injury, five people connected with the Nature Reserve were killed. In addition, two pandas were injured, while six escaped. So far, four of the escaped pandas, unable to find food, have returned to the Center.
There are about 1,590 giant pandas living in the wild in China, the majority of which inhabit the hard-hit Wolong Nature Reserve. Their fate is still unknown at this time.
The death toll from this disaster now exceeds 60,o0o. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone, including all of our wild brothers and sisters, affected by this horrible tragedy.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

South American Update

It has been a couple of weeks since returning from South America, where I led two separate, wildlife photography workshops - one in the Ecuadorian cloud forests of Tandayapa Valley, followed by an 8-day cruise in the magical Galapagos archipelago.

The above images were made during these adventures. The first depicts a Sparkling Violetear photographed in the Tandayapa Valley, two hours north of Quito, while the second portrays a Galapagos Penguin, wings out-stretched while perched atop one of the numerous volcanic rocks encircling Bartolome Island.

One of those magical moments. many of which Nature has shared with me over the years, occurred as my group and I worked the shoreline of Bartolome from a dingy, or panga as the natives call the small, wooden boats.

It took place between two Galapagos Penguins. One, an adult that I assumed to be a female, stood on one of the volcanic rocks. Next to her stood a juvenile, which appeared to be her offspring. After interacting for some time with the adult, the youngster dove into the water and swam away. When this occurred, the female spread her short wings, raised her head to the heavens and began squalling at its departure. In no time, another penguin, which I assumed to be her mate and previously hidden behind the rock upon which she stood, waddled-up behind her, placed his arms (wings) around her and stood there comforting her as she lay her head on his arm while bathing in his compassion.