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Newsletter 71
14/06/13

Using Flash or Spotlight on Cats at Night


Jeep, guests, spotlights and flash light, impact a hunting leopard

Hello Friends 

"Why do you shine a light  Into my eyes
 The prey can see me stalk the night
 You come into my place
 Invade into my space
 Do you ever think of me"
                          From the song "Respect" by JV

Thank you to all of you who responded to the Newsletter "Who has the best eyesight of them all" 

Dudley Steenkamp writes as follows:

On multiple photo shoots, I and fellow photographers, have flashed and spotlighted a single leopard several (to many) times in a photo shoot and I have never experienced any one of them  - 'walking away' - in fact they appear to be totally undisturbed by the light. Go figure......? Who knows, perhaps to them a spotlight is worse than a flash, or vice versa, or neither...... Nobody here appears to really know at all. To assume that because a camera flash is disturbing to our human eyes, that it therefore must cause discomfort in leopards is expressing an opinion....and that is all it is - an opinion


Leopard turns away from the powerful spotlight

The dilemma that Dudley Steenkamp highlights in his letter, is one which every guides worth his or her salt is faced with on a daily basis, especially at night. 

The cats eyes are designed like the lens of a camera. In low light, you open your lens wide and in bright light you close your lens down. 

Therefore a lion or leopard hunting in the dark has its lenses (pupils) wide open. 

Now you flood the eyes with spotlight or flashlight or any light, you cause the lens to close. Now the lion or leopard must wait for you to take the light away to let its eyes readjust to the dark so it can hunt again and this severely disadvantages the cat. 

One jeep full of guests all taking photos leave the hunting cat and another 2 or 3 jeeps arrive and repeat the process of shining the lights into the unfortunate cat's eyes. 

When I made the film "Silent Hunter", I pursued the Mother Leopard relentlessly. The word "sensitivity" was not on my agenda. It was get pictures at all costs.


Mating leopards viewed at night

One night the Mother Leopard made three kills and lost two to spotted hyena and one to lions. After the third kill was lost, it occurred to me that perhaps I was the reason for her losing the kills. 

The spotted hyenas and lions knew the sound of my jeep. My filming lights could be seen for miles and they knew wherever I was, they would find the Mother Leopard. Hyena and lions knew she was a good hunter and once she made the kill, they could rob her. 

Since this time, we have gone through our own evolution and have tried red lights, infra lights, low impact lights etc with varying degrees of success.

The hard facts are that in the eco tourism industry, one enters into an unwritten contract with the habituated cats who are generally the stars and the main attractions of one's business. 


The impact on a pride of lions is far less than a single leopard

The contract reads something like this: I will not hunt, trap or poison you. I will not harass you and your cubs. I will protect you from poachers and hunters. I will have respect for you as a fellow creature.

Every guide and photographer enters knowingly or unknowingly into this contract on the understanding that he or she will try to keep the relationship as symbiotic as possible. However the relationship can never be perfect. The fact that you are parked 40m from a leopard, has already affected the leopard. Six excited guests talk in loud voices and pop flashlights. Every hyena and lion for 5km radius of your jeep, know exactly what is happening. A leopard sighting is in progress. 

As a guide or photographer, the best you can hope for, is to minimize the impact. If the leopard is suckling small cubs and hasn't killed for 4 days, move away from her and let her be. If she has a three day old impala kill stashed in a marula tree, by all means photograph her, backlight her, use flashlight in the knowledge that you are impacting her, but not so severely. 

It goes back to the training of the guides and the sensitivity they acquire. It also goes to the ability of the guide to communicate to the guests, who has limited time to capture that magic picture. The message should be that if we impact the leopard less today, she may well reward us with a kill tomorrow. 

It goes back to a deep passion to do what is right for a creature who is both  beautiful and intelligent, but different. It goes to finding the balance between earning valuable income which allows you to protect the wild cats for future generations. It goes back to respect. 

Tread Lightly on the Earth
JV

Tread lightly on the Earth

info@jvbigcats.co.za
Copyright 2007 @jvbigcats  All rights reserved


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An Open Letter to the Honourable Edna Molewa, Minister of Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs

Newsletter 71
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Using flash or spotlight on cats at night

Newsletter 70
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Mirror mirror on the wall, who has the best eyesight of them all?

Newsletter 69
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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fastest of them all?

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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best fighter of them all?

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Newsletter 7
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Londolozi
Newsletters

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17/08/09


Newsletter 20
10/02/09

Newsletter 15
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Painted Wolves


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Elephant Trust