This is a very thoughtful analysis of both the good that responsible wildlife photographers can do, and the negative impacts on wildlife that irresponsible photographers can have:
When the details of Ramsey’s daring encounter came to light, scientists were quick to raise these issues.
Take, for example, Instagram influencer and shark conservation advocate Ocean Ramsey. In January 2019, Ramsey made international headlines after publishing photos of herself getting up close and personal with a six-meter great white shark that experts suspect was pregnant.
Ramsey and her husband, Juan Oliphant, owners of the Hawai‘i-based dive charter company One Ocean Diving, were freediving off the coast of O‘ahu when a massive great white shark approached their boat. The shark had come to feed on a whale carcass floating nearby. As the barrel-bodied creature approached the carcass, Ramsey dove down and ran her hand along its back. When the shark moved out of reach, Ramsey swam after it and stroked it a second time. As the encounter unfolded, Oliphant and three other freedivers moved in to capture photos and videos…[snip]
…According to Domeier, the shark Ramsey touched appeared pregnant and by forcing it to interact with her, she risked scaring it away from the whale carcass.
“A pregnant female white shark spends almost 18 months in the open ocean where prey is few and far between, so you don’t want to risk scaring one away from a meal that it needs to take care of the 500 or 600 pounds [225 or 275 kilograms] of babies it’s carrying,” says Domeier.
It is hard not to feel that humans–photographers, tourists, developers, hunters, researchers, it’s a long list–are relentlessly and increasingly intruding on the lives of wild animals. We definitely need many more, and much stricter, protected zones in both the ocean and on land. But what we really need, more than anything, is a different guiding ethic, in which our own needs and desires are no longer the only needs and desires considered, or dominant.