Conservators of wildlife

Wildlife photographers tell Ahmed Shatil Alam why wildlife photography is yet to boom in Bangladesh, when it has existed across the world for more than a century

PHOTOS- Rifat Iqbal

015Last year, a child from Spain won ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest’, the most prestigious wildlife photography award in the world. Since 1964, the National History Museum in London has been organising the annual competition where last year Carlos Perez Naval, a nine-year-old boy from Spain, won the grand title for his photo of a scorpion titled ‘Stinger in the Sun’, despite competing with photographers far older than him.
Wild life photography is rather new in Bangladesh although its journey began in the USA more than 110 years back with the publication of National Geographic magazine’s July 1906 edition/issue. In the issue, National Geographic authority published 74 wildlife pictures which were taken by then-US House of Representative’s member- George Shiras III.
Along with his photos, a single-article issue titled ‘Hunting Wild Game With Flashlight and Camera’ was also published. Ever since then over the decades, National Geographic magazine continued to feature wildlife photography, which quickly became a hallmark of the publication.
Wildlife photography is a genre of photography concerned with documenting various forms of wildlife in their natural habitat.

016Although, the overall sector of photography has become well established in Bangladesh with increasing number of photographers from documentary photography to wedding and fashion photography. But there are few who are dedicated to wildlife photography although it has great exposure in the international photographic arena.
According to wildlife photographers of the country, there are around 500 people engaged in this arena. But only 15 have taken it up as their career.
Kudrat E Khoda, one of the pioneers of wildlife photography in the country, predicts that many photographers are likely to join this sector over the next few years due to wildlife photography’s growing global popularity.
Kudrat E Khoda, who initiated his journey of wildlife photography over a decade ago, tells New Age Xtra that such photography gained foothold in the country a few years back. He listed lack of financial support, lack of government support, educational facilities and lack of media focus as some of the reasons that the sector has not flourished in Bangladesh much.
017However, the former IT professional also shares his optimism about the sector. ‘Within the next five to seven years, many Bangladeshi wildlife photographers will be renowned internationally due to their work that will reflect the biodiversity of the country and neigbouring countries.’
Rifat Iqbal-an engineering student of a renowned public school, was inspired to take up wildlife photography after being exposed to Kudrat E Khoda’s works. Iqbal, who has been in this stream for past three years, says ‘Till the local media focuses on biodiversity and nature in their programmes, similar to National Geographic and Discovery Network, the profession will not attract young photographers.’
Both the photographers thanked the social media for being suitable platforms, for many others like them, to portray and exhibit their works to the masses.
018Referring to the decrease in number of tigers in Sundarban, Iqbal says, Wildlife photographers act as conservators of the nature. ‘During my journey in photography, I have noticed that the audience become more concerned about nature, when they realise the sorry state the environment and wildlife are currently in,’ he says.
Kudrat E Khoda shares a story from his life. ‘When I had began work in photography, I frequently went to the border areas of Comilla where poachers killed birds regularly.’
One day, he was asked by some of them why he went there. ‘I showed them some of the pictures of the birds and explained to them how they are hampering nature by killing these birds. When I returned to the area a few days later, I was amazed to see that the poacher group had stopped bird-killing.’
‘In other countries photographers are working as one of the major tools against animal poaching as they work near the wildlife inhabitants,’ he shares.
He suggests upcoming photographers to be more loving about nature, not to disturb or abuse nature and its elements. ‘Also, they need to study wild animals and their lifestyle before taking their photos,’ he says.
‘Most often, young people go to the wild to take photographs without doing any prior research. This can be very dangerous as these animals are most often very sensitive and non-communicative,’ he warns.