Photography allows me to observe wildlife and spend time in nature, but my real goal is to illustrate the challenges facing animals and inspire viewers to change their behaviour. This can include slowing down while driving, or supporting initiatives for wildlife crossings over highways. Or respecting an animal’s space; observing from a distance, where an animal’s behaviour isn’t influenced by the person’s. These photos don’t encapsulate the whole issue. Human-wildlife conflict is very complex. An image of a dead animal on the road has a strong visual impact, but it’s difficult to illustrate the effect of, say, too many people in a wilderness area, which certain sensitive species then avoid. And it can’t be an either/or equation. Any solution needs to meetthe needs of wildlife and people.
My work focuses on conflict, but the goal is human-wildlife co-existence. Tremendous work has been done to mitigate conflict: installing fencing and under- and overpasses, removing wildlife attractants from communities (e.g., bearproof garbages, removal of fruit trees), education (e.g., WildSmart) and restoring habitat. Digital photography and social media, however, have contributed to poor behaviour, such as selfies with animals. The narrative changes from appreciation for the presence and existence of that animal to being about the person—with the animala commodity for that social media post. —Dan Rafla