• Jo Dale

    I loved this place when I visited 3 years ago! I have a feeling that wolf is the same as one of the four that I saw back then. A very bold individual that got the better of the bears!
    Case in point:

  • jeroen

    Sorry to misuse your nice post a bit Jo, but am I the only one who has a bit of a bad feeling with these photography hides luring predators constantly? They are popping up around the world everywhere these days. I can understand the attractiveness (those damn predatory mammals and raptors never seem willing to pose nicely!), but what are the consequences for the animals, the quality of wildlife images and the idea of pure wildlife? I have seen those (this?) blond wolves everywhere on webgalleries, and even at least twice in wildlife documentaries on tv already. Most of the beautiful pictures of snowy owls hunting were lured with freshly bought tame petshopmice (thrown into the snow in front of the owls and later photoshopped out of the image)… Goshawks on top of pinned dead owls seem to be the latest thing, while the audience does not realize these are almost all staged sets with habituated animals. Will this be the new standard; big fat sluggish halftame bears, vultures and eagles strolling around the same setting, complaining if there is only dogfood on the stake-out, instead of fresh roadkill? I don’t mind luring an animal with some food from time to time, but this is becoming a whole new multi-million dollar industry of ‘canned wildlife photography’.

    Maybe I am too negative (many photographers probably do not like this post), so I love to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Richard Webb

      Jeroen, I totally agree. When I started out watching mammals and subsequently leading tours the enjoyment was all about seeing a difficult species even if the views were sometimes brief. Photos or video were simply a bonus. Nowadays since digital photography became so popular everyone wants (and almost expects) to get frame filling photos and the proliferation of baited photo hides caters to this new demand. Personally I hate it. As Stuart mentions in his response there are potential benefits of hides but I get far more pleasure and satisfaction finding my own mammals even if it does take a lot longer than visiting a baited stakeout. I equally dislike using local guides unless I have to for access to areas. I have got far more satisfaction finding my own Snow Leopards in Kazakhstan and China (albeit in the company of local guides) than I would have done being shown them by trackers in Ladakh.

    • Mattia from Italy

      No, you are not the only one, Jeroen. Feeding sites are actually the only realistic way to see Wolverines, but for Brown Bears and Wolves there are much more naturally and satisfying ways to observe them. I would never quote a trip such this as “one of my best wildlife experiences”. But, as Richard said, now to take photos is, for many people, more important than to “only” see the target species. And the most important thing seems to show those photos to the others via the social medias.

  • Stuart Chapman

    Inside protected areas I agree that feeding predators is not ideal although park managers often burn and manage grasslands and provide salt licks for herbivores to boost the visitor experience. The recent book by Doug Chadwick on protecting the last brown bears in Mongolia hinges on providing supplementary feeding to boost the numbers of the 20-30 “gobi grizzly bears” so even inside protected areas there are cases of feeding for management reasons. In land outside protected areas its open season. Hunting, culling, trophy hunting, illegal hunting, trapping and snaring are just a few of the pressures on carnivores and normally in the name of management, sustainable use, profit or in some cases, intolerance of anything with canines and claws. If managed hides, with feeding done in an ethical way helps create a greater tolerance of carnivores, brings economic benefit and gives the visitor a rare glimpse of these animals, I find it hard to object. That said, the week I spent in pursuit of Ursus arctos isabellinus in N.W, India which finally resulted in a fleeting glimpse and grainy , long-range photo, still wins the day for me.

  • Antee

    Personally I stay away from baited wildlife. Simply because it is not wildlife in my way to see it.
    With the exception of trapping rodents with baits in Sherman traps for example.

    I find it strange that there also is two different worlds about this depending on what species it is.
    It was a huge debate when some companys did baiting in Pantanal for Jaguars back in the times. Alot of criticism and voices of boycott. They stopped.
    However, there is still baiting for this poor Ocelots.

    When it comes to bears and Wolves it seems more acceptable than for cats. I don´t know why… ???

    Personally I will not take a single photo from a baited photo hide where dead meat is put to attract carnivores.

    I will go to Brazil/Pantanal and Bolivia/Paraguay next year.
    I will stay away from the baited Ocelots.
    I will stay away from this Church with baited Maned Wolves

    I will see both of them anyway. Wild, unbaited and in much better environment. That is mammalwatching for me.

    Then we always have this grey zone…
    When people throw away the waste behind the lodge who attracts both Civets and Sun bears… 🙂
    But this is okey for me. I see this as an adaption for wildlife to live amongst people and take advantage of it.

    A baited photo hide for commercial purpose is something completely different.

    By the way, isn´t it boring to see the same photos from the same angle of the same animals all over again?
    How many Buffalo pictures are there now under a clear starry sky from this Photo hide in Zimanga? 🙂

    But the good thing is that people can do whatever they like. If they like this, then go. If you don´t, you have every possibility in the world to see the animals in another way.

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Well, Caraça Sanctuary in Brazil is worth visiting even if you don’t watch the maned wolves being fed. It’s one of the best wildlife viewing sites in Belo Horizonte, I got 20+ species of mammals there.

  • Vladimir Dinets

    As for counting mammals at feeding sites, we don’t have strict rules for what’s countable, probably because so far mammalwatching has been much less competitive than certain types of birdwatching. People in Australia do have such rules, and some of their rules are a bit weird (or at least seem that way to an outsider like myself). I’ve never been at a commercial feeding hide, but I’ve watched a few species at garbage dumps and bird feeders. I’d rather watch everything in more natural situations, but discounting all such sightings would be too severe, and discounting only some of them would be inconsistent.

  • jeroen

    Thanks for all your interesting comments! Nice to hear I’m not the only one.

    Many professional wildlife photographers also do the ‘baited hide world tour’: golden eagles in Norway, bears, wolverines and wolves in Finland, white tailed eagles in Poland, vultures in Spain… There are tons of amazing pictures of Japanese cranes and Steller sea eagles from Japan, but they loose a bit of their shine when you realize the professional animal feeder just stepped out of the frame so the dozens of photographers on the parking lot can take their unique wildlife shot.

    I wanted to take my kids to a bear hide in Slovenia this summer until I realized there are thousands of feeding machines in this country. Bears just lay on their backs under them with with their mouths open and wait for their hourly drop of corn. Sounds more like extensive cattle ranching than wildlife management to me. (And it was too expensive for me).

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Oh, and by the way, there are places to photograph fully wild wolverines. You can volunteer to overwinter at a remote ranger station in Kronotsky NR in Kamchatka (or just pay to be dropped off and picked up by helicopter), or take a few boat tours of Glacier Bay in Alaska (success rate is said to be around 10%), etc.

  • Jurek

    I personally do not like baited sites either. Especially if there are tens of noisy Chinese photographers who block view for you and each others. However, I understand that for every one like me there are 100 photographers who don’t walk much or know about wildlife much, and 100,000 people who would wish every predator dead.

    From the conservation perspective, wildlife photography is among the least invasive ways to educate and conserve.

  • Jens

    In countries like Finland where wolf numbers are kept down by intensive hunting (legally and in form of poaching) it seems to me that a promising way in which wolves can be protected is by changing the attitude of locals to wolves. When photographers come to Finland they rent cars, pay for accommodation, hire local guides etc. and thereby generate income for locals that might be more attractive than simply killing the wolves.
    Also, generalizations are difficult because each country has its own cultural traditions and history and therefore the issue of whether baiting should be allowed or even promoted should be seen in this context, I guess.
    Admittedly, this is purely a conservation issue and has nothing to do with the much more personal issue of whether one gets more satisfaction out of seeing an unbaited (versus) a baited animal.

  • jeroen

    Thanks for your interesting comments.

    Indeed we should separate the esthetic side and the conservation side of this topic.
    I think most of us agree on the esthetic side and if these hides help to create safe zones for big predators in principle that is nice too. I am just a bit scared that the economics are going to determine the faith of these wild places even more than they do now already. So that wildlife only gets protected when it brings profit. I am afraid we wil get ‘Dutch nature’ worldwide this way. This means strictly managed cultural landscapes with target figures of desired popular animals. Who evolve to be too lazy to get their food themselves…. (For the sake of argument I am exaggerating a tiny bit).

  • Jens

    I share your concerns. But increasingly most land will come under some form of management and we can only try to influence positively what type of management it’s going to be.
    Oliver Krüger wrote an interesting article about this topic: The role of ecotourism in conservation: panacea or Pandora’s box? I believe, it can be accessed via Google scholar

  • jeroen

    Thanks again; nice article.
    I would like to think ‘wild lands’ will one day be managed like ‘Rewilding Europe’ seems to be planning to do.
    This fantastic initiative is creating huge ‘new’ protected areas where all missing big herbivores and predators are re-introduced and a ‘hands-off and let nature show us’ policy seems to be the goal, with only some regulated eco-tourism and minute farming being tolerated, if I am well-informed enough. https://rewildingeurope.com/

  • Jurek

    Hi Jeroen,
    I don’t think that protection for ecotourism causes less interest in protection for the sake of protection itself. I am afraid traditional protection is simply not working in most of the world, even much of the so-called First World. Ecotourism, if anything, exposes whenever comparatively non-functioning was traditional conservation.

  • Jurek

    Sorry for error in copy-pasting.
    I hope my point is understandable: ecotourism often shows that ‘traditional’ conservation has not been working. Improving ‘traditional’ conservation is a different thing than getting angry at ecotourism.

    One aspect of ecotourism is that it is visible, so a common target for fake action compared to bigger threats to wildlife. I collected lots of experiences from my travels that e.g. rangers in a national park watch closely that tourists don’t disturb a tiger, but poaching and illegal grazing of livestock went unchecked.

  • jeroen

    I do not have any problems with ecotourism I think, as long as it is done properly enough. I do not have problems with wildlife photography either (I am a wildlife cameraman myself!), as long as it is done without disturbing the wildlife too much. That “rangers in a national park watch closely that tourists don’t disturb a tiger, but poaching and illegal grazing of livestock went unchecked” I agree on, but the only solution to that problem might be more money, as it is slightly less expensive to correct a tourist on a tour than to catch a poacher.
    Actually I do not really understand your: “ecotourism often shows that ‘traditional’ conservation has not been working”. Can you explain that a bit more please?

  • Jurek

    I don’t want to talk to much, and especially to start arguments.
    I meant that sometimes critics of ecotourism do not understand that the site when ecotourism was removed might be even worse than with ecotourism. There would be loss of money and also often administration is pushed to put more effort into conservation because tourists would make bad publicity if they saw gross negligence.

  • jeroen

    I understand your point; no argument here!

Leave a Reply