The recent thread on the use of small mammal traps reminded me of several conversations that I have had with people over the past year or so about the need for a code of conduct for mammal watchers in the same way as many birding organisations around the world already have codes of conduct for their members.
With the increased enthusiasm for obtaining photos of everything people see in order to post them on social media some local guides seem to be pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in order to get their clients the perfect photograph. In many cases this is to the detriment of the animal’s welfare. I have noticed this when travelling independently, and when leading tours have had to ask local guides/drivers to back away from animals on more than one occasion and to point spotlights away from the animal’s eyes.
Many aspects of mammal watching, e.g. small mammal trapping, spotlighting and visiting bat caves, are potentially even more invasive than most aspects of birding although at least mammal watchers rarely resort to the use of tape luring.
Having discussed this with Jon Hall, Phil Telfer and John Wright who are regular contributors to this site, Nigel Goodgame who has had similar experiences to me while leading tours and Jeff Blincow who is co-authoring the forthcoming South American mammal guide with me, I have put together a first draft of a code of conduct for travelling mammal watchers. Jeff and I will be including something along the lines of this in the book.
While many people using this site adopt best practice as a matter of course it is useful to have a point of reference which we can hopefully use to encourage others to also adopt higher standards. This is just a first draft and some people may feel that it is rather restrictive but the interests of the animal should always come first.
We would be keen to receive constructive feedback so that we can produce a final version for the site.