Consider the cumulative, as well as singular, impact of actions.
Remember, as a nature photographer, you do not have any greater right to approach or disturb animals than does an ordinary member of the public.
RESPECT THEIR SPATIAL NEEDS
View animals from a safe distance for both you and them. If the animal interrupts its behaviour (resting, feeding, rearing up etc.), then you are too close and must distance yourself.
DONT FORCE AN ACTION
Don't force an action, crowd, pursue, prevent escape, make deliberate noises to distract, startle or harass animals. This is stressful and wastes valuable energy in needless flight. The impact is cumulative.
"Images in which animals appear stressed, harassed, or crowded by the photographer or camera, will be disqualified": Nature’s Best Photography International Awards 2021
DONT FEED OR USE BAIT
Habituation due to handouts can result in disease (poor health because inevitably the animal is not eating its native food) or even death of that animal and injury to you.
"Animals must not be lured with bait, including live animals, dead animals or parts of animals, processed meat, other human or pet food, or decoys, such as fake mice. Setting a camera trap around a fresh kill or cache is generally acceptable, as long as it is naturally occurring": Nature’s Best Photography International Awards 2021
"Photographers must not feed fauna. It is an offence under [s155 of] the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 to feed fauna and fines apply for non-compliance. Using food to attract animals can disrupt their natural diet and behaviour and may increase their chances of predation by encouraging them to move from appropriate shelter or remain in a particular location for an extended period of time." Clause 6.1.3 Standards and Guidelines ETHICAL WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY
AVOID USING CALL PLAYBACK
Call playback, also known as 'tape-lure' or 'tape playback', is used to attract birds. It is a technique of playing back a sound (recording of an animals own call or a predator call) to which an animal responds.
"Without a doubt, playing a call will alter behavior to some degree,” says Isaac Pretorius. “Some calls that appear to have no positive reaction might be an intimidation call, scaring the animal away.” As an example, he describes the call of a male lion being played among a pride, cautioning, “This could have a disastrous outcome. Cubs might run away out of fear of the ‘intruder,’ making them vulnerable to attacks from enemies like hyenas.
REPORT RARE ANIMALS TO AUTHORITIES, NOT SOCIAL MEDIA
Before advertising the presence of a rare animal, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the animal, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private land-owners. The sites of rare animals should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities/
KEEP HABITAT DISTURBANCE TO A MINIMUM
Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist and NEVER enter areas designated off-limit by the local wildlife/nature conservation authorities.
This is particularly true in southern Australia where our native vegetation is under dire threat from the introduced plant disease Phytophthora cinnamomi, commonly known as dieback. In Western Australia, over 50% of our rare or endangered flora species are susceptible to dieback (which affects 40% of native WA plant species). It has already devastated the once floristically rich Stirling Range National Park (yes, it still looks beautiful, but it actually has lost almost half of its plant species to dieback).
It is primarily spread by human activity. The Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions will often close roads during wet weather when the risk of spreading this pathogen is at its highest. For rare birds, such as the Western Ground Parrot, the loss of these plant species is likely to have a devastating effect on the remaining population which is already struggling to overcome the impact of feral predators (cats and foxes) and bushfires.
For more information on dieback and its impact in Western Australia, click here.
AVOID USING FLASH DIRECTLY ON ANIMALS AT NIGHT
Use lower intensity spotlights, red filters and direct the light to the side of the subject rather than directly into its eyes.
"Nocturnal wildlife must not be photographed with a white flash at night. Cameras that use flash with filters only letting through infrared light, such as some camera traps, are permissible": Nature’s Best Photography International Awards 2021
AVOID FLYING DRONES NEAR OR ABOVE WILDLIFE
Drones have been shown to significantly increase the heart rate of animals. Even flying a drone in a seemingly unpopulated outdoor landscape setting could draw the attention—and the predatory instincts—of a passing bird, resulting in the prospect of injury to the bird.
In the words of Ami Vitali, National Geographic photographer, “Flying a drone very high and far away from animals is the only way to get your shot while not interfering with nature.” See: The Ethics of Wildlife Photography.
"Drones that depict flying birds or other fleeing animals, or animals displaying defensive behavior related to the photographer’s presence are not permitted. Drones must be at a safe distance from the living subject(s)": Nature’s Best Photography International Awards 2021
BE HONEST IN CAPTIONING
If you are photographing a captive or lured bird, you should say this in your captioning, especially when entering competitions. Avoid misrepresenting reality. Excessive photo editing, such as 'swapping out backgrounds' or duplicating birds should be declared unless obvious from the nature of the work.