I am unlikely to see an Amur Leopard in the wild. I am equally unlikely to see a Giant Panda, a Koala, a Giant Cane Lemur or a Hammerhead Shark. As a biologist, with a keen interest in wildlife, I would very much like to see each of these animals in their natural environment, but I have neither the time nor the financial resources to make this a realistic possibility. However, there is the possibility of seeing any of them in captive situations: in zoos, wildlife parks or aquaria.
Zoos in the United Kingdom have over ten million visitors a year, and worldwide this figure is probably closer to 100 000 000. A trip to any wildlife collection – a zoo, falconry centre, aquarium or safari park – offers tremendous opportunities for any wildlife viewing enthusiast. These opportunities are even greater for the hobby wildlife photographer.
Even without seriously upsetting family or work commitments it is relatively easy to see six species or subspecies of big cat, both species of elephant, thirty bird of prey species and over fifty primates in UK collections. In this book I will suggest ways in which even a family day out can become a photographic safari, and how a little planning can make a visit to a wildlife collection a truly memorable occasion.
Photographers may have different expectations of a zoo visit. Some may simply want a record of a ‘day out’, with children and partners featuring as strongly as animals. Others may want to record species seen in different collections (I am trying to ‘collect’ worthwhile images of all of the primates and cats present in UK collections!), and some may want to use the captive animal situation to improve their technical photographic skills. Students of behaviour might need photographic records of their work, and artists may be seeking source materials for their portfolios. For many, there may a combination of these hopes.
This site will offer some guidance on technique and management of photographic equipment. There will also be advice on producing the most realistic images in an enclosed environment, and on utilising the photographer’s understanding of wild animals to produce memorable photographic records. I wish you the best of luck!