Wildlife photography … everyone loves it! Okay, maybe not everyone, but there are a whole lot of people out there who do, whether they love taking the photos, or just looking at them. This post is an appeal to those who fall into the love-taking-photos category – and I’m not talking about the pros. I’m talking to the guy or girl who simply enjoys taking photos and sharing them with friends, family and everyone else out there in the wide open world of the internet
 (although it must be said, there are a few pros out there who should read this post as well).

2013 12 19 Rhino Portrait

As a photographer who hails from Africa, I know very well that tourism is a major source of income for many of the continent’s countries. South Africa in particular has a booming tourism industry, especially when it comes to wildlife tours and safaris. Cameras are always along for the ride to document the trip into that African wilderness. Out of those cameras come hundreds of photographs, many of which will be shared online, to show everyone the magnificent leopard you saw, or the herd of elephants that silently emerged from the trees right in front of you. And if you manage to capture a particularly rare or endangered species, that’s all the more reason to share the photo you snapped, right?

Modern technology has made all that sharing easier than ever. You can upload your favourite snaps to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus (the list goes on), right into an album titled ‘Trip to Kruger Park’ (for instance), and then share them with your friends … and the rest of web. The problem, however, is that bad guys like wildlife poachers have access to this technology as well – after all, finding information online is as easy as sharing it. A simple image search for ‘Rhino in South Africa’ could possibly return that image you snapped in the Kruger National Park. And embedded within that image is all the location information you may have added. If poachers can access that information, then your snapshot could potentially help them to locate their target. It’s not a pleasant thought, right? However, it is a very real and possible scenario.

Southern Africa’s rhino poaching problem is now so pervasive that it’s hard not to have heard about it somewhere. As 2013 draws to a close, the country is on track to lose 1000 rhinos to poachers just this year. Unless something is done to stem this crisis, there may soon be no rhinos left to photograph. So, as a photographer, what can you do make a difference?

I was once asked by a park ranger not to upload any photos of rhinos that I had taken on a trip. While this is the safest way to go, it doesn’t allow us to get our ‘sharing fix’ by showing others the amazing images we’ve taken. There are, however, certain precautions you can take to keep our endangered cohabitants safe from the prying eyes of poachers who may be starting off their hunt online.

1. Don’t mention the animal’s location in your gallery.

This is pretty self-explanatory – keep the location out of your gallery. Keep the title of the gallery vague (“Photos from our Safari trip!”). If you add a description to your photos, don’t mention where you took them.

2. Rename your files. 

If you’re like me, and you group and name images according to trips you have been on, make sure to rename them so there is no location info. Most sites will only show a title and description, but lurking on the server, in the background, is the original file name and location – and they’re easy enough to find if you know how.

3. Strip your location metadata.

Took photos on your phone? Got a GPS add-on on your camera? Make sure you remove the location information (information that gets embedded in the photos’ metadata). You can use Photoshop, Bridge, Lightroom or Aperture to edit EXIF and IPTC metadata, or you can use a free tool to strip it all (Pro Photo Tools for Windows
 or SnapsCleaner for Mac OSX).

4. Share the animals’ plight

This one doesn’t have anything to do with location. Instead, it falls under the ‘good Samaritan’ approach. When you upload your amazing photos of that rare and/or endangered species, do a bit of research on the animal, and tell the people you’re sharing the photos with about its plight. The more awareness we create about poaching and other threats to wildlife, the better. You can even go so far as to donate your images to conservation organisations doing amazing work on the ground – they can often use the images in various awareness campaigns.

To learn more about the plight of rhinos in South Africa and what you can do to help, visit WildAid
 or Project Rhino.

Header image courtesy of BRBphoto.