An award winning photographer, Peter Chadwick won the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Species, supported by ARKive, at last year’s Veolia Environnment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Peter has also donated many of his wonderful images to the ARKive project so we thought we should find out a bit more about his work and interest in wildlife photography.
Q: You currently work as the programme manager of the WWF South Africa – Integrated Ocean Use Programme. Tell us a bit about that, and what inspired you to work in conservation?
I have had the incredible privilege to spend most of my life in the outdoors, having grown up in the bushveld of Zimbabwe. Conservation was always an obvious choice for me and I have spent the last 25 years having worked throughout southern Africa in some of its most special wild places. These include the Kalahari Desert, Kruger National Park, the Drakensberg Mountains and the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands. Working across these diverse habitats allowed me to gain vast experience in all aspects of conservation management in all of the different biomes in southern Africa. My special interests are in ecosystem-based approaches to management, developing management strategies for rare and endangered species and in capacity development of conservation personnel.
I currently work as the Programme Manager of the WWF South Africa – Integrated Ocean Use Programme and my work focuses around supporting marine protected areas (MPAs) in South Africa and sub-region. The health and integrity of much of the world’s oceans and coastal environments have been severely degraded and remain threatened by human activities such as over-fishing, pollution, development and unregulated tourism. MPAs have been advocated as an effective management tool for securing and restoring the health of our oceans. My work aims to bring together the strengths and competencies of national government, relevant conservation agencies and civil society to effectively manage and secure our unique and rich marine heritage while promoting social benefits.
Q: Do you have any exciting projects or trips coming up?
I am currently working on a project that aims to raise the profile of South Africa’s MPA’s. Although South Africa has an excellent network of 21 MPA’s, these do not have the same support and understanding that terrestrial protected areas have. With our oceans being under huge threat, these MPA’s play an important role in the protection of habitats and biodiversity as well as being insurance policies for the future of our fisheries stocks. Through the power of iconic imagery, we aim to visually “Bring People to the MPA’s” so that they can begin to see and understand the incredible diversity, uniqueness and importance of these MPA’s. The project is undertaken in collaboration with the South African Department of Environmental Affairs: Branch Oceans & Coasts.
I also continually work on promoting South Africa’s diverse birding destinations and profiling the developmental bird guides that have become important ambassadors and protectors of these often-isolated patches of biodiversity. Through encouraging and supporting the developing businesses of these guides, they in turn are able to educate members of their own communities to support conservation.
Q: Do you have any advice for young people who want to have a career in conservation?
I believe that the role that conservation will play in the future of this planet will be ever more important as there is an awakening to the fact that we cannot continue to abuse our planet at current rates. Conservation leaders are definitely going to be needed into the future and for the youngsters wanting to enter into conservation, I believe that they need to have a deep personal and ethical commitment that is founded in personal engagement with conservation. In other words, while it is possible to gain an intellectual understanding of the various issues it is very important to get out into the field and learn from practical experience. I spent all my weekends and school and university vacations volunteering with different conservation organisations. This helped me gain a good foundational understanding of conservation and more importantly guided me to where I could make the biggest positive impact for conservation. Get out and observe the world around us, as the more you understand about the outdoors, the better decisions you will make to protect it.
Q: What has been your favourite wildlife encounter?
For me every single encounter that I have with wildlife is an incredible privilege and I never stop learning and being amazed by what I see. There is not a single outing in the wild that I do not see something new and exciting and many of these encounters take place close to where I live. We do not necessary have to venture far into the larger wilderness areas and view the “big 5” to see something amazing. I gain just as much from finding a new flower species that I have not seen before and watching a pair of African black oystercatchers feeding under a full moon as from watching a pack of spotted hyaena hunting co-operatively. What is important is that we must make the most of every opportunity and soak in the outdoors that is so intrinsically linked to the wellness of our own souls.
Q: You have worked in lots of interesting and remote places around Southern Africa, is there anywhere else in the world you would really like to go and any species in particular you would like to see?
For me the two places that are always on my dream list to visit are the Antarctic and the Arctic Circle. Their absolute wildness yet total fragility has always enticed me. My visit to the sub-Antarctic’s Prince Edward Islands in the early 1990’s also wet my appetite by seeing locations where mans imprint is minimal and the wildlife accepts us as part of the environment, often having no fear of us. I would love to be able to watch Arctic foxes hunting seabirds amongst their colonies in the Arctic and watch emperor, chinstrap and Adélie penguins in the Antarctic.
Q: And finally, why do you think that wildlife photography and the ARKive project are important?
For me, wildlife photography is a natural extension to my conservation work where I have numerous opportunities to capture photographs that showcase the beauty and complexity of the outdoors. I firmly believe that through a photograph, we have the ability to capture a moment of time, that if correctly composed can positively influence the way that we respond, think and act. I always strive to take compelling and ethical nature images that communicate the key values of the environment, showcasing its benefits and highlighting the need for the protection of our fragile earth. ARKive also needs to be strongly supported. It as an incredible image bank that allows the greater public to view the vast diversity of planet earth, it raises awareness of the plight of the many species and shows the earths fragility and through so doing will hopefully enthuse others to become conservation supporters. Sadly, people only support and protect what they know and ARKive certainly helps bringing the unknown to a vast number of people.
Rebecca Taylor, ARKive Media Researcher