May 16

Arkive would like to introduce The Wait, a short film from production company Contra, which follows the journey of a wildlife photographer on a hunt to document the elusive European bison in its natural habitat of the Romanian mountains. The story details how it can take weeks to capture a shot, and the patience required to wait for this moment.

We have been speaking with Michel d’Oultremont, wildlife photographer and subject of the film, to learn about his motivations for wildlife photography.

Who are you and what is your profession?

Hello, my name is Michel d’Oultremont, I’m 25 years old and I have been a wildlife photographer since the age of 10 – I have had the great fortune of starting very young with an unconditional love for wildlife!

Michel d’Oultremont

Michel d’Oultremont

 

We found The Wait to be very emotive. Can you tell us more about your relationship with the natural world and why you wanted to photograph the European bison?

My relationship with nature is very special – I spend hours and hours in the wild trying to find and observe wildlife. It’s a way of life for me! Since the WWF (Worldwide Wildlife Fund) has started to reintroduce wild bison into the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, it has been a dream of mine to explore this region and to see these spectacular beasts. I’ve always been quite drawn to big animals like bears and muskox, so the bison is the next logical progression of that passion!

European bison © John Ford

Your creativity with the landscape shows through your work, do you have a specific image or style in mind before you begin shooting?

It all depends – I like to capture the animal in its natural habitat, so often I have to relocate to find the best light and environment. Once I’m set up, I wait for an animal to pay me a visit: a nature photo is a meeting – you just have to wait for it to happen. Although sometimes I do think more about the image and I try to realise it in any way I can.

What do you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?

It may sound stupid, but I try to capture beauty in my photographs, to show the beauty of wildlife. So I try to take photographs that highlight this beauty and make for aesthetically pleasing pictures. When I manage this it is a real pleasure, but it doesn’t happen very often – maybe four or five times in a year.

Short-eared owl fight over a mouse during winter in France, no bait used © Michel d’Oultremont

Is focusing on a reintroduced species of particular importance to you? Do you feel any extra pressure when capturing images of a rare creature?

This type of project is very important because it allows wildlife to come back to its stomping ground. The work of the WWF is very important – they make the reintroduction of wildlife into the mountains possible! I don’t seek out rare animals especially, I photograph everything that happens to pass in front of my lens so it’s more that I am opportunistic.

This picture was taken in Belgium right next to my house, this nice owl decided to nest in a tree that I know very well, a real treat to be able to observe them naturally  © Michel d’Oultremont

Which animals and landscapes would you most like to photograph if you had no constraints?

That’s a really difficult question, there are many species I dream of photographing, like the Persian panther or the Siberian tiger. I would also love to go to the Canadian Arctic to see Polar Bears! There is still a lot to see, and that’s what’s great!

The Wait conveys a sense of solitude and at times loneliness, what is the longest and hardest time you have spent waiting for a subject?

I have had to wait several weeks before finding the subject and light I’ve been hoping for! But this isn’t restrictive because there are always things happening. The most difficult conditions I’ve experienced are without a doubt winter in Norway, where I was caught in a huge snow storm, but I love that these difficult conditions bring a sense of poetry to the images.

“I stayed at a location in Sweden for a week waiting for the singing black grouse. One morning the whole area was frosted, the sun was reflected on a cloud and in the drops of water, which gives these incredibly magical colours!” © Michel d’Oultremont

What is one thing you may recommend in wildlife photography?

The best advice, I think, is to know and research the species well, and do everything you can not to disturb the wildlife.

Top three items you never travel without?

The three things I always travel with – apart from my photographic equipment, of course – are my binoculars that I always take with me, my knife for quickly making a natural shade, and my notebook to try and write down everything I experience in the field.

Romanian Mountains © Michel d’Oultremont

Romanian mountains © John Ford

We’d like to thank Michel for speaking with us. If you’d like to see more of Michel’s work you can visit his website, or find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also visit The Wait website to watch the film and read more about the team behind it.

Jun 11

A flock of scarlet macaws has been released in southern Mexico as part of a reintroduction project to return this charismatic bird to its former range.

Photo of scarlet macaw preening

Although not considered to be globally threatened, the scarlet macaw has almost disappeared from southern Mexico

The macaws were released into the jungles of Aluxes Ecopark, near Palenque National Park in Chiapas, and all 17 individuals so far appear to be doing well. The project comes after years of coordinated efforts between Aluxes Ecopark, Xcaret Ecopark, the Institute of Biology of the University of Mexico (UNAM), and the Mexican environment agency (SEMARNAT).

Macaws under threat

The scarlet macaw is widespread across Central and South America, and is currently classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. However, this vibrantly coloured species has all but disappeared from southern Mexico, mainly due to the destruction of its rainforest habitat and over-collection for the pet trade.

Photo of scarlet macaw in flight, side view

Scarlet macaws are potentially long-lived, reaching ages of 60 years or more

Fortunately for the macaw, forest restoration projects, awareness campaigns and protection of Palenque National Park have significantly reduced tropical rainforest destruction in the region, and the wildlife trade has also declined. Sufficient protection for the scarlet macaw and its habitat means that reintroduction is now a viable option to restore this species to its former range.

Macaw reintroductions

Before the scarlet macaw reintroduction project could go ahead, approval had to first be gained from the relevant authorities. The health and genetics of the captive-bred birds also had to be assessed to ensure that they were suitable for release.

The first macaw reintroduction took place in April, with a second small flock scheduled for release at the end of June. After this, small groups of 10 to 12 birds at a time will be released until a quota of 60 to 70 for this year is met. The reintroductions will then continue until 2015, and if successful will result in a doubling of the species’ current numbers in the region.

Close up photo of scarlet macaws allopreening

The main threats to the scarlet macaw are habitat destruction and the pet trade

Speaking about the reintroduction, Alejandro Estrada, one of the leading researchers from the Institute of Biology at UNAM, explained that they should “create a scarlet macaw corridor that will reconnect the remnant populations with the introduced macaws and will result in a region-wide restoration of the scarlet macaw in its northernmost distribution in the Neotropics.”

Preparing for release

Before the captive-bred scarlet macaws can successfully be released, they need to be trained in how to survive in the wild. This includes housing the birds in groups for several weeks to encourage them to form flocks, as well as training them to recognise wild foods and to avoid predators, including humans.

Once released, the birds will be provided with extra food to supplement their diets as they adjust to foraging for wild foods, which include fruits, nuts, seeds, flowers and leaves. According to Estrada, now that the first birds are living wild, they will be able to act as ‘tutors’ for new flocks, helping them to adapt more quickly.

The released macaws will be tracked over the coming years, to monitor how the reintroduction efforts are going. Artificial nest boxes will also be set up in the release area.

Photo of a flock of scarlet macaws in flight with red and green macaws

Scarlet macaws usually live in pairs or small family groups, which may join together into larger flocks

Encouraging support

The macaw reintroduction efforts have received encouraging support from the Mexican government, which has helped to publicise the species’ return to the wild. Various campaigns have helped to build a sense of local pride in this beautifully coloured bird, and the community around Palenque already appears to be captivated by its reappearance.

Those involved in the project are hopeful that this sense of pride in and concern for the scarlet macaw will also help to develop a greater interest in the conservation of the region’s tropical forests and the other species which inhabit them.

 

Read more on this story at Mongabay – Flying rainbows: the scarlet macaw returns to Mexico.

Find out more about scarlet macaw conservation at The ARA Project and the Tambopata Macaw Project.

View photos and videos of the scarlet macaw on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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