The Importance of Wildlife and its Conservation – A Talk with Ashok Kumar Kashyap
The natural wonders of our world which maintain our ecological balance and helps the world to thrive is on a crisis. Humanity and its elements have destroyed nature and wildlife in such a heinous way that a 16-Year-old girl, who should be enjoying her teens is instead in a global fight against world leaders to save the future generation. Alarming data and reports are pouring in every day and the numbers look seriously bad for the planet Earth.
What are the biggest emerging opportunities and threats the coming year holds for efforts to conserve biodiversity?
The Asian long-horned tick arrived in the US in 2017, bringing a most unwelcome guest: a bacterium that kills cattle. The tick tolerates a wide range of conditions and has potential to spread along the coasts of North America as well as into Central and South America, carrying its deadly companion along with it. This duo is likely to catalyse changes in land use as cattle growers adjust their operations. Because the tick has been known to infest mammals and birds, there is concern it may also harm wildlife as it spreads.
Large “forests” of kelp, a type of brown algae, grow along coastlines around the world, protecting shores from erosion and sheltering commercially important fish and other ocean life. Despite their reputation for enduring environmental stress, many of these kelp forests have been declining in recent years, possibly due to rising ocean temperatures, pollution, harvesting and non-native species. Further declines could disrupt ocean ecosystems and result in economically impactful losses of the billions of dollars worth of services they provide to humans.
It’s well known that a warming atmosphere is eating away at ice surrounding both of our planet’s poles. What’s less common knowledge, and only gradually being understood by scientists, is how the ozone hole over the Antarctic affects this. The hole in Earth’s ozone layer has been shrinking due to reduced emissions of pollutants that cause it to enlarge. This alteration could contribute to changes in wind and other weather patterns over the south pole. The changing weather in turn is likely to cause more Antarctic ice to melt, exacerbating global sea-level rise and further threatening coastal communities and habitat.
Source: The Guardian
On this note, we are trying to do a series of talking more about Wildlife Conservation by interviewing Wildlife Photographers who are making a difference with their work. Today we are talking with Ashok Kumar Kashyap. He is a Range Forest Officer at Dudhwa National Park, India. He also received the Billy Arjan Singh Warrior Award 2017. He is also an extraordinary photographer. To know more about him and his views on wildlife read on
Follow him on Instagram – @kashyap_ashokkumar
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/ashok.kashyap.161
P.S. All the pictures and videos are owned by ©Ashok Kumar Kashyap and reproduction in any form, without prior permission, is prohibited
Q: Would you kindly introduce yourself to your reader? On which project are you working currently?
A. My Name is Ashok Kumar Kashyap. I am a Range Forest Officer in Uttar Pradesh Forest Department.
Presently I am working to preserve and protect forest and wildlife in my Range by massive plantation drives, awareness campaign among locals, and strict actions against poachers and tree fellers to protect and conserve the critical biodiversity of Terai.
Q: What attracts you to your genre? Whose work has influenced you most in your early days? What inspired you to choose wildlife photography in particular?
A. Since childhood, I had a deep interest in wildlife. My Father too served as a Forest Ranger in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and as such I was born and brought up in close proximity to nature. This made a deep impact on me as with time my interest in flora and fauna only kept growing. In my starting years of service at Uttarakhand I got a chance to understand the importance of forests in human lives.
And while working for U.P. State Biodiversity Board, I was fortunate to be under the able guidance and company of best minds in the UP Forest Department. My life changed when the then Secretary Forest asked me to work on Avifauna too while appreciating my work that was concentrated mostly around Indian flora. Later to serve my evergrowing interest in avifauna, I took to bird photography that helped me immensely to study the ecological importance of birds, their behaviour, eating habits, migration pattern, and distribution of many Birds of Uttar Pradesh.
Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
A. It would be hard to say which was my greatest achievement. Was it the starting days I worked for UP Forest Department where I learned a lot or it were the days I was posted in Dudhwa National Park where I applied this knowledge to work . ?
While working for UP State Biodiversity Board, I got a deep understanding and knowledge of plants, their medicinal values, trees, herbs and shrubs, birds, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, insects, mammals and aquatic plants. My photography career started from here when the department gave me a camera to document species that were required in their annual magazines and many published books. This made me realise that photography was not just a tool of creating crisp shots but also a medium to make scientific study easier to grasp with better virtual and scientific representation of species.
Secondly while posted in one of the most notorious and sensitive Range of Dudhwa National Park and with the able guidance of my senior officials and local knowledge I was able to make this place a heaven for wildlife by curbing all illegal activities that took place inside the park.
Few years later this Range witnessed the Rhino Relocation phase 2 Project in which 4 Rhinos were brought to live freely inBelrayan. I was fortunate to be an intricate part of this project and as such it was a great learning opportunity for me.
Q: Is it important to have any professional training to be a photographer? Did you have any at the time you set of your journey?
A. I don’t think it is important. Many wildlife photographers that are doing great across India and world doesn’t have any formal training in photography. Though it isnecessary to be always open for new ideas and keep learning wherever and whenever one feels so.
I didn’t have any training but I did took help of some books and magazines related to photography, my wildlifer friends and online posts and articles on photography. The rest I learned through experience.
Q: Which is your preferred lens and why?
A. It would be hard to say which lens I prefer and which not. I almost have a kit for every situation and every lens is important for me . When photographing spiders, amphibians, insects and some reptiles I prefer macro lens 100mm. Although the first lens I bought was canon 100-400mm IS1 for birding that I also used for mammals photography too. Now I am equipped with canon 500mm IS2 f4 to get sharp shots for documenting wildlife in their natural habitat. The first DSLR I bought was of canon so all my kits are canon only except the video camera that I use is of Nikon.
Q: What are the main challenges that you face as a wildlife photographer? How do you plan a shoot?
A. The only thing that I was challenged while photographing was experience. But with time as I became familiar with the habitat, behaviour of subject, had enough patience I don’t believe there is any challenge I can’t face.
Initially, I randomly shot whatever came my way. But now I plan my shoot as per my need of species. The rare species has become my top priority as such I was able to document many new species that were not known previously to be found in that region.
Q: What are your views on ethical methods for photography, when it comes to photographing animals in their natural habitats?
A.I don’t agree with some unethical methods now used extensively to create great shots. Baiting, playing recorded calls, using flashlight for photography and some more. By avoiding these we can still get good shots without disturbing wildlife that are valuable.
Q. Kindly enlighten our readers on the importance and your views on the conservation of Wildlife. Why is it important, how does it impact climate change?
A. India is a land of six climatic zones. And as such our country has a highly varied flora and fauna from North to South India and East to West part of India. Our country is richest among others to be blessed by such biodiversity. Of the 35 biodiversity hotspots in the world, India hosts two of them. India is also one among the 12 Mega biodiversity regions in the world. This diversity in gene pool is a matter of great pride and importance to India. The presence of trees, plants, animals, and the diverse vegetation is essential to combat global warming, climate change, drought, flood and the essential supply of life giving fresh oxygen to both animals and humankind. As such we need to work hard to conserve and safeguard their habitats, corridors and reducing encroachment into the already encroached natural reserves of India.
Q. Can you say about the current trends/status of conservation of any particular animal that you love photographing or have photographed extensively?
A. At present, there are many photographers among Indian that are excited to photograph tigers, lions and leopards. However, apart from these species, I am more concerned about documenting other wildlife species of nature that too are essential part of our complex ecosystem. Without the role, these species play in the complex ecosystem we cannot even dream for a healthy ecosystem.
Yes, there are some species that I love to photograph. One among them is Bengal Florican, a critically endangered bird of the Bustard family of India who is fighting for its existence. With an increase in land encroachment for agricultural cultivation these birds are finding hard to survive with around only 300 individuals left in the world.
Q: What is your favorite picture that you have clicked and why? Could you explain the background story behind it?
A. That’s my Sloth Bear Series. Normally I love to photograph many species, almost every single one of them. But the one that I still remember was photographing two big Sloth beer moving towards my direction in harmony. They together amazed me for almost 20 minutes doing all sort of activities. Otherwise shy, Sloth beers run into the grasses on the slightest of any intrusion.
Q: How important is editing in wildlife photography? Which post-processing software do you use for your pictures?
A. Editing or post-processing is an intricate part of the photography that helps to produce better results. It assists us to bring in more details to the photograph thereby making it visually appealing. I use Adobe Lightroom for all my post-processed images.
Q: What advice would you give to young photographers who are just starting out and considering pursuing a career in wildlife photography?
A. My only advice for young photographers would be to first understand and gain much knowledge about wildlife. This will, in turn, reflect in the shots they take.
Q: Lastly, any message for your blog? Thank you for your time!
A. I am very happy to be part of your magazine. My best wishes to you and for the team who is putting up efforts to create awareness for wildlife and other important aspects into the common man’s life.
Thank you, Ashok Sir for such valuable guidelines and knowledgable information of various aspects of wildlife photography and conservation of nature. We look forward to your projects and wish you all the best for the future.