FAQ: Is wildlife filmmaking a dangerous profession?
As in every other job, wildlife photography has certain dangers as well. But contrary to popular belief, greatest threat does not come from wild animals such as lions, bears or snakes.
In many places around the world, especially the tropic regions, there are some infectious diseases such as malaria, yellow fever etc. Most of hem are carried by mosquitos. While you can be protected from some of them with a simple vaccination or a tablet, some don’t have very effective precautions. And as we have seen recently with Covid-19, viruses do spread fast.
In some of the regions we work in, there is civil war, tribal conflicts or even pirates and bandits. Many governments require us to have armed protection and local guides while we are filming. In some high-risk zones, we film accompanied by a small army. The most dangerous and frightening experience I’ve had was human related. While I was filming along the border of Kenya and Somalia, a terrorist group attacked the region and killed hundreds of people and we barely made it to a safe place with the help of some locals.
Animals can also pose a threat to humans but we never push our limits and corner them. Usually the most dangerous animals are the smallest and poisonous ones such as bees, scorpions, spiders and ants which you can’t see easily. I’ve never had a very serious problem with big mammals because you can usually anticipate their next move and they let you know that their displeased with a grunt, gesture or a mock charge. I’ve been chased by rhinos, African elephants and an occasional wild boar but probably the most frightening experience I’ve ever had was with a silverback in Rwanda. It was a mock charge, I knew the gorilla was just displeased and wanted us to back off and didn't mean no harm. But still, it was a 170 cm silverback weighing around 200 kgs. running towards me that gave me chills.
Be sensible in nature. Respect wildlife. Never take unnecessary risks and wildlife filmmaking is not more dangerous than an office job.