Photographer Reignites Debate of Morals in Documentary Photography With Footage of Animals Stuck in Mud

Photographer Reignites Debate of Morals in Documentary Photography With Footage of Animals Stuck in Mud

A photographer has reignited the debate of ethics surrounding documentary work and animal welfare, after he posted footage online showing a kangaroo and a lamb trapped in mud. He has now explained why he wasn’t able to save the animals.

The predicament occurred at Lake Cawndilla near Menindee, Australia. Answering to calls from the public as to why the wildlife weren’t saved despite the footage being taken, Nick Moir, a photographer for the Sydney Morning Herald and the individual behind the video, explained it was an impossible situation.

I took the shot with a drone about a kilometre and a half away from the lake bed. People forget if the roo got stuck in the soft mud, it wouldn't have been so great for me either. That's not to say I didn't give it a go.

After reporting the issue to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Moir revisited the location with a friend who agreed it best not to try and drive on the mud since the vehicle would likely get stuck and sink. Explaining that a rescue attempt would have been dangerous, with a volunteer recently being attacked trying to help out a stuck roo, Moir reiterated the entire point of the photo was to “show just how horrible the situation was and to bring attention to it."

His drone footage was released alongside a warning of the effects of extreme heat and continuing drought on wildlife.

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49 Comments

michaeljin's picture

We're photographers, not Wildlife 911.

Robert Callahan's picture

But you've put yourself in the wildlife to take photos and should act as a decent being in the world. It's the same as if you were choking on food and someone came up and just took photos of you, but because they had a camera on them it makes them exempt from being a good person helping you out.

Andy Barnham's picture

I don't believe your example is a comparable situation. Trying to help someone from choking on food doesn't potentially exacerbate the situation and put your own life at risk; both of which are irresponsible as it makes the situation far harder for those dealing with the situation.

Robert Callahan's picture

So then in your mind it comes down to how hard it is, not journalistic integrity or something like that. So just because this would require effort, it's not worth it?

michaeljin's picture

Out of curiosity, are you a vegan?

Robert Callahan's picture

+1 for trying to stereotype anyone that remotely cares about an animals welfare. I'm able to eat meat while also helping a dying animal if I come across it. It's not all or nothing, but it seems like it is with so many others.

michaeljin's picture

So you would risk your own life to save an animal from what seems like a death due to natural circumstances (and yes, drowning or getting stuck in a natural mud pit is death due to natural circumstances)?

Good for you. It doesn't mean that those of us who wouldn't are somehow uncaring individuals or bad people.

How do you know that the kangaroo wouldn't have hurt the person trying to save it? You're basically judging this person for not going out of their way to put themselves in danger for the sake of an animal. Do us all a favor and keep your self-righteous crap to yourself. And no, a person choking is not a good analogy at all—not even close. I can be pretty safe in assuming that a choking person isn't going to knock me the crap out and into a mud pit that I will sink into and die if I try to save him.

So +1 for being a jerk to another human being. I hope you run across a kangaroo stuck in a mud pit someday so that you can put that superior morality to use.

Robert Callahan's picture

Did you go state for track & field, because you can jump some far distances to reach those conclusions.
Cheers mate.

michaeljin's picture

Sure, whatever guy. Go look for some kangaroo in need.

Andy Barnham's picture

Again, I find your argument faulty. My point wasn't about effort, it was about risk to life.

However, you've already stated your viewpoint about the situation in another comment saying 'People are the worst' while being overly simplistic about a potential solution. You're seem keen to sound morally right and call out anyone who doesn't agree with you, including putting words in their mouths.

Robert Callahan's picture

I was stating my opinion, not trying to sound morally right. I eat meat, I agree with hunting, blah blah blah, but come on...people suck. The government shuts down for two weeks and people are cutting down tree's in Joshua Tree just because they can. I guess I've seen enough were I don't have a lot of trust in people, sorry if me expressing that came off as trying to project, it wasn't intended that way.

Andy Barnham's picture

No worries. I agree that people can be terrible; I find the events at Joshua Tree truly shocking and incredibly selfish to the detriment of everyone else. I also agree that help should be given where possible; I’m not convinced in this example help is practical without risking your own life.

If you’re not familiar with Kevin Carter, look him up. He was faced with a similar dilemma in regards to helping a baby left to fend for itself; it was a terrible situation to have to deal with.

Robert Callahan's picture

I'm not sure about this situation either, and I expressed that. I'm just annoyed that this is even a situation that has "sparked debate" because I don't know if it should be a debate at all. Didn't Kevein Carter commit suicide over that photo?

Andy Barnham's picture

Yes, Carter committed suicide just over a year after the image was published.

Kirk Darling's picture

Risk of additional lives is certainly a factor. If an animal got stuck, it's reasonable that a man would get stuck.

How would he snare the animal safely to retrieve it? Some kind of harness? Does he have one? Does he know how to MacGyver one?

How would he put it on a resisting animal as they both struggled in the mud?

How would he then pull himself and the heavy animal out of the mud?

Keyboard warriors talk a lot of smack.

michaeljin's picture

Animals die everyday in the wild for all sorts of reasons. Helping them is not intrinsically good nor is ignoring them intrinsically bad. Just because you don't stop to help an animal doesn't mean you're not a "decent being in the world".

Of course this is all assuming that you even KNOW how to help them. Reading the story, it seems like this photographer wasn't in a position to help even if he wanted to.

Terry Waggoner's picture

Observing nature is not for the faint of heart..........and I would not condemn anyone actions as to how they respond to it. Nature has a way of sorting itself out.

Robert Callahan's picture

I don't get where this mentality of "if I have a camera, that means I get to skip out on being a good person and just observe" came from, but it's utter bull sh1t and there's no way I could sit and watch any animal die from something stupid like this and not help. People are the worst.

I get that they tried to help, but I'm referring to the general mentality. Also, why wouldn't a long rope work for this?

Its part of journalism. Real journalism. You cannot interfere. Same reason why wildlife producers film lions eating deer and they dont stop it. The idea is that when you interfere, your no longer a journalist and you may just ruin it for every journalist coming after you.

In other words, its better to get the story out and save many even if it means not being able to help 1

user-156929's picture

In that case, real journalism sucks!!!

Robert Callahan's picture

I get that. The case with the lion would be interfering with the lions meal, but this is entirely different. This is death for anyone involved as any animal that tries to eat the ones stuck will become stuck as well. It's the same as helping animals during a wildfire, which happens all the time...must be because firefighters don't have a camera on them.

Duane Klipping's picture

Many states and countries have strict laws that forbid interaction with wildlife unless trained to do so. To blame the photographer for the animals demise is pretty lame and irresponsible.

Untrained people can get into harm themselves when dealing with a scared wild animal. Roos have quite the toes that can slice your belly open spilling your guts onto the ground.

Now the cute roo does not sound as cute does it? You willing to have yourself disemboweled to save one?

This is where tree hugging goes too far and you should apologise to the photographer and thank him for not putting human lives at risk.

Problem is people like you have no experiance with animals and how they react in a panic situation. The animal does not see you as help they see you as a danger no matter their predicament.

user-156929's picture

I guess they have a lot of kangaroos in Iowa!? ;-)

John Cliff's picture

Duane is quite correct...roos can be very dangerous especially when under stress...there are many reasons this rescue attempt could have ended badly, for both roo and rescuer...and yes, we do have many roos here where I live (Australia)

user-156929's picture

Oh, I believed him. I was just kidding a bit. :-)

Robert Callahan's picture

I wouldn't say I'm a tree hugger just because I would try to rescue an animal. Hell, if the best thing for it is to shoot and end the inevitable slow death, that's what should happen. I'm just anti-suffering...jeez, I didn't know that was such a polarizing topic to take a stance on.

michaeljin's picture

Bless your bleeding heart. I'm going to go eat my steak sandwich now.... not because I need meat for sustenance, but simply because I like the taste of dead cow.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I don't think you understand the part where saving the animal puts the person at risk. This isn't a situation where they were right there, able, and said, "Nah...journalism." Did you even read the damn article? The roo was stuck, the person took the photo with a drone, they were unable to drive to its location, and prior to this, someone had been attacked while attempting to do the very thing you're complaining about here. Sorry nature sucks, maybe you shouldn't read articles like this.

Its interesting that interfering with nature is considered as being a "good person" a notion borne out of human construct that in this situation serves nothing more than to make those who who interferes feel good about themselves.

the reality is simply that theres no way any of us can effectively know the future with enough depth to make decisions on interfering with the cycle of life in nature, all such efforts therefore are largely self-serving rather than for the animal's species, ecosystem or nature as a whole.

The truth is, in nature, we should always let nature play itself out and not attempt to be god.

Andy Barnham's picture

I completely agree with what the photographer did; shades of Kevin Carter and 'that' photo of the baby and the vulture. The photographer has done what he can, it's now up to other wildlife professionals to step up.

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