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Wildlife photographer captures rhino suffering to win award

Mic Smith
Monday,  Dec 4,2017,23:33 (GMT+7)
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Wildlife photographer captures rhino suffering to win award

Mic Smith

Brent Stirton uses two flashes to photograph “Memorial to a species” to differentiate it from 100s of other photos of rhino carcasses and to show the landscape - PHOTO: COURTESY OF BRENT STIRTON

Wildlife photographer of the year winner Brent Stirton says he visited over 30 rhino poaching scenes before he could a find dead carcass that portrayed the rhino’s suffering in the last hours of life.

Stirling said the black rhino bull had fallen to its knees from a high calibre bullet wound and the arterial spray showed it was still alive while its horn was hacked off.

“People should understand that rhinos often suffer greatly in this situation. Very few die straight away, most are alive but helpless when the poachers come upon them and a great many of them die after their horns have been removed.”

Stirling was trying to create an image that showed the complete humiliation of a magnificent animal, a bull rhino stripped without mercy of its rhino-hood while on its knees.

“When you see the rhino in this way, you see the blood factor, the supplication on its knees, it’s the complete humbling of the species. There’s no way any animal should be looking like this. It’s the opposite of how it’s supposed to be.”

Over 1000 rhinos are being poached every year in South Africa to supply a market for rhino horn in Vietnam and China.

Stirling wants audiences to imagine the rhino’s perspective.

“Imagine rhinos were thinking sentient creatures that had a sense of what was happening to them as a rhino civilisation.”

“I am often driving for 10 hours across the country just to get to the perfect animal… It’s hard to be in the right place at the right time to get a picture which has the sufficient emotional content.”

“My job is to really add reliable information to the dialogue. My job is to put out a visual essay that speaks to the various themes and lets people make up their own mind.”

A 2016 study showed that half of the wealthy Vietnamese businessmen living in middle class suburbs of Hanoi and HCMC that were surveyed had used rhino horn.

“There is a very strongly established group of people who has been pushing this product as a medical product for a very long time, but given the value of it in the face of new Asian wealth I think it is very heavily controlled by a criminal element.”

“All that’s really happening is you’re making a certain sector of your society wealthy and it’s a sector of our society that doesn’t give a damn about you.”

Stirton says the Vietnamese Government needs to do more to stop the trade.

“The guys at the top are not saying to their people ‘Listen guys we did this for a long time but it’s time to wise up. Despite the fact we have these very strongly held cultural beliefs the fact is you’re spending your money, you’re going into debt.’”

To see more of Brent Stirton’s photos, visit http://www.brentstirton.com/photojournalism/

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