Majestic they may be but at the core a herd of elephants are just another family group going about the normal business. I don’t feel very happy gawking at them. My discomfort has nothing to do with bouncing through jungle tracks in a spring-less jeep. It just boils down to the questions of how would YOU feel if a bunch of strangers suddenly turned up at your door step and started taking pictures of you and your kids?
Mrs C is the only other person I know who thinks like this but I’m sure there are others. We tend to keep such opinions to ourselves to avoid seeming too weird. Another discomforting factor is that it makes wild life photography seems like a bad thing. It’s certainly not. Despite my discomfort with ogling elephants, I think wild life photography has a critical ecological role. It is the one thing that keeps disconnected urban animals like us from totally loosing any connection to unimprisoned animals. Completely different from harassing elephants while on “holiday”.
As a human I clearly have no idea about how the Elephants feel about being hounded and photographed. I’m certainly no expert on elephant psychology or the intricacies of elephant social structures. In relative terms I suppose, its better than getting shot at. None of that makes me any happier about elephant watching. I’m also not comfortable with taking a moralising tone given that wild elephant habitats in Sri Lanka exist on the edge. Ecology of elephant/human co-existence is not one of easy answers and comfortable positions.