Elephant hugger: the photographer who returned to the big cat game

Miguel Bowe at the centre of a wild success, having captured candid shots of 250 big cats and the only shots from inside two national parks

The killing of Cecil the lion has not only prompted a cultural debate about big cats – it has also put the spotlight on the secretive nature of the hunt, which usually involves tracking, collaring or hunting an animal, not keeping photographic proof of the kill.

It also took a niche wildlife photographer’s photograph to public attention when photographer Miguel Bowe’s captured the first ever photographs of two lionesses in one pack together. By 2015, he was in front of cameras capturing the rare sights of the king of the jungle.

Today Bowe is the patron of Warumpi Wildlife as he tries to continue his photography career in a new era.

‘I stopped having dreams’: wildlife photographer Miguel Bowe on how Cecil the lion changed his life Read more

“It was like something took over and everything changed for me,” he said. “People said I would never be a photographer but I found out this is what I was meant to do. I have travelled to every corner of the world – it’s been an incredible, amazing journey.”

He has travelled to Madagascar and snared a photograph of a 100kg lion running off with an impala, but one of his most exciting moments was getting a picture of a mother leopard on birth control by freezing its cub’s emaciated body after it had eaten its mother.

“They [nature] is always going to win in the end,” Bowe said. “I have nothing but love for what I do.”

At home in New Zealand, a country deeply steeped in the history of flora and fauna, he has sought to capture the life, times and landscape of the country – including the trailblazing trophy hunter conservationist Paul Watson. Bowe also travels to other countries in Africa and Asia, snapping wildlife and landscapes from as far away as Zambia.

For a photographer dedicated to the elusive leopard and its kin, the most magical places are those that are off the beaten track – such as the Mata Hari National Park in South Africa or the isolated Ecalytus River in Patagonia.

“It’s not an easy profession to make a living at,” Bowe said. “I’m always chasing something else and I think that’s why I am still around.”

For his photographs to remain in the public eye, Bowe encourages his supporters to share them – especially with his educational campaign to preserve big cats.

“We have to preserve these animals – and today,” he said. “Children have to learn that lions are only like a myth, not real. The males are not that big, you can run away, not being afraid is what lions are all about.”

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