Spotlight Sumatra is a celebration of the breathtaking array of life found in the island’s unique rainforests, and a call to action to collectively do all that we can to save this fragile ecosystem, the last stronghold for many critically endangered species. I will be travelling to Sumatra in September 2012 for two weeks. Alongside my guides, we will venture deep into the jungles for up to three or four days at a time, even longer if we are lucky, to track and photograph wild Sumatran orangutans.
Jungle life will be basic but great, trekking by day and sleeping in hammocks by night. I have many ideas and plans for different images and photographs that SOS can use to help raise awareness of the plight of this Great Ape – maybe the first Great Ape to become extinct should current trends continue in the destruction of their forest homes. With many tour operators, photographers and members of the public venturing to the island of Borneo to see and photograph orangutans, I was shocked that very few people go to Sumatra. I hope to show the world Sumatra needs help just as much in saving its rainforests as the neighboring island of Borneo.
Only 6600 critically endangered Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild. Most of these depend on the rainforest habitat provided by the Gunung Leuser National Park in northern Sumatra for their survival. Removal of illegal palm oil plantations, replanting and guarding the orangutans’ home territory along with education and public information campaigns are carried out by the Sumatran Orangutan Society and their partners in Sumatra, the Orangutan Information Centre.
SOS is dedicated to the conservation of Sumatran orangutans and their forest home and their work is helping to protect and conserve this area for the future. I first saw one of these amazing animals in the year 2000 in a rehabilitation centre in Thailand, where I saw a male orangutan, an experience that touched deep into my soul, as I watched and looked into the eyes of one of our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom.
This has stayed with me until the present day and now I am trying to help in my own way by using my photography to help SOS, in turn helping this animal. The principal focus of my trip will be the orangutan, capturing them within their natural habitat, looking for behaviors to capture and so on.
I will be capturing some beautiful photographs of these animals, alongside images showing their rainforest home. I will visit some of the most magnificent forests on Earth, which is also the domain of many other beautiful and stunning animals and birds, some of which only live in this part of the world and nowhere else on the planet. I will be using my tracking skills and fieldcraft, camouflage and jungle survival, having spent some time in these environments previously as a member of the armed forces.
I will be reporting back once I reach the few places where there is internet access, and you’ll be able to read my updates from the field on this SOS blog. I will be capturing images of SOS and OIC’s different projects but on the whole my time will be spent in the jungle, listening and watching for clues of what wildlife is around us. I am looking forward to meeting and working with the locals there, whose knowledge of these jungles is second to none and without whose skills it would take me much longer to navigate this landscape.
I cannot wait to wake up to hear the sights and sounds of the jungle, the calls, the noise, the smells. It’s going to be an amazing two week adventure where I hope to capture the beauty of this animal with my lens, which is controlled with my heart and eyes. I will be getting involved also helping the locals, I will be presenting some short films and slideshows showing them wildlife outside of Sumatra. A lot of people will not have ventured outside of their native country but it’s my aim to bring wildlife to them during the time I am there using a small bicycle-powered cinema which is used for educational talks and film screenings.
The sole aim of this trip is to highlight the plight of this most beautiful of apes. I will be showing you the kit I’m taking, clothing and equipment, posting live updates and hopefully transporting you to this rarely visited part of the world.
I visited the UK headquarters of SOS in Oxford this week to finalise my two week trip there soon with the UK director, Helen Buckland. Going through some projects and work the charity want me to visit once I’m on the ground. Capturing the whole story of Sumatra the best way I can. While I was there these two orangutans where really keen for me to see where they originally came from and gladly posed for me in front of a map of Sumatra.
There will be more news and updates soon before my departure and to keep up to date with this amazing trip please visit SOS’s website here and view the projects, alternatively click on their blog. Its going to be an amazing trip, never been done like this before with a complete view to highlighting the plight of this great ape. I look forward to showing you this island and its amazing wildlife very soon.