Entries Tagged ‘Sumatran Orangutan Society’:

Spotlight Sumatra-Hope For The Future

Filed in Articles, Places Of Interest on Oct.18, 2012

The Orangutan is one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, sharing 96.4% of our DNA. Indigenous people of Indonesia and Malaysia call this ape “Orang Hutan” which literally translates as “Person of the Forest”.  They are intelligent, friendly, and very gentle and spending time with these animals gave me so many wonderful memories which I will treasure. These animals are native to Indonesia and Malaysia, and their survival is seriously endangered by illegal logging, forest fires including those associated with the rapid spread of palm oil. Over the last few years timber companies have increasingly entered the last stronghold of the Orangutans, the protected national parks. I’ve seen this first hand travelling around Sumatra.

The situation is now so acute for both the Borneo Orangutan and the Sumatran Orangutan, both of these species are classed as endangered and critically endangered respectively by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and are listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

After my first week in the jungles of Sumatra I was sad to leave Darma, but equally I was very sad to leave the Orangutans that I had seen and spent some wonderful moments with, watching and capturing with my camera. It felt like I’d lost someone as during the intensity of those days trekking through the dense jungles looking for these guardians of the forest I became very close to these Orangutans. I hope they will remain safe, I will be returning to these amazing jungles next year. Here are some images of the Orangutans I saw and left behind in Sumatra,  these moments were special.

I have named the image above “Hope”.  Hope is a great thing, without it you can become crushed, you should always have and believe in hope. The Sumatran Orangutans are in a fight for their lives and need every bit of help.  This image, of a baby Sumatran Orangutan playing with her mum sung out that word to me. Her mum is called Sepi and again she was rescued from a vile world you couldn’t even imagine, many years ago and has been given a second chance in life. The baby is called Casa and is a year and a half in age. Born in the rainforests of Gunung Leuser National park, she represents the future. Watching her cling to her mum here, acting shy just like a human baby. She saw me and tried to hide behind her mum’s fur.

After I left Darma we drove north to the providence of Ache where I spent two days with the HOCRU team– (Human Orangutan Conflict Rescue Unit).  I will be telling you this story in my next blog and not here for reasons I will explain in good time.  After two tough and exhausting days I spent the rest of the second week with the OIC team, witnessing the wonderful work they do in the community and the re-forestation areas with replanting programmes in order to give the land back its rain forests.  I spent two days at the Re-forestation site, which is on the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park.  Its a small, self contained house where workers spend time replanting the forest in different areas in the neighbouring areas.

Since 2005 they have been involved in the reforestation of degraded land through tree nursery and replanting projects, and have planted over half million trees to date.  This project involves the regeneration of illegally cleared forest land in the Besitang region of the Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP). The programme is the first of its kind in Sumatra, with OIC being the first and only NGO granted permission to conduct restoration work within the national park. Working in close collaboration with the national park government authorities and local communities, the project aims to undo damage caused through illegal large-scale conversion of forest into oil palm plantation agriculture.

I helped the team out during my time there, often they spend three to four weeks at a time here away from their families doing this work. It was amazing what they have achieved in just a few years through hard work, passion and a belief that things can change running through all the team members.  I also planted some trees that fingers crossed will become put of a new rain forest in the future, another wonderful moment for me on a personal front.

In addition to the forest rehabilitation, the project also provides sustainable alternative livelihood schemes for local people living adjacent to the park. They benefit from the restoration of natural ecological services, having previously suffered droughts as a result of high water uptake from the illegal planting of oil palms, and also receive business development training. There is a strong educational element to the project too, with training and skills development on tree nursery management and replanting seedlings. Indigenous tree species are planted to hopefully put back what was taken with the illegal actively conducted in these areas before these projects were set up.

I also visited some of the offices the team has, where classroom based education and training goes on within the communities. All building awareness of the plight of the Orangutans and their habitats which in turn are the homes of those people that they try to educate about what’s happening to Sumatra.

After a wonderful few days seeing this brilliant and committed work that is going on I headed North to Ketambe, an area within the province of Ache. I was going to be staying with the Ketambe Reforestation and Ecotourism Development Initiative team (KREDI) which is part of OIC/SOS. The organisation works at the grassroots level in northern Sumatra to raise awareness of the critical importance of the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem conservation.

For the first few days I was invited to a two day workshop put on by OIC. The local communities turn up along with Ministry for National Park delegates in the region. Regional commanders from the police and military. They are invited to voice their concerns about the problems in the area mainly caused by the large scale de-forestation. Slideshows, talks are put on and everyone is encouraged to talk about their issues while still trying to help and save the forests and the Orangutans.  However, people have to make a living and people there were saying and in the absence of any real help from the government, people are left to just do whatever thay have to in order to survive and feed their families.

Travelling around this area of Aceh I witnessed many areas of the Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP) cleared bare and the fringes of this protected rain forest habitat slowly being eroded away with small to large de-forestation and illegal logging and forest clearance. At times the smoke from the fires would block out the suns rays and fill the air with that heavy smoke smell you get from burning. Seeing this on such a large scale was truly shocking and nobody was doing anything to stop it. It goes unchecked. Panut the founder of OIC told me around 1.5% of the GLNP is lost each year this way and is shrinking at an alarming rate.

On the surface the country is driving itself into a brick wall as fast as is humanly possible, because the carbon emissions, the green houses gasses the air population is everywhere in Sumatra. The whole area of Indonesia produces so much green houses gases from burning, it now has such a major role in the global weather patterns and the fast changing weather we are all seeing.

Through translators I heard many members of the public who had turned up for this two day workshop say the government of Indonesia does not protect the forest, they allow large scale illegal logging to go on unchallenged . Sitting at the back and hovering around with my camera I was met with a little suspicion at first, until I was introduced as a friend from England just on holiday, that was my remit and I said nothing.

It was clear to see and hear from local people that it is those that you have to work with if you’re ever going to safeguard the rainforest and then in turn the amazing array of wildlife they support. They feel helpless with a government that does not firstly protect their forests and secondly hand out licences to palm oil companies that come in and turn the whole place into a foreign landscape so far removed from the wonderful rainforest they rip up so violently.

With no safeguards in place the critically endanged Sumatran Orangutans are a flagship species, along with the Tigers, Elephants and Rhinoceros and have little chance of survival. That’s the cold and hard truth from what I heard and saw during my time there. Flying in the face of that, with passion, hope and drive are the guys from OIC/SOS that work tirelessly with the communities, schools, and local people in order to just keep that hope alive, hoping the animals that live on this island Sumatra and neighbouring island Borneo may just have some kind of future.

After being around for those two days, watching and listening to the proceedings and trying to blend in as much as possible the head guys seem to accept me and wanted to talk to me through a translator. I had to remember though I was on holiday so I didn’t really say too much just listened. At the end of the day I asked for a group photo of them all and I took the chairs out for the officials, told people where to stand and even had the front row straightening their arms out, they all took it in good faith and here everyone is.

The backdrop being that special place everyone is fighting to keep, the Gunung Leuser National Park, which I found would be the perfect background when putting together this image. I learned a lot over those two days, I had amazing access to locals, their politics, their unhappiness and their total bewilderment at a government that is failing them at each time of asking. At times I felt like I was on an undercover mission, sailing under the radar and trying to become a local if that makes sense?  I applaud the whole team for their work over those two days, amazing and very inspiring seeing how doing something is better than doing nothing. These workshops are put on as often as OIC can manage and afford and from my point of view are invaluable in building trust and respect.

Over the next couple of days we visited the local schools in the area in the ‘OranguVan’, a mobile environmental library.  They present conservation films hoping to raise awareness about issues such as illegal logging, the pet trade, and the dangers of disturbing the rainforest ecosystem. The van travels around North Sumatra and Aceh, visiting local communities and schools. They provide free access to books, hold discussions and debates, show environmental films and give presentations on Orangutans and the importance of conserving their habitat.

They have a cycle-powered cinema that shows a wide range of education films.  A team member cycles to produce the power needed for the projector. When we drove in to the schools the kids went mad, running out of their classrooms and mobbing the van which was great to see. Staff told me they use to do this once a week but now with funding being low they only manage it once a month, sometimes more if possible which I found really sad.  The classrooms were very basic compared to ours in the UK but everyone was so polite and kind, the teachers came to say hello and introduced me to the children. Through a translator I said hello and why I was there which met with cries of “ohhh and Ahhh”.

Many of the children were shaking my hand and then placing my hand on their foreheads which I found out later is something to do with their religion, it was a wonderful time.

We visited three different schools as well as visiting locals communities in the evening, presenting these films and giving away books as presents for the children, which in turn sent out a strong message to look after your environment and its animals.

Each time the children would gather round the van and the team would hand out books that contain information about the Orangutans but in a funny way, as a story, to make it easy to remember. Once the books have been given out the children then settle down to read them, either standing up or sitting down.

Some absolutely brilliant work going on and happening in this area from the OIC/SOS team. I really enjoyed my time here and the whole team looked after me during my time there.  All the children posed for this final farewell photo.

The day before I was due to head back to the capital of Sumatra, Medan, I was told about a place that had recently been illegally cut down. Work had stopped as locals had seen the burning and reported this to the relevant people. However, the people that did this, cleaned many hectors of primary rainforest from the GLNP which is protected and should not be cut down by law. Below I am standing on a once proud tree now flat on the ground.

Beautiful trees littered the ground, their roots sticking up into the air where they were violently cut and felled. I was told this happened recently and to try and get rid of the trees they set fire to the whole area. A lot of the fires had gone out but a few remained.  As I stood there I just couldn’t make sense of why anyone would do this.

Majestic 300 year old trees just thrown over like they were nothing surrounded by primary forests.  It greatly moved me standing there, the silence only broken every so often with a single bang that echoed down this valley. A lone logger was cutting down a tree in the distance even as we stood there. I was speechless. I sat and looked around alone, plants still clinging to the tree trunks, fruits on the ground, roots sticking up into the air. This is happening everywhere on Sumatra and Borneo.

It was such a scene of devastation, and it was a really sad end to a great week.  However, I witnessed lots of positive stuff and real hope for the future. The next day I travelled back to Medan which took nearly all day, my guide dropped me off at my over night hotel, only the second time in two weeks that I’d had a bed as all the other times it was the floor, the car seat or the ground that was my bed, so I was looking forward to a shower and the bed.  The following day I flew back to the UK and at this stage everything I’d seen and witnessed just seemed like a blur in my mind.

On my third blog I will cover the rescue, a day that moved me with what I witnessed!

Just before I go I’d just like to remind you of a couple of talks coming up towards the end of October.  I will be presenting a number of presentations and talks alongside Panut who I had the pleasure of spending time with in Sumatra. He has worked in Orangutan Conservation for over a decade and has a dedicated team in Sumatra all doing their best for this great apes survival. For more details of these talks then please click here. I will also be doing this presentation on Thursday 25th October at the Natural History Museum in London as part of their Nature Live talks.

You can see this by clicking here. I hope you’ve enjoyed my two Sumatra blog posts so far.  If you’d like to help SOS with anything you can think of then please click here to be taken to their website, many thanks and I look forward to seeing you on my talks.

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Spotlight Sumatra- Ready

Filed in Projects, Wildlife on Sep.14, 2012

My blog will be a little quiet over the next two weeks as I venture off to the island of Sumatra. What a waits me is a chance to see and photograph one of the last frontiers of rainforest habitat anywhere in the world, the only place left in the world where wild Tigers, Rhinos, Elephants and Orangutans live alongside each other.

Spotlight Sumatra is an idea which has been around for almost two years. No script and nothing pre-planned as such, it’s just me and my guides trekking through the jungle and hoping to capture critically endangered Sumatran Orangutans that are hanging onto life there. Fingers crossed I will be also going out on rescues, as currently SOS staff know of many stranded Orangutans either kept as pets or cut off, surrounded by a sea of bare, burnt  land or palm plantations. They need to be moved and this involves staff darting them and then moving them to safety. Such important work to safeguard these guardians of the rainforests. One happy ending can be seen here.

I will be seeing at first hand the work that the charity along with many others are doing out there. I will be presenting some slideshows in their ‘cycle powered’ cinema too, showing the locals wildlife outside of Sumatra. Also showing the people that the world cares and is watching the fate of their country and wildlife. I will be updating SOS back in the UK when and where I can while on this amazing adventure. Their blog can be seen here. There will be a few talks planned also in late October- showing you these amazing animals and Sumatra. For more news on this then please keep checking on SOS’s website.

My simple aim is to hopefully give the Sumatran Orangutans a voice through my images.  I hope to capture some amazing images and see the variety of wildlife that lives on the ‘Isle of Gold’ that Sumatra was once known as in ancient times. I hope I can do them proud!

Many thanks to Wex photographic and incognito 100% natural mosquito repellent for supporting my trip, with kind offers of products to help me on this amazing adventure. I will be posting my review and thoughts on these great products when I get back, many thanks.

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Spotlight Sumatra

Filed in Articles on Aug.14, 2012

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.

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Sumatran Orangutans Dying As Fires Burn

Filed in Articles on Apr.03, 2012

Little did I know when I first spoke with Helen Buckland, the UK president of the Sumatra Orangutan Society- SOS last year, offering my help and professional services in order to help and highlight the plight of this great ape and planning our trip to the jungles of Sumatra, that just over twelve months later an area and its Orangutans would be in grave danger of complete extinction at the hands of greed and shocking actions by the government there

Today after several weeks of legal wrangling to save an area of rainforest in Sumatra from burning the government there have refused to make a ruling on the case. Over the last week a man made firestorm has swept through a huge area of the remaining peat swamp forests of Tripa, devastating critically endangered Sumatran Orangutans to the very brink of extinction, possibly within months. To read the shocking ruling please click here. SOS’s website has the full story here.

Critically important, the Tripa peat swamp forests of Aceh, Indonesia, has long been recognized as a UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership priority site for Great Ape Conservation. In the early 90’s these forests are estimated to have contained between 2,000 and 3,000 but today only a few hundred survive. If the current rate of forest destruction and burning continues, even these will be gone completely within a matter of months. The whole of the Tripa peat swamps lie within the Protected Leuser Ecosystem, a National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection in Indonesia’s National Spatial Plan established in 2008.

Sumatran Orangutans are heading towards extinction, and this latest story on Tripas Orangutan tragedy has circulated around the world –Time Magazine, Washington Post, Guardian, The Australian and many more in an out pouring of anger of such a shocking act.  In an amazing response to the tragedy in Tripa, thousands of people all around the world have emailed the President of Indonesia and key stakeholders calling for the law to be enforced and upheld in Tripa. Click here to see the full story and several links in which will help also.

Spotlight Sumatra see’s me going to the island of Sumatra in mid September for two weeks. The principal focus of my trip will be the Orangutans, capturing them within their natural habitat, looking for behaviours to capture and so on while spending time sleeping and tracking them with my guides among the jungle. This shocking news and ongoing problems have brought home though just how important a trip it will be. Not only to capture the amazing Orangutans with photographs but also to report on the problems and issues facing the amazing wildlife that live on Sumatra.

On a personal level though it will be very rewarding helping SOS a charity I’m right behind in helping to show the world this Orangutan is in serious danger. But I am under no illusion I may witness things that will greatly upset me and touch deep inside my sole but I am determined to tell the story and help bring home the faces and stories of the wildlife that live there that I promise. This will help and highlight what’s going on at the same time show our closest living relative to a wider audience.

Helen along with myself are planning exhibitions, talks and much more to bring this great ape into more of the spotlight to help its survival. So hopefully I’ll be able to help so much on all levels, but in the meantime there is the ongoing problems in Tripa and SOS along with all the other agencies around the world are continuing the fight to stop these forests from burning as we speak. To keep up to date please visit SOS’s website and if you can sign the many petitions that are being passed around calling for an immediate stop to this clearance that that would be amazing and I thank you on behalf of the Orangtuans and the other wildlife that’s suffering there.

I cannot put into words my feelings towards the recent ruling and shocking things that are happening there as I speak. I can only help in the only way I know at this present time and that’s highlighting whats going on there on my blog. Once I am there I hope to do all I can to help and let my heart, eye and camera do the talking for me.

My perpetration’s have already begun, with me brushing up my climbing and abseiling skills, where below you can see an old image of myself as part of a rope access team, climbing on a historic building doing repairs to the windows and general maintenance which was my job before turning professional. I’m hoping these and my many other skills will come in good use once I’m on the ground in Sumatra.

Thank you for reading and if there is anything you can help with then please contact Helen at the Sumatra Orangutan Society, many thanks.

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Spotlight Sumatra

Filed in In the Press, Projects on Mar.18, 2012

Spotlight Sumatra see’s me going to the island of Sumatra alone in mid September for two weeks, staying with the locals in something called home stay. A small but comfortably home within the jungle landscapes. Alongside my guides and helpers for this trip we will venture into the jungles for up to three, four days at a time even longer if we are lucky, to track and photograph these Orangutans. Jungle life will be basic but great, a sort of rough camping but off the floor as you never sleep on the jungle floor for your own safety.

I am hoping to capture some amazing images of Orangutans that SOS can use to sell promote and help raise the plight of this great ape that maybe the first great ape to become extinct should continued trends contuie in the destruction of their forest homes.  There will be more news of this amazing expedition that will take me deep into the jungles of Sumatra in due cause.

I have donated a Limited edition Barn Owl print which can be seen above along with a one to one wildlife photography day with myself to help rise some money towards Sumatran Orangutan Societies Jungle VIP auction.  Joining the list of celebrities taking part in the auction, hoping to raise as much money as possible to help this charity in saving this great ape.

Thank you to all that have helped so far and many thanks to the lucky winner who won my one to one and signed print which can be seen here on ebay. The auction carries on until March 31st with new stuff being added all the time. To keep up to date on the latest items please visit the website of SOS here many thanks.

I will be posting more news over the coming months on my blog as interest in this expedition grows. Where the sole aim of this trip is to highlight the plight of this most beautiful of apes and our closests living relative. I will be showing you the kit I’m taking, clothing and equipment. Doing live updates for SOS’s blog and my own,  hopefully transporting you to this rarely visited part of the world which will be amazing, the trip cannot come quicker enough. I look forward to taking you all there on this amazing journey to Sumatra.

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Sumatran Orangutans Last Call

Filed in Charities on Jun.02, 2011

Last chance to sign up for a place on our Sumatran photography and conservation adventure please view the trip here. This itinerary is in association with the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) and a proportion of the cost will be donated to the charity to allow it to continue its vital conservation work with the Orangutans and their habitat in Sumatra. This trip is designed to give you a taste of life in the jungle: trekking and camping in the forest, taking part in an elephant trek, and with the highlight being the chance to see the beautiful Orangutans in their forest home.

This charity is dedicated to the conservation of Sumatran Orangutans and their forest home, where each person on this photo-tour will directly be helping the Orangutan and their habitat, with money from each person booked onto this trip going to the Sumatran Orangutan Society, whose work is to help protect and conserve this area for the future of our closest relative. The principal focus of this photo tour will be the Orangutan, capturing them within their natural habitat, looking for behaviours to capture and so on, as we visit some of the most magnificent forests on Earth, which are also the domain of many other beautiful and stunning animals and birds, where some only live in this part of the world and nowhere else on the planet.

Across the Orangutans entire range, conversion of forests to oil palm plantations is occurring on a massive scale, logging continues even within protected areas, and planned road networks threaten to fragment the habitat of the last viable populations. These factors are responsible for the loss of over 80% of Orangutan habitat over the last 20 years. We have to save this amazing animal and during this tour I will also be photographing the story of the local people, the palm plants and conveying with moving and powerful photography what is happening to these amazing forests where I will be reporting back for SOS.For any further information in the trip then please email me here, for the detailed itinerary then click here or visit Different Travels website many thanks.

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Sumatran Orangutan Expedition

Filed in Charities, In the Press, Wildlife on Apr.27, 2011

In the May issue of the Outdoor Photography magazine there is a full page advert for a wonderful trip I am leading to the amazing jungles of Sumatra. The aim of this trip is to highlight the cause of maybe the first great ape to become extinct should current trends continue. At the same time raise money for the charity SOS- Sumatran Orangutan Society.

This charity is dedicated to the conservation of Sumatran Orangutans and their forest home, where each person on this photo-tour will directly be helping the Orangutan and their habitat, with money from each person booked onto this trip going to the Sumatran Orangutan Society, whose work is to help protect and conserve this area for the future of our closest relative. The principal focus of this photo tour will be the Orangutan, capturing them within their natural habitat, looking for behaviours to capture and so on, as we visit some of the most magnificent forests on Earth, which are also the domain of many other beautiful and stunning animals and birds, where some only live in this part of the world and nowhere else on the planet.

Sadly the ‘Old Man of the forest’ has been subjected to relentless pressures which has reduced the world’s population by as much as 50% during the last 10 years. Hunting for meat and the demands of the pet trade have been contributory factors but the more significant issue has been the large-scale clearance of rain forest throughout this region leaving very few habitats left for these apes.

There are surely few more enduring creatures in the world than the gentle giant of the rainforests, the Orangutan. With around 97% of an Orangutans genetic makeup being the same as a human and where such a close affinity to Homo sapiens is obvious upon gazing into their beautiful faces and watching their behaviour and how they conduct their lives. The evolutionary links with mankind are plain to see after such encounters with this amazing ape that now only live wild in two places in the world, Borneo and Northern Sumatra.

The charity also works in restoring degraded areas inside the border of the Gunung Leuser National Park, working with local government and local communities to restore vital Orangutan habitat that has been damaged by illegal oil palm plantations established within the protected area. So much brilliant work is going on out there to save these animals.  This trip as you can see by the Itinerary will be truly amazing, covering different areas, sleeping in the jungle with its amazing noises and uniqueness all of its own.

There is an amazing film called “Green” the film is an emotional journey following Greens’ final days, a powerful film that has won many awards. The sounds of the jungle are amazing, this trailer transports you there with those amazing jungle noises you will here every morning on this trip.  There are thousands of Orangutans in need of real help in this part of the world, another animal on the very brink of disappearing from our plant.


Helen the UK Director of SOS has done an amazing job and she has had amazing support for this trip from many people, Paramo, the clothing company are offering 10% discount on their range for people going onto this trip. Greys Of Westminster, Practical Photography/Photo Answers, Outdoor photographyAction for Apes and many more have got behind SOS in turn helping this great ape.

So on behalf of the Sumatran Orangutan I’d like to thank all those involved and who have helped.  There are places still available on this trip, so for more details please contact Helen at SOS, or contact Different Travel directly. I look forward to meeting you all in September, many thanks.

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Springs Around The Corner

Filed in Wildlife on Mar.03, 2011

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed a slight change in the weather, with brighter mornings and lighter evenings.  It would seem spring is on its way and maybe upon us very soon. After a long period of poor weather, resulting in low light, it will be most welcomed, with my recent trips to Norfolk and my wildlife workshops at the beautiful Trentham Estate and working on the several projects I am doing in my own time the working conditions have been testing to say the least, but ingrained in me along with a deep love for wildlife is that motto of mine ‘that there is always an image to be had’, however big or small.

However good or bad weather, working with this mindset always rewards you, bringing out your flare and passion in changing conditions at the same time learning you more about how you view an image, pushing your own creative images and boundaries. I have been lucky on a few occasions though where I have been working on several different subjects, when the clouds broke and the area was bathed in warm sunshine.  Warmth lifts the spirits and brings places to life and I really think spring now is almost upon us and its the best time of year for me, full of life, action and behaviour.  A complete paradise to be among its beauty at this special time of year, witnessing the countryside awaken from its dormant winter state.

The mornings are a wash with bird song at the moment, all competing to be the most musical, filling the air as each bird stakes their claim on a certain patch of ground, among the beautiful songs at dawn one song in particualr symbolizes the British countryside and springtime more than any other call and that belongs to the beautiful male Blackbird. The call travels far, cutting through all other bird songs and is a mixture of different notes and pitches that once you hear its distinctive sound you will never forget the sound.

Spring is one of the four seasons, the period between winter and summer, and for me the words Spring and Springtime bring thoughts of life, birth and regrowth to our countryside.  A special time for wildlife, where all species are looking their best, in tip top form hoping to attract the ladies and breed with.  Behaviour within the animal world starts in spring, handsome males showing off, displaying to each other in an act of supremacy over the other, using what ever they can to win over the attentions of the females securing a mate for that year.  With the lighter mornings and evenings wildlife becomes busy, more active giving greater opportunities to capture its beauty during springtime.

As our Winter visitors leave to go back home to breed the influx of our summer visitors start to slowly arrive to our shores making spring one of the best times in the calendar of nature.  I maybe a little early still but from the work I’ve been doing over the last two weeks a change is in the air, alas the odd frostly night and cold morning thrown in to confuse and disorient the wildlife is always on the cards but on the whole winter is behind us all I feel.

The countryside becomes a wash with colours and new growth, a mesmerizing number of birds fill the lands.  Flowers start to bloom, eventually carpeting the woodlands in a blue carpet of bluebells, one of the great sites of Britain.  Many other flowers suddenly start to appear, muti-coloured and hugely varied in form and shape.  A beautiful time of the year where that extra hour of light at either ends of dawn and dusk is very welcome and needed, making the days longer and warming the place for longer.  It really is my favourite time of the year.

I have been working on many different subjects, building trust and patience with each species involving many hours waiting.  I have two new Dipper sites and my workshops are as popular as ever, the Skomer workshops I do are being booked with the arrival of the “clowns of the sea” as I call them.  Any day now the Puffins will arrive now spending 8 months of the year at sea and only 4 months on land, an amazing feat.  I have always loved small in the frame images, showing the subjects habitat letting people see where the animal lives and how it conducts its life.  The following two image are a male Wren and a male Dipper on the same stretch of river looking in top condition.

While photographing the Dippers at this new site I spent some time watching this male, who had found these logs all gathered together at the side of the river and used them to defend his territory from and sing.  I saw him dive into the water and feed and he seemed to be acting differently so I turned on the video on my camera and began filming.  About thirty seconds into the film he turned around and in a flash regurgitating a pellet.  The contents of a bird’s pellet depend on its diet, but can include the exoskeletons of insects, indigestible plant matter, bones, fur etc, many birds do this to remove such pellets, I have rarely seen this though in Dippers and I was really lucky to have captured it with this short film.

Below I managed to photograph a male Kestrel hunting over marshland over the last few days which is among a large industrial estate, where I think they have started to make a nest, here I used the cover of the reeds to break my shape up at the same time hide my approach clearly showing the estate in the back ground. Something I plan on working on should these birds stay.

There is just so much going on now within the countryside so enjoy this magical time of year where for me there is just not enough time in the day to capture everything I plan working on, I am hoping to capture images from my time spent on the various different species over this beautiful time of year that spring is. This is not always possible though so for me just being there is enough, where I witness a window into a wild animals world.

For details on my workshops, one to ones and the photo trips I run  then please contact me here or alternatively view the workshops page for full listings. The Sumatran Orangutans trips itinerary can now be viewed and booked here

All of my photo trips from one to ones right up to the bigger trips are designed and lead from the front by myself, where each trip is designed  for wildlife photographers where I pride myself on working with the very best people on the ground and in the field giving that personal and private touch offering all clients the best service possible with smaller group sizes in most cases ensuring all my clients get my full expertise and guidance, learning more about the wildlife and the environment in which they live.  Many thanks and good luck with the weather.

And before I go on page 90 of the March issues of the BBC Wildlife magazine you’ll see an advert for a range of clothing called 511 Tactical series, they want me to trail some of their clothing and equipment while on my travels here and abroad. Ray Mears himself an ex-soldier has been using this brilliant clothing for years.

The name “511” represents a gruelling climbing grade as listed in the Yosemite Decimal Grading System, and as a skilled climber myself I’m looking forward to using this clothing and equipment.  I’ve spoken with their top UK guy and they are branching out from their American homeland and going for the ‘softer’ approach away from the guns and the body armour etc. They are looking to the outdoor market, walking, camping, survival market and climbing for which it was originally designed for and gets its name from.

I will be using their tactical pants –cotton, tactile Pro pants, tactical Pro long + short sleeved shirts all in green and browns,sand colours, their Rush 72 back pack complete with hydration pack idea for long walks with heavy kit which is the way I work while in the field.  A place where you have to rely on your kit to make it just that bit more comfortable, I will update my blog and do a full field test and review when I’ve received the items of clothing and equipment. Their website can be viewed here.

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