As a documentary photographer who also happens to be an animal lover, my main motivation has been to explore the different facets of the relationship between mankind and the animal kingdom. What speaks to me most is trying to capture the mysterious forms of communication that can and do exist between us.
I tend to spend a considerable amount of time portraying domestic and wild animals in the form of a photographic narrative. It is most certainly not just a matter of trying to capture images of animals looking cute. The relationship between animals and humans is complex even if there is a dependency with domesticated animals, in contrast with animals in the wild whose existence is threatened by human presence or activities. What I find particularly poignant is that the relationship between animals and humans moves from outright abuse to love and dependency.
Domestic and an increasing number of wild animals can and do benefit from compassionate and loving intervention by humans. A great part of my work attempts to depict this in action. The people involved are often rather under appreciated but it does not affect their devotion and passion in helping their charges by trying to improve their welfare and health. My intention is to try and create a photographic narrative on behalf of the animals and those who care for them.
In this photo essay I present a story about orangutans. Orangutans are unique animals which only exist in the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia. In my language, orangutan means “forest man”, a man who lives in the forest.
Orangutans are critically endangered species and they share 97% identical DNA with us human beings. They are under intense ecological pressure since their populations are in fast decline. They spend 95% of their time high above the canopy. Sadly, humans destroy their natural habitat, clear their rainforest for agriculture, hunt orangutan mothers and steal their cute babies for illegal pet trade. As a result there are too many baby orphan orangutans around.
At an orangutan rehabilitation centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, I observed innumerable orphaned orangutans of all ages in a secure and peaceful environment. They are being coached to learn how to survive and live in the way they should be; free and independent in the protected rainforest. They are taught to climb, build nests and find food. When they are ready, they are released back into carefully selected forest areas with the hope that they can lead a free and independent life. It will take some years (between eight to ten years) before these infants are ready to live independently in their natural habitat.