Eyewitness by Craig Jones: A mother and baby orangutan are rescued from an RSPO palm oil plantation in Sumatra

Craig Jones on assignment in Sumatra

Craig Jones: Eyewitness

Wildlife Photographer and Conservationist


Bio: Craig Jones

One of Britain’s finest wildlife photographers, Craig Jones is also one of the most humble and down-to-earth guys you will ever meet. His photography and stories capture the lives of endangered rainforest animals that we hold so dearly to our hearts: Sumatran orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Sumatran elephants, Siamangs and more. His work has featured in BBC News, BBC Wildlife Magazine and National Geographic magazine. He has also appeared for Nat Geo WILD discussing Sumatra as part of the “Paradise Islands & Photo Ark” Nat Geo series. He has spoken at the UK Green Party Conference about the disastrous effects of palm oil in South East Asia, that he seen with his own eyes.

In this story, Craig uses his own words to bear witness to the awesome love and intelligence of orangutans, and also shares stories of the immense suffering of orangutans and other species within RSPO member palm oil plantations. Craig is an absolute inspiration to photographers, animal lovers and conservationists. It is an honour to showcase his work and stories on Palm Oil Detectives.

His work appears in:

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography - Previous work
Craig Jones Wildlife Photography - Previous work
Craig Jones Wildlife Photography - Previous work

My name is Craig Jones @CraigJones17 Here is my eyewitness account of rescuing an orangutan mother and baby from an @RSPOtweets certified #palmoil plantation in #Sumatra. Join the #Boycott4Wildlife


A mother and baby are rescued from an RSPO certified palm oil plantation

From the moment we received the rescue call, the days plans changed instantly.  I really didn’t know what was waiting for me, as we drove north to the providence of Ache.  All I knew was that a mother and her baby were trapped, and we were heading in that direction as fast as will could. When we arrived all I saw was mile upon mile of this horrific landscape.

When we arrived all I saw was mile upon mile of this horrific landscape…


“Walking through a tattered landscape of barren red earth and alien palm oil trees, where once one of the finest rain forests in the world stood, is just impossible for me to describe. 

“They take the best rain forest in the world and change it into a souless landscape of palm oil within a matter of weeks, with brutal efficiency. Anything in its way gets crushed, killed and discarded.”

Spotlight Sumatra – The Final Chapter by Craig Jones



We started desperately searching for the mother and her baby orangutan and eventually we found them. Once we managed to tranquilise the mother, her basic instinct was to protect her child, fueling her to just hang on and not give into the tranquilizer.


It was heartbreaking. I was praying she’d just let go so they could receive help. She had a strong will and this went on for around fifteen minutes. By this time it was almost too hard to watch, the team was moving below her and watching them both, just to make sure the net was in the right place, as she could fall at any time.


An orangutan mother hangs onto a branch after being tranquilised. Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

After a while, you could see she was becoming slightly clumsy, missing branches that she was trying to hold onto. Then she went to just one arm, and then she just fell into the waiting net below.

The team scrambled up the steep hillside. They try to take the baby away from the unconscious mother at the first available chance. I managed to capture that incredibly moving moment with this image, as the mother is carried off in the net she fell into, while one of the team give the signal to where they have to go.


As I took images of the mother, the baby was being held by one of the team, as it’s safer for the baby this way. While mother and baby were apart, the baby struggled, trying to bite and screaming.


Orangutan baby screams at being separated from his mother on a newly destroyed forest in an RSPO member palm oil plantation. Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

“That scream I can still hear now, the tone went through me, the pitch could have broken a glass, it was so high and shocking to hear.

Craig Jones

We had about 40 minutes before the sedative wore off. A good chunk of that time the orangutan had fought, hanging in the tree. Time was tight. The vet took blood, checked her teeth, bum area and general health. It was so sad to see but I knew these guys were helping her.


A mother and baby orangutan are rescued from an RSPO member palm oil plantation. Craig Jones Wildlife Photography
A mother and baby orangutan are rescued from an RSPO member palm oil plantation. Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

I carried on taking images so that I could capture this story no matter what.

The mother looking straight at me with an indescribable emotional stare, and in the background the little baby was screaming.

Craig Jones

An RSPO palm oil plantation where an orangutan mother and baby were found struggling to stay alive in Sumatra. By Craig Jones Wildlife Photography
An RSPO palm oil plantation where an orangutan mother and baby were found struggling to stay alive in Sumatra. By Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

The mother was slightly underweight but she was fine otherwise. The vet gave her the antidote which brings the Orangutan around by counter-acting the tranquilizer. At that point fresh leaves were put in the cage we’d brought for her. She was placed inside the cage and the baby was reunited with his mother. We loaded the mother and baby into the back of our vehicle then drove to the release site which is part of the national park. After this we released them and within a few minutes they had vanished into the dense forest.

Orangutan baby named Craig, rescued from an RSPO certified palm oil plantation in Sumatra. By Craig Jones Wildlife Photography
Orangutan baby named Craig, rescued from an RSPO certified palm oil plantation in Sumatra. By Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

“The team named the baby ‘Craig’ after me, which was a great honour and very touching.

“I hope he keeps that fight in his belly that he displayed when he was separated from his mother as this will stand him in good stead for the uncertain future that awaits these Sumatran Orangutans.”

craig jones

Orangutans are us and we are them in so many ways...

Palm oil companies play god and play with fire in Sumatra…

Rainforest is quickly changed to dead land throughout the world by palm oil.

“One of the main things I kept hearing from locals was that the government fails to protect national parks, areas that contain so many endangered flagship species of wildlife. The same government that hands out licensees to palm oil companies letting them play god with some of the richest forests on earth.”

Craig jones

Sustainable palm oil is a con

“Sustainable palm oil is a con. Palm oil is all about wealth and it’s killing us and the planet. So mother nature will have the last laugh. It’s all corruption. Those with a vested interest in this sustainable nonsense are linked in someway you mark my words because how could anyone say sustainable is OK when it’s grow in the ashes of the dead wildlife and burnt forests. This saddens me”. ~ Craig Jones

I have loved these enduring animals since childhood and now as an adult helping them is a blessing for me…

I witnessed so much in Sumatra, it has been an emotional roller coaster. I feel there is so much we still don’t know about these great apes. For as long as I walk this earth I will do my best to help them, alongside every other creature we share this planet with, by using my camera and my own voice to help them. Without direct intervention in the national parks the Orangutans along with other forest-dependant wildlife- like the Sumatran Tigers and Elephants will become progressively scarcer until their populations are no longer viable.

Their peaceful mannerisms and intelligence is just remarkable…

Photography: Craig Jones

Words: Craig Jones

Join the #Boycott4Wildlife on supermarket brands causing palm oil deforestation

Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail industry and influence big palm oil to stop cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join me and stand up for the animals with your art and your supermarket choices

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