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:
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 #Boycott4WildlifeTweet
A mother and baby are rescued from an RSPO certified palm oil plantation
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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
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.
Palm oil companies play god and play with fire in Sumatra…
“@RSPOtweets #sustainable #palmoil is a con. How can anyone say sustainable is OK when it’s grown in the ashes of dead #wildlife #ecocide #deforestation?” @craigjones17 #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4WildlifeTweet
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