In April last year, our photographer friend, Andrew Walmsley, had a life-changing experience on a trip to Sumatra. Supported by Sumatran Orangutan Society, he spent several days in the field with the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU), part of the Orangutan Information Centre's team of dedicated conservation experts. As the team trekked through humid rainforest and rubber plantations, slipping into rivers and slapping away mosquitoes at every turn, Andrew documented their progress - from the start of their search to the moment they captured an adult male orangutan for re-release into a safer forest.
One of the riskiest and most difficult parts of the rescue process for any orangutan is bringing it from the tree safely down to the ground once it has been located and darted. In this case, as the team waited with a net tensioned out between their outstretched hands beneath the tree the big male clung to, their location on a slope and the density of the trees around them made it almost impossible to tell where he would fall. Although they caught him safely, it was a close-run thing, as large animals under sedation don't fall gracefully or land lightly and neatly, and things could have ended very differently if the net had been a few inches out.
To this end, a team of arborists from Sawpod will be jetting off to Sumatra on Easter Sunday to spend a fortnight training the HOCRU team how to climb trees and rescue fellow climbers (or orangutans) using accredited techniques. Andrew is going along to document the process and will use his images to raise awareness of the lengths charities like Sumatran Orangutan Society and Orangutan Information Centre go to to protect the remaining members of a Critically Endangered species. Not only that, but he's taking a little piece of Tentsile with him - we're supporting his journey and donating a Stingray to the team so they can have an arboreal platform from which to monitor orangutans as they prepare for rescue.
To find out more and support the team's incredible work, check out Sawpod's donation page, look up Sumatran Orangutan Society and Orangutan Information Centre on Facebook, and read this blog to get a sense of what the team is up against. We'll bring you more photos and stories from the field as the trip progresses.