Last week a group of us hightailed it to London, to Le Galleria, in Pall Mall, for the photography exhibition of Born Free and Wildlife Photographer United’s Remembering Great Apes, a coffee table book featuring the work of over 50 wildlife photographers. A kickstarter funded enterprise, with all photographs donated, it is the third in the Remembering Wildlife series, and includes an introduction by Margot Raggett, a forward by Jane Goodall, and both a eulogy to Diane Fossy and a short information text by Ian Redmond. Hosted by Nomad Tanzania, the exclusive first viewing included talks by Raggett, Greystoke Mahale’s head guide Mwiga Mambo and previous Greystoke manager Julien Polet.
Later in the week, Angela and Emma went up to the Royal Geographical Society for the official book launch, with fascinating talks by the photographer Ian Redmond and eco-activist Ofir Drori amongst others. While all were great, we were all especially taken by Drori’s talk on LAGA and EAGLE’s work in the name of great apes, and in particular on how he went from adventurer to activist, his rescuing of Kita, an orphan chimpanzee, in Cameroon, leading to the first successful arrest and imprisonment of an animal trafficker in Central and West Africa.
The auction following the talks and book signing saw a JbD with Congo Conservation Company safari to Odzala go for a princely sum, all thanks to some excellent late night work by the auctioneer. The Republic of Congo (ROC) is our most recent destination, and I’ve only recently returned from a trip to Odzala. Home to some 22,000 western lowland gorilla, it’s an extraordinary destination. With just one 25 kilometre road, travel here is largely on foot, by means of elephant forged routes or so-called boulevards. It’s remote, different, and incredibly rewarding. I believe the safari is a gift to the lucky winner’s lucky children.
The book itself is a thing of beauty. Divided into sections devoted to specific species, each chapter begins with a breakdown of sub-species, range, habitat, population, life-span and kinship (the percentage of DNA shared with humans). Crucially, these pages also include major threats to individual species, and their IUCN status: all are threatened, as Drori says, by the human; all are registered as either endangered or critically endangered.
The images are extraordinary. Beautiful, maddening, intense, enlightening, it’s impossible to look at them and think that one day, as the title of the book implies, they may be no more. There’s a particularly difficult picture showing the death of a gorilla called Senkwekwe, killed by charcoal barons. He lies on his back, surrounded by a group of people, the absolute loss absolutely reflected in their faces. Another shows an orangutan sat on a felled tree, his way blocked by a bulldozer. Others are less shocking, but by no means less moving. Do get Remembering Great Apes. It’s an important book.
To find out more and take action to protect great apes please visit Born Free. In the meantime, if there’s anything you would like to know about the event, the book or visiting some of the places it depicts, please do get in contact.