Belgium • Born in 1955
Saving the Orangutans
Orangutans are our closest cousins - their name means “forest person” in Malay. We share 97% of our DNA with this 13-million-year-old species.
Homos sapiens, for our part, have only been around for 300,000 years. And yet, with less than 14,000 living specimens, this great ape faces the threat of extinction. What is causing this threat? The depletion and fragmentation of tropical forests.
Orangutans live up to their name. They live, eat, sleep, travel and even give birth in the trees. Without them, these creatures cannot survive. But Indonesia’s abundant natural resources (and lack of regulations) have attracted foreign appetites and investments for decades.
Intensive agriculture, logging and mining, massive urbanisation and infrastructure growth... By decimating their natural habitat, and despite many efforts to mitigate the impact on their ecosystem, humans have endangered the survival of our closest relatives on planet Earth.
During a visit to the island of Sumatra a few years ago and like many tourists before him, photographer Alain Schroeder, two-time World Press Photo winner, discovered the orangutans. Specialising in sports photography and without any particular background in biology, he fell in love with these creatures and decided to throw himself body and soul into an extensive project focused on the species and those who are working to save it.
Through the three chapters presented in this exhibit, he describes a race against time, a fierce battle waged day after day to save these captivating primates from extinction at our own hands.
Alain Schroeder is the 2022 winner of the Yves Rocher Foundation Award, in partnership with Visa pour l’Image. He received a grant of 8,000 euros for this long-term project, which will be presented in its entirety fo the first time at La Gacilly.
© Alain Schroeder