Leamington photographer's image of animal exploitation recognised in 'Wildlife Oscars'

A Leamington photojournalist has been recognised in a prestigious industry competition for a photograph he took which exposes animal explotation in a Thai zoo.

Thursday, 13th February 2020, 5:30 am

Aaron Gekoski's image of a boxing orangutan taken two years ago at Safari World in Bangkok.

It has been highly commended in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, LUMIX People’s Choice category.

The competition is known as the ‘Wildlife Oscars’.

Losing the Fight by Aaron Gekoski.

Aaron said: "I have been working on a project called Raise the Red Flag, which looks at abuses taking place in the wildlife tourism industry.

"It’s thought that over half a million animals are suffering in the industry, worldwide.

"Yet most of the time, tourists aren’t aware of the abuses that are happening in front of their eyes, or behind closed doors.

"The aim of this project is to make people think twice before riding an elephant, paying to watch animal performances, going to zoos, or taking part in any activities that involve the exploitation of animals.

Aaron Gekoski

"In 2005 all of the orangutans were confiscated from Safari World by the Thai authorities, as DNA tests showed they were illegally obtained from either Malaysia or Indonesia, not bred there as claimed.

"However within a couple of years, Safari World managed to get hold of more orangutans and now, the shows continue, every day, twice a day.

"Orangutans that have been caught from the wild often have their mother’s killed.

"They are then illegally smuggled into Wildlife Tourism Attractions, and are often trained using cruel methods such as food deprivation or corporal punishment.

"They then have to perform under the most stressful conditions imaginable for an orangutan, until they are too old…then they will be locked in a cage until they die.

"Orangutans are highly sentient, intelligent, gentle and solitary animals that share 97 per cent DNA with humans.

"They suffer from stress and depression in captivity. In places like Safari World, their lives would be ones of abject misery."

Aaron can be followed on Instagram by finding aaron_gekoski or learn about his work at www.aarongekoski.com Anyone who witnesses cruelty in the Wildlife Tourism industry you can report it on Raise the Red Flag, a platform Aaron launched in partnership with the Born Free Foundation.