Eyes of the Orangutan: uncovering the dark side of wildlife tourism

Wildlife tourism, a thriving industry worth approximately $250 billion USD per year, lures millions of travellers globally with the allure of close encounters with the wild. However, a new documentary titled “Eyes of the Orangutan” raises a cautionary flag on this lucrative sector, revealing the harsh and often unseen realities that many of these creatures endure.

Produced by the same studio behind critically acclaimed projects such as “Ivory Game” and “Sea of Shadows”, “Eyes of the Orangutan” serves as a potent environmental wake-up call. The film delves into the grim facets of modern wildlife tourism and champions the cause of one of our closest living relatives, the orangutan.

The man leading us through this eye-opening journey is Aaron Gekoski, an internationally acclaimed environmental photojournalist and filmmaker. Gekoski’s work, featured in publications such as National Geographic and BBC, has been pivotal in highlighting environmental issues across the globe.

In “Eyes of the Orangutan”, Gekoski sheds light on the abuse inflicted on animals within the tourism industry. He reveals chilling details about how orangutans and other wildlife are forcibly removed from their habitats and made to perform in degrading displays. The documentary also unearths the grim connection between wildlife tourism and animal smuggling syndicates, raising questions about the enforcement of wildlife protection laws.

Gekoski also sparks a debate about the culpability of tourists in this cycle of abuse. He questions whether visitors to wildlife attractions are inadvertently supporting animal abuse and contributing to the problem. Despite the grim realities presented, Gekoski remains hopeful about the younger generation’s growing involvement in climate and conservation activism.

From Asia’s most famous wildlife attractions to the biodiverse islands of Indonesia, “Eyes of the Orangutan” presents a distressing yet essential view into the underbelly of wildlife tourism. It is a film that prompts viewers to question their role in this industry and to consider the impact of their choices.

The Shaftesbury Art Centre is hosting a special screening of “Eyes of the Orangutan” on 19th July, 2023. This screening is an opportunity for those of us in Dorset to witness first-hand the urgent message of this film.

“Eyes of the Orangutan” is more than just a documentary. It’s a call to action, a plea for awareness, and a reminder that our choices, as tourists and consumers, have far-reaching impacts on the world’s most vulnerable creatures. The film challenges us to make better, more informed choices that respect and protect the natural world we so often take for granted.

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