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Chanee, the gibbon whisperer

Who led Aurélien Brulé, a young thirty-six year-old French man, founder of the Kalaweit association dedicated to the protection of Indonesian gibbons, to leave everything behind and settle down in the Borneo jungle ? This is what the photographer Gaël Turine wants to analyse. The idea is to put into pictures this amazing commitment for a double cause : a precocious passion for gibbons and a will to fight against the biggest deforestation movement in the world.

When he was twelve years old, Aurélien Brulé fell in love with the gibbons and decided to dedicate his life to them. He published a book when he was 17 which was recognized by the specialists, and travelled to Borneo when he was 20 to observe them in their natural environment. But once there, a second reality stroke him.
In 2022 the primary Indonesian forest, third biggest tropical forest in the world, will have entirely disappeared from the main Indonesian islands. The deforestation affects 850 000 hectars each year. as in 6 football pitches per minute. It is a tragedy for one of the most important biodiversity on earth.
Gibbons are especially threatened. Added to the disparition of their environment, they are the victims of a cruel trafic. Poachers capture the baby gibbons which, once they are sold in market places, become living toys and are given over to the tribulations of domestic life. But when they get older they become out of control and agressive and are very often slaughtered.

Aurélien Brulé wants to act against that. He created Kalaweit in 1997 – which means gibbon in the Indonesian dialect – to gather the eponym apes and reintroduce them in the 208 protected hectares that he patiently constituted over the years. Seventeen years later, this programme has become one of the main actors in the Indonesian ecology, mostly due to its local achorage. Members of the association, villagers and autorities regularly collaborate in the various missions – taking care of animals, collecting of domestic gibbons, or keeping the sanctuaries under surveillance. Kalaweit even opened a local radio channel in 2003 to raise awareness among people about the protection of gibbons and their environment. Consciousness was little by little awaken. An Indonesian national channel did a story about the association in 2013.

Indeed, The battle is also a mediatic one. The palm oil industry, whose first global producer in Indonesia, is strongly defended by lobbies and corruption. Their plantation stretches as far as the eye can see and contitues to swallow the forest. When many could give up, Aurélien Brulé, nicknamed “Chanee” - meaning gibbon in Thaï – calls for the necessity to act. “We can't be pessimistic”. For the sake of the gibbons, and that of the earth.

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