Jakarta. Mother nature offers a picturesque beauty like no other. The sight of animals of different species, sizes, colors in their natural habitat is simply breathtaking. And it can be tempting to capture the moment in a photograph.
But photographing wildlife goes beyond preserving the moment. According to Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER) ecologist Prayitno, wildlife photography can help make a difference.
“[With wildlife photography,] we can ramp up the public interest in conservation initiatives. For instance, we can bring people’s interest to issues such as biodiversity conservation in Indonesia,” Prayitno Goenarto told the Kompasfest conference on Friday.
Initiated by pulp and paper producer APRIL Group, the RER program protects, restores, and conserves peat forest areas on Indonesia's Kampar Peninsula and Padang Island. It spans more than 150,000 hectares of forests in two areas. Of that figure, about 130,000 hectares are at the heart of the Kampar Peninsula, whereas the remaining 20,599 is nearby Padang island. According to APRIL Group's estimates, the Kampar Peninsula and Padang Island are home to about 823 fauna and flora species as of 2020.
As an RER ecologist, Prayitno spends his time conducting wildlife surveys and monitoring migratory birds. From time to time, as part of the RER team, he installs camera traps across the area to better track the biodiversity. Prayitno also takes part in the Asian Waterbird Census that occurs between January and February annually.
"This is when we record the species and number of migrant birds —usually waterbirds— in the Kampar Peninsula," he said.
At the conference, Prayitno showed his shot of the Asian openbill bird in the Kampar Peninsula.
" This picture is among the first shots that capture this species' distribution in the Kampar Peninsula," Prayitno said proudly as one of his rare images of birds in his working area.
"We can use our [wildlife] photos to inform researchers and the public on new wildlife distributions or changes in its population," he added.
During the discussion, wildlife photographer Regina Safri shared her stories and tips when capturing the wildlife on camera. She took an example of the orangutan, a species dear to her heart, and led her to publish two books already with her photography collection.
"Infant orangutans typically cling onto their mothers until they are 8 years old. [...] We should be careful when taking a picture of orangutan mothers and their infants. They tend to be more sensitive," Regina said.
"[As a wildlife photographer,] it is important to keep a strong mentality. We must also enjoy and have a passion for what we do. If not, it is going to be tough when you walk into the forests," she said.