Field Diaries: Andrew Walmsley in Sulawesi

14 March 2014 posted by: Rosie Pook, WPY Comms Officer

No. of comments: 4

Have you ever wondered what life is like for a wildlife photographer in the field? Over the next few weeks we'll be bringing you the field diary of WPY finalist, Andrew Walmsley, from Sulawesi, Indonesia, as he partners with a small NGO to photograph and document the lives of the island's crested black macaques. Read on for Andrew's first diary entry:

I've ventured back out to Indonesia for a couple of months to continue my work documenting the endangered primates that call these beautiful islands home. My first stop is North Sulawesi, where I'll be living and working for the next six weeks. Surrounded by the Celebes and Molucca Seas - and situated east of the Wallace Line - North Sulawesi is the only region in the world where you can find one of the most charismatic monkeys around - the Sulawesi crested black macaque.

These punk-haired primates are the most endangered of the seven macaque species that live on the island, sharing their rainforest habitat with some truly unique animals, including dwarf buffalo, babirusa and cuscuses.

Sulawesi macaques are now Critically Endangered. The population has plummeted in the last 20 years to between just 3 to 60 individuals per km2. The main threat to the macaque's survival is over-hunting for bush meat, and the battle for habitat with the island's human population - more than half of Sulawesi's original lowland forest region has been cleared for cultivation or mining.

Preparation - Step 1: Select your equipment


Preparation - Step 2: Packing


During my time on the island, I will primarily be focussing on the conservation work of Selamatkan Yaki, a small, local NGO that is striving to protect the macaques. Through a collaborative network of partners, these guys are working on a number of approaches to help reduce the threats to the species, including protected area management, ecotourism, participatory education, pride campaigns and alternative livelihood strategies.

Andrew's image of Sulawesi crested black macaques from the 2013 WPY competition


The monkeys themselves have already got quite a following, and have been featured several times in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, so finding new and innovative ways to document them will be a bit of a challenge!

However, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I'm hoping to employ … whether or not my plans will work remains to be seen. Here are some images from my first couple of days in the field, and today I'm off to the forest again for a week to see what I can do - I'll let you know how I get on!




Andrew discovered an interest in photography while working in Wales in 2005 to compile a photo ID catalogue of a group of bottlenose dolphins; Andrew's interest was far more focussed on being with the animals and capturing images of their lives than doing the science. He then moved to New Zealand, cutting his teeth on the eclectic wildlife that inhabits the islands, and becoming particularly obsessed with the mountain parrot, the kea. This resulted in an article for BBC Wildlife, demonstrating how mutually beneficial it can be to form close partnerships with NGOs, allowing them to use images free of charge to spread their message and reach as wide an audience as possible.

Andrew's recent work primarily focusses on primate conservation issues. He has worked in Peru and Indonesia, photographing everything from lorises to orangutans, and is currently perfecting the techniques used by arborists in an attempt to gain a monkey's eye view of the world.


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