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L. Bruce Kekule has photographed Thailand’s wild creatures and habitats for more than a decade. He has travelled all over the country on a photographic odyssey portraying the natural world. Bruce’s passion for the Kingdom and its wildlife, and his mission to show the world this beauty, will surely create awareness amongst the present generation that action is needed now to save Thailand’s wild places and animals for the future.
Bruce published his first book Wildlife in the Kingdom of Thailand in 1999. His second book entitled Thailand’s Natural Heritage was published in 2004 and Wild Rivers, his third, was completed in 2008. He has also written many newspaper and magazine articles about wildlife. Born in the United States, he has lived in Thailand since 1964. His dream to produce wildlife photographic books continues.
Kekule is married to a Thai national and they live in Bangkok with their daughter, son-in-law and two grand daughters. His main objective is to educate the Thai people about their natural heritage before it is too late. A second objective is to help the park rangers who patrol the forests with food, clothing and equipment to create incentive among these men who put their lives on the line for the Kingdom’s forest and wildlife.
Photographing Thailand’s magnificent wild fauna
Thailand’s wildlife has evolved over millions of years into some of the most beautiful and interesting creatures in the world. Photographing these rare animals such as the Siamese crocodile, tiger, leopard, gaur, banteng, wild water buffalo, elephant and tapir, plus a multitude of other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects in their natural habitats is a daunting task due to many different aspects. Probably the most prominent is the ever-increasing human population and social ills like poaching, gathering and encroachment in the protected areas. This alone has taken its toll and the country’s natural habitats, from under the sea to the highest mountains, are in serious jeopardy with very little chance of recovery to the magnificent ecosystems of the past. Before World War Two, seventy five percent of the nation was still covered in pristine forests. Barely 30 percent survives today and most of these are degraded to the point of no return. Hence, wildlife has become scarce and extremely elusive, and difficult to photograph.
However, a few protected areas remain fairly intact with good densities of flora and fauna. Prey species are abundant and carnivores thrive. These havens for wildlife include time honored Huai Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuaries (World Heritage Site), and Kaeng Krachan and Doi Inthanon national parks. Other protected areas like Khao Yai, Khao Sok, Sai Yok, Erawan, Thap Lan national parks and Phu Khieo, Khao Ang Rue Nai, Khao Soi Dow and Salak Phra wildlife sanctuaries still have wildlife but some have very low densities depleted over the years by poaching and encroachment before any form of protection was implemented. Human pressure and the Asian traditional medicine trade are directly responsible for the disappearing wild species.
Wildlife photography is a difficult hobby or profession to become proficient. Years of trial and error, lost shots, bad exposure, out of focus, no wildlife subjects, equipment failure, expense and many other intricate problems make things difficult for the wildlife photographer. Travel plans and permission to enter some of the sensitive protected areas is a hurdle that must be crossed before any photographs can be taken. Cameras and lenses in the professional range are expensive but amateur equipment can also provide satisfactory results. Modern technology like infrared camera-traps allows one to capture illusive and rare animals, plus new digital cameras show results in real time. The use of a photo-blind is important as is self- control and patience, which comes with practice and a desire to get a photograph of nature’s creatures. Wildlife encounters are usually brief and one must always be ready with camera in hand ready to shoot on a moments’ notice. No two days are alike in the natural world and opportunities must be taken then and there if one is to be a successful wildlife photographer. Finally, share your photographs with as many people as possible in order to send a message to all that nature is truly worth saving for the future.
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