LIFE ON THE WILD SIDE – September 15, 2009
After living in Thailand for more than 35 years and devoting himself to the Kingdom’s wild creatures and habitats, wildlife protector and US photographer L. Bruce Kekule calls for action to preserve and protect the remaining habitat for wild animals in his “Showcases Wildlife Photography by L. Bruce Kekule”, at Hua Hin Hills Vineyard in Prachuap Khiri Khan until September 15.
Featuring the wildlife found in the Kingdom’s forests, the exhibition offers visitors a chance to discuss and learn more about Thailand’s living treasures. The photographs are also for sale and all proceeds will be donated to support wildlife conservation projects at Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Free admission. Call 08-1701-8874, or visit
THE RIVER RUNS WILD
Bangkok Post – Monday November 10, 2008
Photographic book focuses through lens of Thai national heritage on five rivers
A culmination of over 12 years’ work and including a selection of more than 300 photographs, Bruce Kekule’s Wild Rivers is truly a photographic odyssey. From the front cover, graced by the Asian tapir, an animal so rare it is considered a living fossil, one feels that this will be a truly special read. Kekule’s 20 years’ experience as a wildlife photographer, trekking again and again through Thailand’s jungles, is invaluable to his epic undertaking, this his third book.
Kekule calls this a continuation of his dedication to the “Thai National Heritage”, with Wild Rivers dedicated to His Majesty the King on his 80th birthday anniversary. On why he chose these particular rivers – the focus of this book is on five rivers: The Phetchaburi, Huai Kha Khaeng, Mae Klong, Khwae Noi and the Mae Ping – Kekule remarks that the main reason was that they still have wildlife along their banks. Many rivers have no wildlife left, he says, as humans have been relentless in their expansion and development plans.
Having lived in Thailand for over 40 years, he also says that these rivers and the surrounding jungles are some of his favourite places in the country. A rather spiritual man, he recalls how the inspiration for his series of wildlife photography books came to him in a dream. Kekule’s passion for his career of choice is evident – one of his favourite quotes is by the Chinese philosopher Confucius, that one should “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
From the opening pages of Wild Rivers, it is clear that Kekule not only seeks to share the natural beauty of Thailand’s rivers with the reader, but also to inform and educate about these quickly disappearing “national treasures”, as he calls them. As Kekule states in his foreword, “without water, there would be no life.” The book begins with a history of Thailand’s formation, and the importance of Thailand’s rivers – what Kekule calls “the lifeblood of the nation … [as] plants, animals and humans carry out [their] daily lives dependant on water.”
Kekule’s extensive experience is evident in the clarity, sharpness and vivid colours which define all of his photographs. But what makes Kekule’s shots truly spectacular is that the animals he captures on film are truly in their natural habitat, almost unaware of his presence.
Equally as riveting as the photographs, which fill the book is the narration from Kekule himself, about his adventures while writing the book. Entitled “notes from the field”, he tells of his encounters with rare creatures such as the king cobra. These stories are both endearing and amazing at the same time – he recalls how he “felt extremely happy at helping to save this beautiful bird of prey from dying,” upon finding an “owl going into shock from hypothermia.”
Kekule seems to have had more than his fair share of luck – indeed he concedes that he has been luckier than most other wildlife photographers, in coming upon rare animals such as the Asian tapir. But he believes that it is more than luck or coincidence. Kekule believes strongly in the “spirits of the forest”, whom he believes guide and help him. He writes how he pays his “respects to the spirits … always before eating.”
However, Kekule’s career as a wildlife photographer has not been without its occupational hazards. He recalls in his book how he “became ill with the deadly Plasmodium falciparum (cerebral malaria), that almost killed [him].” Kekule states that only a “medical procedure practised here in Thailand for patients with severe malaria called a blood exchange transfusion” saved him. While he comments that he “was lucky to survive”, even this experience has not kept him from capturing the wildlife of Thailand. However, he now takes some wise precautions that he did not previously adhere to, such as not photographing in the monsoon season.
Kekule states how he will continue with his career for as long as he “can hold a camera and walk”, such is his determination.
The most gripping and urgent message of Wild Rivers is found in the penultimate section of the book, entitled “Wildlife in Peril: Dangers threatening the natural world”. Kekule writes about how Thailand’s ecosystems are being progressively destroyed by poachers, hunters, the black market and the traditional Asian medicine trade. He also writes how education and aid for hill-tribe people and villagers is necessary, as middlemen “flash money at the people who are mostly poor and easily persuaded to break the law in order to feed this voracious [black market] trade.” Kekule outlines a step-by-step plan for the government, for “taking care of the natural resources” of Thailand, which includes suggestions about budgets and addressing grassroots problems.
Kekule’s love of Thailand as a nation, and as the setting for his wildlife photography adventures, is evident in every page of Wild Rivers. He hopes that his books will serve as part of education, which must be implemented in Thai schools to change the mentality towards wildlife and nature, and promote their conservation rather than destruction. The stunning beauty of Kekule’s book and its important message can certainly not go unnoticed, if only because of the great artistry it showcases. But perhaps the reader can also take away Kekule’s message that “all humans have a right to exist, but unfortunately, not at the expense of the natural world.”
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