Wildlife photographer Ian Wood has been capturing great apes in the wild for decades, but when a young orangutan discovered his hidden camera on a recent Borneo trip he got some truly unexpected results.

One of the challenges of wildlife photography is trying to come up with ways to take images that haven't been shot before.

Through my conservation work with orangutans I've had numerous opportunities to photograph these great apes over the last couple of decades, but on a recent annual fundraising trip to Tanjung Puting national park in Borneo I got some unexpected, close-up results.

One of a series of selfies taken by a 3-year-old orangutan in the Tanjung Puting national park in Borneo when wildlife photographer Ian Wood left his GoPro camera on the ground.
One of a series of selfies taken by a 3-year-old orangutan in the Tanjung Puting national park in Borneo when wildlife photographer Ian Wood left his GoPro camera on the ground.

I had decided to hide a GoPro camera near to where orangutans often appear, hoping to get some close-up wide-angle images of them in the forest. I figured that in the worst case, if an orangutan found my camera it would realise it wasn't food and discard it.

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So when a three-year-old orangutan picked it up I was amazed at the level of interest he showed.

My emotions quickly turned to concern when he put it in his mouth and bit it. I wasn't worried about my camera – it was the risk of choking that concerned me. After cracking the LCD screen he took it out of his mouth and accidentally took hundreds and hundreds of photos by pressing the main button.

One of a series of selfies taken by a 3-year-old orangutan in the Tanjung Puting national park in Borneo when wildlife photographer Ian Wood left his GoPro camera on the ground.
One of a series of selfies taken by a 3-year-old orangutan in the Tanjung Puting national park in Borneo when wildlife photographer Ian Wood left his GoPro camera on the ground.

I watched through my iPhone which I'd connected to the camera by setting up a wifi connection. After about 30 minutes he ran off with it up a tree and I thought that was the last I would see of it. Eventually he dropped it and I was able to recover my damaged – but still working – camera.

I was staggered when I went through the images and found a few which were remarkably decent photos.

This area offers a genuine beacon of hope for the protection of these apes and I'm pleased to report that more than 22,000 trees have been planted recently to actually extend the forest.

Read more: Monkey selfie copyright battle rages

On this trip, run in partnership with the Orangutan Foundation UK, I was guiding a group of seven people to photograph the wildlife here and help raise money for conservation in the area.

One of a series of selfies taken by a 3-year-old orangutan in the Tanjung Puting national park in Borneo when wildlife photographer Ian Wood left his GoPro camera on the ground.
One of a series of selfies taken by a 3-year-old orangutan in the Tanjung Puting national park in Borneo when wildlife photographer Ian Wood left his GoPro camera on the ground.
Photographer Ian Wood runs wildlife photography holidays and workshops to Borneo, Uganda, India and many other places.


He runs trips in partnership with the Orangutan Foundation, which is the foremost orangutan conservation organisation, saving Asia's endangered great ape by protecting their tropical forest habitat, working with local communities and promoting research and education.

One of a series of selfies taken by a 3-year-old orangutan in the Tanjung Puting national park in Borneo when wildlife photographer Ian Wood left his GoPro camera on the ground.
One of a series of selfies taken by a 3-year-old orangutan in the Tanjung Puting national park in Borneo when wildlife photographer Ian Wood left his GoPro camera on the ground.

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