20th Aug, 2017

Leamington man swaps regency charm for Borneo rainforests

Sophie Heaviside 20th Apr, 2017 Updated: 21st Apr, 2017

AARON Gekoski has swapped the big city for the wildlife of Borneo.

From training to become a ranger with Sabah’s Wildlife Rescue Unit to highlighting the damage shark finning causes, the 36 year-old from Leamington is living a much different life than the one he left in London.

Aaron was in his 20s and co-owned a modeling agency in London but he wanted to see more of the world.

He decided to follow his childhood dream of wildlife film-making and signed up to an intensive month long film course in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, before traveling to Mozambique to learn more about underwater filming.

It was there he met documentary makers who were working on a project following the devastating effects of shark finning has on marine life. The fins are the principal ingredient of Asian delicacy shark fin soup. After having their fin cut off the sharks are thrown back into sea, and unable to swim, they die.

Aaron became interested in highlighting and filming human-animal conflicts in Africa and has since followed the mass sacrifice of sea turtles, lived on board a commercial tuna fishing vessel in South Africa, and even gone on an undercover mission with marines to expose Namibia’s annual seal cull.

The former Trinity School pupil has now turned presenter for his latest project ‘Borneo Wildlife Warriors’.

The series follows a wildlife rescue unit which is on call 24/7 all year round to deal with human-animal conflict around the largest island in Asia.

Aaron told The Observer: “On one mission we spent a week trying to capture an elephant in a plantation so we could move it back into the jungle out of harm’s way.

“Every time we snuck up on it at sunrise, it would do a runner into a small patch of jungle with us in hot pursuit.

“One day we got completely lost in the jungle for ten hours with no food or water – we were quite worried at one point.

“After finally bringing it to a standstill with enough sedation, the elephant charged us one last time. We finally managed to tether it to some trees, it took us a couple more days to get it into a cage and onto a van, before driving it back into the jungle.

“We returned to the base in Sepilok and were told we had to capture a mother and baby orangutan. After managing to dart the mother, the baby shook her body and – clearly thinking she was dead – did a runner.

“Myself and vet Dr Laura Benedict managed to catch him just as he was making his way up a tree. Baby and mother were taken back to the centre and checked over for disease and released into the jungle a few weeks later, far from human settlements.

“It was a mentally and physically draining fortnight.”

Living some 7,000 miles away from home is not always easy, but Aaron says his family have been amazingly supportive.

He added: ” I owe them so much – without their support I’d never have been able to do this.

“My parents always said ‘you can do anything you put your mind to’ and after a while, you realise they’re right.”

Visit www.scubazoo.tv to watch Aaron in action and www.aarongekoski.com to find out more about his adventures behind the camera.

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