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Forests that can best withstand and resist deforestation around the world are those inhabited by indigenous populations. These local defenders of the forests are the untold heroes that are fighting on the frontline of the global battle against deforestation, often risking their lives for our collective future.

A RUIDO photo project

Primary tropical forests are virgin forests that have not been altered by man. They are found in three areas of the world: the Amazon, the Congo River Basin and the South-East Asia. They represent 26% of the Earth’s forest cover and contain 60% of biodiversity and store 68% of the Planet’s carbon. Their existence is vital for the survival of humanity and its destruction is completely linked to the current climate crisis.

In this collective project, we have photographed the destruction by humans of the main tropical primary forests in the world. We have documented illegal logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the destruction caused by coal mines in Indonesia, the disappearance of primates in Thailand, and deforestation caused by invaders of indigenous reserves in Brazil.

Beyond the denunciation, the PRIMARY project aims to document and honor the defenders of these forests that, almost without resources, fight against the great machinery of global consumption. Men like Pak Benang who decided to confront the largest mining company in the world in Borneo or women like Maria Jucilea who defends her village from the incursions and death threats from the invaders of the Brazilian Amazon.

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Tosha Dibadi, a 54-year-old local logger, cuts down a tree more than 30 meters tall in the rainforest of the Congo River Basin. Concessions to Chinese logging companies have proliferated in this region, in addition to numerous other illegal exploitations
Trees cut and ready for transport in a logging operation owned by a Chinese company in the Equator region of DRC. These trips are shipped down the Congo River to the Atlantic Ocean. Most companies that exploit these forests are European, Lebanese or Chinese.
Heavy trucks in the forest operations of the Congo River basin. The use of heavy machinery completely destroys the exploited areas and expels the native fauna. In the last 15 years, this basin has lost an area of tropical primary forest equivalent to Spain and Portugal combined.
Jupai Diahui, is 59-years old and is the chief of the Cuaiarí village, located in the indigenous Diahui land, in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. Loggers and deforestation are encircling their territory and threatening their form of sustenance.
Luna Tenharim is a young woman who has lived all her life in the indigenous Sapotí land in the Brazilian Amazon. Her life is continuously threatened by invaders who try to exploit the wood and open cattle pasture areas on forbidden lands. Her community has lived in the forest for generations in a sustainable way and is key to its protection.
Joao plays with his godson in Sepotí village, one of the indigenous communities of the Brazilian Amazon. The lands of this community are being invaded by illegal loggers. The village leaders struggle to keep them at bay and report them to the authorities but never get a response.
A small, wooded island in the middle of the Amazon River around which is the largest tropical primary forest in the world. Several studies show that the forests where indigenous people live are historically those that suffer the least deforestation. However, between 2019 and 2021, the indigenous territories lost 1,255 square kilometers – an area equivalent to twelve times the city of Barcelona. Indigenous peoples are the last front against the ongoing encroachments on tropical forests.
A family from Dayak Basap bathes in the river near Sengatta, Borneo, Indonesia. This indigenous community has lived for centuries in these tropical forests. Now, many were expelled from their land where a gigantic coal mine owned by Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC) Company destroyed the forest and contaminated the waters.
A group of indigenous Satere-Mawé children bathe in the Amazon River at sunset. Hundreds of barges loaded with illegally felled trees have already passed through this same river, a common practice in the depths of the Brazilian jungle.
A forest ranger (who prefers not to give his name) patrols inside Khao Phra Thaeo, the only remaining primary tropical forest reserve on Phuket Island, Thailand. The tourist explosion during the second half of the twentieth century destroyed the primary forest of this island and eliminated many primates too. Now, forest patrols watch out for poachers hunting the primates that are being reintroduced.
Dirman is a young leader of the indigenous Dayak Basap community that has lived for centuries in the eastern tropical forests of Borneo Island. All the inhabitants of his village were expelled from their lands to build a gigantic coal mine. The government and the mining company relocated them to a nearby area with promises of progress and work that were never fulfilled.
A tree falls in a deforested area near the Mura Indian reserve in the Brazilian Amazon. The Mura claim to be surrounded by the invaders and continuous death threats have forced several people to flee the region.
Gelma Pessoa in the kitchen of her home in the community of Brejo das Meninas near Santa Filomena, Piauí, Brazil. The Pessoa family has maintained a sustainable farming model for more than 40 years, but the expansion of soy farms for export threatens their way of life and that of many other small farmers.
A convoy of trucks loaded with palm fruit drives through the East Kalimantan region of Borneo, Indonesia. From this fruit is extracted the palm oil used massively by the global food industry. African palm plantations are the main cause of deforestation in Indonesia.
At the port of Mbandaka, a boat loaded with gigantic tree trunks leaves for the capital Kinshasa. The Congo River – the second largest in Africa – is the only transport route from the jungle to the Atlantic Ocean. The remoteness of the jungle facilitates hundreds of illegal logging operations in this region.
Coal mining by the Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC) mining company in an area that was completely covered with tropical primary forest and is now completely destroyed. This type of mining destroys forests and fertile land while also polluting groundwater and surface water. Several European countries, including Spain, have bought coal from Indonesia during the energy crisis.

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