Aerial view of coconut plantations. The whole region surrounding the capital of Surat Thani has dense spontaneous plantations of coconut trees. Most of them are made of hundred-year-old trees that exceed 30 metres in height. These plantations are wild in nature and scattered in patches in different regions of southern Thailand. Each coconut picker drives daily from one spot to another keeping his macaques tied to the truck. Bang Bai Mai, Surat Thani province.

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Chained by coconut

Raffaele Petralla | Thailand

Thailand is the world’s first-largest exporter of coconut milk.The basis of this massive business is the exploitation of macaques for the picking of coconuts.Coconut trees in Thailand can reach the height of 30 metres, which makes supply difficult and dangerous. Male primates can harvest up to 1000 coconuts per day, while humans can barely reach the number of 80.Although they should be protected by law as an endangered species, pig-tailed macaques are violently kidnapped from their natural habitat.Across the country there are several so-called “monkey schools” where these animals are intensively trained to work and then sold to farmers.These macaques are condemned to a life of misery and loneliness, chained to trees or old tires without being able to express their ethological needs, socialise and even touch each other. They usually suffer from behavioural disorders and stereotypies as a result of the experienced trauma.

Raffaele Petralla is a documentary photographer, photography professor and videomaker.
He graduated from the Scuola Romana di Fotografia in 2007, in Rome.
After working for several years also on movie sets as lighting assistant, focus puller and camera operator, he decides to devote himself entirely to reportage photography and documentary video, with particular attention to social, anthropological and environmental issues.
Focusing in his research mainly on long term projects, Raffaele has worked in China, Russia, South East Asia and Africa.
His works have been published in over 60 international media including: New York Times, National Geographic, GEO, The Times, The Washington Post, F Days Japan, The New Yorker, Internazionale, De Morgen, L’Espresso and De Volkskrant.
In recent years Petralla has received international awards and nominees.
Since 2015 he has been a member of the Prospekt Photographers agency.
He is teacher in reportage photography at the Spazio Tempo School in Bari.
In 2021 he published the photobook “Mari El, a pagan beauty” produced by Voglino editrice.

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