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Patrick Rouxel

Patrick Rouxel
Class of 1984

Patrick was born in France and lived in Kuala Lumpur before moving to Singapore, He joined joining UWCSEA to do the IB Diploma. During Project Week he travelled to Sabah, Borneo, where he says he first fell in love with the Indonesian rainforest and its wildlife, “At UWCSEA I had opportunities for discovery that I wouldn’t have had in another school. Even so, my deep understanding of the gravity of the environmental situation world-wide didn’t come until later.”

Having achieved a BA in Humanities from the University of California at Berkeley, he decided to pursue a medical degree in Paris. However, after three years of medical school he knew it wasn’t right for him, so he went on to the Sorbonne to complete a BA in Comparative Literature. Since then, Patrick’s career has taken a couple of further changes in direction - and may be about to take another.
In 1993 Patrick began working in the film industry, specialising in the production of CGI (computer generated imagery) and special effects, eventually becoming a special effects supervisor for feature films. After 10 years he began to yearn for something else. He says, “I wanted to give more meaning to my life.” In 2003, on a trip back to Asia, he saw the extent of the deforestation in Sumatra and decided to use his film-making expertise to raise awareness about the plight of wildlife suffering from habitat destruction.

He has been actively supporting this goal for the past decade. In 2004 he produced Tears of Wood, a silent film about the Indonesian rainforest and the orangutans that inhabited it from a male orangutan’s point of view. In 2005 he created a documentary about forest monitoring set in Cameroon, and Losing Tomorrow, a return to the Indonesian rainforest with an insight into the effects of the logging, pulp and paper, and palm oil industries on the forest. He then filmed the reactions of students, teachers and villagers who had watched the film and created an eight-minute open letter film to the President of Indonesia called Dear M. President. In 2007 he was commissioned by WWF Gabon to produce The Cathedral Forest, a film about the trade in elephant tusks in the forest of Minkebe. In 2009 he travelled back to Indonesia where he produced a film called Green, which has won a number of global awards, including “Best of Festival” at two acclaimed wildlife film festivals in the USA and the UK. Green is a powerful story of a female orangutan, named Green, who has lost her home, her child and her will to live, told from her point of view.

In late 2009, Patrick moved to Brazil to create a number of documentaries on subjects such as forest-fire-fighters in the Amazon, and the harsh impact of the cattle and soy industries on the rainforest in a film called Alma. Then it was back to Africa for a film about a patch of forest in the Congo, home to gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants, in an attempt to persuade authorities to prevent logging there. Back in Indonesia in 2011, he created a short film to help put an end to the use of ‘dancing macaques’ and in 2012 he moved on to films promoting awareness of the Indonesian sun bear.

Coming across three bears in cages at Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), he found that Desi, Kevin and Hilda  were too old and habituated to be re-introduced to the wild. However, Patrick took what action he could, “Every day I got rotting logs from the nearby forest to give to the bears. They loved ripping through them to get to the termites and cockroaches. They just wanted to play and be occupied. With approval from OFI, I added extensions to Kevin’s cage to make it more spacious and comfortable and I put all the bears together. They became friends right away.” Learn more about Patrick’s sun bear enclosure.

Patrick has created a non-profit organisation called Help the Bears and plans to do exactly that: help captive sun bears in dire need of better living conditions. He is also considering taking over the management of the only sanctuary that currently exists, or creating a new one. He says: “After university, I did 10 years of special effects, then 10 years of film making—it’s now time for me to give the next 10 years of my life to the sun bears. I feel so close to them, I just can’t move on to something else.”

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