Jean-Francois Reumaux is a former French professor who decided to reinvent himself deep in the forests of Laos. During a visit to the province of Bokeo in the early 2000s, he took up the challenge of protecting the forests of this small country between Thailand and Vietnam. Unfortunately, after several years of seeking support, funding was still hard to come by. While observing gibbons – rare lesser apes – jumping from tree to tree, Jean-François came up with a new idea: to use tourism to generate the needed funds.
In 2004, Jean-François Reumaux built the first tree house for guests in the middle of the Bokeo forest. By welcoming tourists who come for a unique tropical holiday observing the gibbons, he was finally able to garner the funds needed to protect this ancient forest and its biodiversity. In addition, he has hired former poachers to act as forest guards and villagers to install zip-lines and build more guest houses. He has succeeded in creating a sustainable economy, whose revenues benefit the forest and its inhabitants.