Most of the epic landscapes in the world are disappearing. The Great Barrier Reef has been deemed unsalvageable and the rainforest in the Amazon is being destroyed at an alarming rate. The Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia is one such landscape that will soon be doomed to the pages of history due to our demand for palm oil. But we are not just losing a beautiful scenery here, the Leuser rainforest is the orangutan capital of the world and so when the forests are destroyed, orangutangs lose their homes.
Palm oil has become a billion dollar industry and the locus of business is in the heart of the Leuser Rainforest. It’s estimated that 300 football fields worth of trees are cut down every hour to make way for palm oil plantations. This deforestation destroys the orangutans’ habitat and homes. After their forced eviction, orangutans stumble onto the palm oil fields looking for a sanctuary but what they find is the opposite. The palm oil farmers trap the orangutans so they can be sold illegally as pets – or the apes are immediately shot on sight.
Over the past 10 years, the orangutan population has decreased by 50 percent. One century ago, these forests were home to 230,000 orangutans, today their numbers have dwindled to just over 50,000. These primates are not packing their bags and traveling to different forest around the globe – their habitat is being destroyed and they are dying by the thousands.
We know – this photo is rough. But this is just one of the victims that have fallen prey to the vicious practices of palm oil plantations.
However, there are many organizations working to preserve the Leuser Ecosystem and save the orangutans that populate the region. Paul Hilton, the man responsible for the photo above, is working to raise awareness for the animals who call this ecosystem home. In addition to promoting a crowd-funding campaign for elephant protections, Hilton is working to spread to raise awareness about the devastation caused by palm oil. Hilton and other conservationists are working to petition the government of Indonesia to save this unique landscape, and you can add your voice to their’s here. We can help by sharing this image and article with our friends and family to get them involved in the struggle. We should also be vigilant when we are in the supermarket. Palm oil is in an unsettling amount of products on the shelves in our grocery stores so be aware of what’s in your food and ween yourself off of palm oil!
Image source: Paul Hilton/Instagram