Even the biggest animal lovers are somewhat disconnected from the rampant abuse happening to animals around the world. Powerful images and videos allow us a glimpse into some of the heartbreaking situations animals have to deal with around the world, but activists, conservationists, photojournalists, and videographers get a first-hand look and have the chance to interact with those affected. These people are in sub-Saharan Africa witnessing poachers sneak onto parks to kill African lions. They are there to see baby orangutans stand on the ashes of their formerly lush forest home that has been cleared out for palm oil. And in Sumatra, they are watching elephants in the area dwindle as more and more of these animals are pushed off their lands, killed when they step back onto it, and kidnapped in the flurry of it all.
Some journalists keep themselves out of the frame of the animal abuse, documenting the scope of the situation from afar. Others use their fame to send a message to their followers and let them know that they have gotten a chance to know the animals at hand better and that they do indeed need our help more than ever. Paul Hilton is a conservation photojournalist with a focus on the manta and shark fin trade, palm oil, and wildlife crimes. With a focus on palm oil, it is no surprise that Hilton has spent a good deal of his time with Sumatran elephants. Today, acres upon acres of Sumatran elephant habitat are destroyed to make way for palm oil, one of the cheapest and most versatile vegetable oils on the market. Due to this destruction, elephant families have extreme difficulty finding adequate sources of food and water, and it is nearly impossible to survive. To make matters worse, when they try to find resources on palm oil plantations, they are usually shot on the spot. No wonder there are only around 1,300 Sumatran elephants left in the wild.
Hilton has worked beside these endangered creatures for years now and has made the species a promise: he will do everything he can to protect the last wild herds in existence today.
Through his conservation efforts, he hopes that people realize how much value this majestic species brings to our ecosystems and how, just like every other animal, they desire and deserve to live. Paul Hilton hopes to put together “elephant patrol units” that will keep a close eye on elephant herds and, as best as they can, protect elephants from ivory poaching, poisoning, electrocution, and other human-wildlife conflict. This is definitely a noble mission that, if successful, will make life supremely easier for this species.
On a grander scale, the best thing we can do to save the Sumatran elephant is to wean ourselves off from palm oil. The only way to lower the amount of destruction happening at the hands of the palm oil industry is to lower the demand for palm oil. To learn how to cut palm oil of your life click here, and if you’d like to support Paul Hilton’s efforts in saving the Sumatran elephant, consider donating to his campaign.
Image source: PaulHiltonPhoto/Instagram