one green planet
one green planet

The resources that we humans gain from the commercial exploitation of rainforests and other key wildlife habitats are seemingly endless. Palm oil, for example, is a commonly used commodity, found in a wide range of consumer products, including soaps, cleaning fluids, cookies, snack bars, and even pet food. It appears in approximately 50 percent of everyday consumer products, due to its long shelf life and low cost for manufacturers. However, this convenience comes at a very high price for the ecosystems of major palm oil producing countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

7.5 billion virgin forests once covered the Earth, but humans have quite literally slashed that number in half. Greenpeace International estimates that 25 percent of the total deforestation humans have caused over the past 10,000 years occurred in the last three decades alone. We might have extracted vast amounts of material goods such as palm oil, wood pulp, and paper from our planet’s forested areas, but what has this meant for the wildlife species who once inhabited these forests? The picture is pretty bleak, as a matter of fact: over the last forty years, 52 percent of Earth’s wildlife has disappeared. Most of this decline has been attributed to habitat loss, as human activities have expanded into areas that were once home to a countless number of wild animal species.

Consider this, close to 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is driven by beef production, as 2,000 trees are cleared every minute in order to make way for cattle ranches. The world’s second-largest rainforest – the Congo in Central Africa – is also threatened by commercial logging, agriculture, road building, and civil strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Leuser Ecosystem of Sumatra, Indonesia, is being decimated by the palm oil and illegal logging industries. Extensive forest fires in this ecosystem have seriously endangered the health of local communities and driven species such as the orangutan, pygmy elephant, and Sumatran tiger to the brink of extinction.

Paul Hilton – a Conservation photojournalist who seeks to raise awareness of the many problems being faced by animals and people in the Leuser Ecosystem – recently posted a picture to his Instagram account, which exposed the heartbreaking plight of wild animals from this region who are forced into the wildlife trafficking trade.

These recently captured babies can now expect nothing but a life of exploitation and misery at human hands.

We Gain Palm Oil and Other Goods, But What are we Costing Other Species?


“As rainforests are cleared for pulp and paper and palm oil expansion, wildlife gets extracted,” Hilton said. “New roads make it easier for poachers to reach previously inaccessible areas of the forest. The wildlife trade is prolific in Sumatra. Thousands of animals are taken from their forest homes every single day, to be sold in the black market. The means of capture are traumatic and brutal. The animals are then kept in tiny cages under horrendous conditions. Once captured, the future is bleak for these animals.”

Ensuring that consumers become more informed about how their everyday buying choices impact on the lives of people and animals in faraway countries – and guiding them toward less harmful products – is key to ending the desecration of the Leuser Ecosystem and other vulnerable rainforests on our planet. To learn more about how you can play your part, check out the resources below.

Image Source: Paul Hilton/Instagram