Humans have become incredibly entitled when it comes to how we interact with animals. We kidnap animals and rip them away from their families so that we can stick them in a glass enclosure and gawk at them. We get our hands on animals to sell them into the illegal wildlife trade where they will become tourists props or lonely and abused pets. And we infiltrate lush, biodiverse forests where animals are living in peace and make them feel like trespassers in their own home. The palm oil industry actually does all three of these things, and considering that palm oil can be found in 50 percent of all consumer goods, this industry has a lot of reason to stay in business. In Indonesia, iIt’s currently estimated that around 300 football fields of rainforest are leveled to make way for palm oil plantations every hour.

This horrific act of destruction leaves hundreds of animals, mostly elephants and orangutans, without a home. Without the protection their natural habitat used to provide, these animals become increasingly susceptible to poaching. This not only robs adult elephants of their lives, but it leaves baby elephants orphaned. And sadly, unless a rescue organization steps in to help, the babies usually die trying to fend for themselves. Recently, photojournalist Paul Hilton shared the story from 2014 of a baby elephant named Agam. Agam was a Sumatran elephant whose mother died after “trespassing” on a palm oil plantation and ingesting poison. This sweet ellie waited by his mother’s decomposing body for days before he was found and rescued. Sadly, Agam passed away after suffering complications from a broken hip.

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Agam represents one of the thousands of elephants left motherless thanks to the palm oil industry. These animals have been driven out of their home and are killed like “pests” if they dare to come back. 

Elephant

To say humans have overstepped their bounds in their quest for palm oil would be an understatement. There are only around 1,300 Sumatran elephants left in the wild, so it is critical that we put an end to this completely unnecessary practice. The reality is, without their jungle home, these elephants will never be able to recover and there is a high probability that they will be extinct within our lifetimes. While it can seem almost impossible that our actions can have an impact on animals across the globe, just one look at the decimated forests of Sumatra and Borneo says otherwise. Just like our food choices affect the planet, so do our shopping choices. Because of this, it has become clear that the most profound action you can take to help Sumatran elephants is to cut palm oil out of your life as much as possible. For some guidance on how to do that, check out these resources:

Image source: Paul Hilton/Instagram 

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