The Leuser Rainforest in Sumatra is affectionately known as the orangutan capital of the world but during the past two decades, over 80 percent of the orangutan habitat has been destroyed and there is one culprit to blame for this widespread ruin – the palm oil industry. Palm oil can be found in around 50 percent of consumer goods, so the demand for this particular vegetable oil is devastating.
The palm oil industry is big business in Indonesia and in order to keep up with ever-increasing demand, farmers clear-cut wide swaths of the Leuser Rainforest to make room for new tracts of farmland. Experts estimate that 300 football fields of rainforest are cut down every hour to make way for palm oil plantations. Sadly, this leaves orangutans with no choice but to seek out palm oil plantations for food and shelter, but the only thing they find there is death and misery. Orangutans are viewed as pests in the industry and if they are found on plantations, they are shot on sight or captured for sale into the illegal wildlife trade.
It is estimated that the palm oil industry has been responsible for the death of 20,000 orangutans in the past decade alone – and that number is constantly growing. Luckily we have people like Paul Hilton, who are raising awareness about this issue. Hilton is a conservationist, activist, and a photographer who dedicates his life to showcasing the plight of wild animals in the hopes of bringing about change. Recently, he posted a photo of an orphaned orangutan on Instagram.
Take a moment to look into the eyes of this baby orangutan. What do you see? Fear, confusion, anxiety – probably a mixture of all three.
In the caption accompanying this stunning image, Hilton wrote, “Try to understand we all feel, and have the same fears. The future of all of us really hangs in a very delicate balance. Changes won’t happen quickly but hopefully quick enough for the next generation of critically endangered Sumatra orangutans.”
Experts believe that orangutans will be extinct in the wild in 20 years unless we make some very big changes. But we can join Paul in the fight to save the orangutans by making some very small changes in our everyday lives – it’s as simple as avoiding products made with palm oil. Now, this is not always easy as this insidious ingredient is in a crazy amount of food, but we can help you out. Check out this article on how to wean yourself off of palm oil and be sure to always check labels before purchasing snacks. You can also help by sharing this post with your friends and family and raising awareness around this issue. Together, we can save the future for orangutans.
For more photographs from Paul Hilton, click here.
Image source: Paul Hilton/Instagram