A Guide to Saving One of the Last Great Ecosystems

The city of Jambi, covered in a blanket of toxic smog, Sumatra, Indonesia

This article is brought to you by the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). Read our other articles on the National Geographic Voices blog featuring the work of our iLCP Fellow Photographers all around the world.

Text and Photos by iLCP Fellow Paul Hilton

The city of Jambi, covered in a blanket of toxic smog, Sumatra, Indonesia

My eyes burn and my throat is dry as we leave the city of Palembang and hit the road to Jambi in South Sumatra, Indonesia.

I’m on assignment for Wildlife Asia to document the forest fires that are choking massive areas of this country, and the threats they pose to the critically important Leuser Ecosystem and its wildlife. From East to West, fire hotspots fill the maps of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua.

The use of fire in agriculture is still common in Indonesia, particularly among palm oil producers that clear vast stretches of peatlands annually to make way for their plantations.
Indonesia made international headlines this year as one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, after fires caused by slash-and-burn activities raged out of control for months to destroy nearly three million hectares of land.
Indonesia made international headlines this year as one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, after fires caused by slash-and-burn activities raged out of control for months to destroy nearly three million hectares of land.

Schools have been closed in Singapore, and flights are cancelled across the region. Already, the carbon emissions from the burning peat forests are exceeding the entire U.S. economy, putting Indonesia on track to be one of the world’s largest carbon polluters this year.

As we pass signs for Jambi, I reflect on how it’s taken me almost two decades to get to visit one —> Read More

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