Orangutan Rescue in the Land of the Chainsaw

A bulldozer moves earth inside the protected Leuser Ecosystem to make way for palm oil expansion. Illegal encroachment is happening at an unprecedented rate all across Sumatra and without real enforcement huge tracts of protected forest will be lost forever.

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.

A bulldozer moves earth inside the protected Leuser Ecosystem to make way for palm oil expansion. Illegal encroachment is happening at an unprecedented rate all across Sumatra and without real enforcement huge tracts of protected forest will be lost forever. Photo: Paul Hilton for OIC

I’m back in the Leuser Ecosystem looking over a great expanse of cleared forest. Chainsaws echo in the valleys. I’m here to document an orangutan rescue for OIC (Orangutan Information Centre) and next to me is Panut Hadisiswoyo, its founder and director. His team are in the valley below following a mother and baby orangutan. OIC received a call from villages in the area about a group of men from Medan that had been asking about baby orangutans in the area and offered money to the locals for any information regarding orangutans.

Logs lay on the floor as if some kind of super typhoon has ripped through the area. Orangutan nests dot the canopy. Chainsaws start to echo in the valley once again. Sadly I’ve come to associate the sounds of chainsaws with Sumatra. Every second motorbike we passed had a chainsaw strapped to the back of it. This last patch of pristine forest will be soon cleared to make way for more oil palms.

A plam oil plantaion, Sumatra, Indonesia. A recent report by the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) revealed that the rate of forest loss in the Leuser Ecosystem has more than doubled in recent years. Analysis of satellite maps confirmed the alarming scale of forest —> Read More

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