The Forgotten Elephants of the Leuser Ecosystem

Newborn Sumatran elephant at the CRU IN Tangkahan, Leuser ecosystem, August 2015. Photo: Paul Hilton for RAN

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

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Newborn Sumatran elephant at the CRU IN Tangkahan, Leuser ecosystem, August 2015. Photo: Paul Hilton for RAN

Two birds just miss the windscreen as our 4×4 drives across a palm oil plantation. A lone tree stands out in the distance––the forest has been cleared all around and the earth has been stripped bare to make way for more and more palm oil. Beyond this clearance, the calls of hornbills can be heard and pristine rainforest still stands.

Newly cleared land on a palm oil plantation, Pt Tuilsng Raya, Aceh Timor, within the Leuser ecosystem, August 2015. Photo: Paul Hilton for RAN

I’m on assignment for Rainforest Action Network (RAN), documenting both the beauty and the destruction of the lowland rainforests of the Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. The Leuser Ecosystem is a 2.6 million hectare biodiversity hotspot containing mountains, tropical rainforest, lowland forest and peat swamps. It is the last place on Earth where critically endangered Sumatran elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans still roam side by side. Millions of people living in the province of Aceh rely on the Leuser Ecosystem for their food, water and livelihoods.

Forest canopy in the Leuser ecosystem, August 2015. Photo: Paul Hilton for RAN
Forest canopy in the Leuser ecosystem, August 2015. Photo: Paul Hilton for RAN
A Sumatran Orangutan is pictured in the Leuser ecosystem, August 2015. Photo: Paul Hilton for RAN
A Sumatran Orangutan is pictured in the Leuser ecosystem, August 2015. Photo: Paul —> Read More

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