The Forgotten Elephants of the Leuser Ecosystem
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
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.
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.