A new video by The Ecologist documents the illegal destruction of the Leuser protected area in Sumatra for palm oil production, a vegetable oil which has become ubiquitous in many mass-produced foods and cosmetics. The destruction of the forest has pushed elephants and people together, leading to inevitable conflict with casualties on both sides. Elephants are increasingly viewed as agricultural pests for crop-raiding while locals—some of them squatting in protected land—lack the means and resources to keep elephants at bay. Meanwhile, palm oil plantations often see elephants as a threat to the palms.
The Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) was recently up-listed to Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. In 1985 there were 44 elephants ranges on the island; today there’s 23 at best. The Leuser ecosystem is the last place on Earth where elephants, rhinos, tigers, and orangutans still live together. All of these species and subspecies in Sumatra are considered Critically Endangered.