- Chasing Deforestation is a series that explores the world’s most threatened forests through satellite data and reporters on the ground.
- The third episode focuses on the Leuser Ecosystem on Indonesia’s main western island of Sumatra, a world biodiversity hotspot that has been fighting palm oil-driven illegal logging for decades.
- Rudi Putra, an Indonesian biologist and conservationist, and Wagini, a villager in Indonesia’s Aceh province, share their experiences of how illegal deforestation has impacted their lives and what they are doing to help recover the areas destroyed.
Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil on Earth, found in things like soaps, shampoo, ice cream and instant noodles. To satiate demand, rampant clearing of primary forests for oil palm plantations has been a reality of Southeast Asian forests for decades. That’s the case of the Leuser Ecosystem, a once-pristine forest located on Indonesia’s main western island of Sumatra.
Leuser is a world biodiversity hotspot home to iconic yet critically endangered species like elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans. Hundreds of communities — about 4 million people — that surround the Leuser also depend on it for flood control, fertile soil, and water.
In this episode of Chasing Deforestation, host Romi Castagnino digs into the historical context that led to the expansion of oil palm plantations in Sumatra and the environmental and social consequences of palm oil-driven illegal logging. Most importantly, the episode dives into the conservation initiatives Indonesian citizens are doing to fight deforestation and explores the ways people from around the world can help the cause.
Watch the video to learn more about the Leuser Ecosystem, our dependence on palm oil, the work of environmental activists, and much more.
Special thanks to Rudi Putra, Wagini and Farwiza Farhan for providing footage and agreeing to be interviewed.
Banner image: Orangutan in the Leuser Ecosystem, by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.