I first remember hearing about the Sumatran Elephants when I was in elementary school. Even back then, they were considered endangered species. Throughout the years, the situation has worsened. This year, they were placed on the “Critically Endangered Species” and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature stated that they are at a risk of becoming extinct by the end of the decade. These large yet serene creatures are found appropriately in the Sumatran forests of Western Indonesia. Despite their grand size, they are actually the smallest of all Asian elephants. With a lifespan of approximately seventy years, they were at one time spread across the entire forests however, currently subpopulations are scattered in a small area of the forest. Living in the lowland areas of the verdurous trees, near the rivers, Sumatran elephants usually eat up to two hundred kilograms of food each day! Talk about having a voracious appetite. The main threat to their survival comes from the destruction of their habitat. The conditions became so severe that the species has lost almost half of its population in one generation. Sumatran forests have the worst deforestation rate in the world, and it is mainly result of paper, pulp and palm oil industries. Currently, only about 2400-2800 elephants are left. Not only are the elephants’ habitat encroached upon, other species, such as the orangutans, are prone to such threats as well.
The issue of balancing economic development with habitat and biodiversity conservation is brought to light with such cases. The DeforestACTION group focuses on spreading awareness about the dire impact of habitat destruction in these areas and works with the local communities to mitigate the problem. There are several interesting ways for youth who are passionate about this issue, to get involved. For instance, you can sponsor rainforest land or an orangutan or host a DeforestACTION day at you school or community center to get the locals involved.