Don’t Palm Us Off!


This video speaks for itself!

Meet Green, an orangutan and victim of human impact.


Meet Green, an orangutan and victim of human impact. Follow the devastating journey as her home is destroyed by logging, clearing for palm oil plantations, and the choking haze of rainforest fires. Hauntingly poetic and without narration, the film creatively depicts the effects of consumerism on tropical rainforests as we are faced with our personal accountability in the loss of the world’s treasures.

“Green” is about the rainforest of Indonesia.  The film has no narration, it is thus accessible to all nationalities. It was produced  independently by Patrick Rouxel and is free of all commercial or political attachment.

The producers are happy for “Green” to be shared as widely as possibly. If you can – please do so.  It is very important.

Related articles

Indonesia: terror and eviction for palm oil


An indigenous woman stands in shock in front of her demolished house

This horrendous story is currently being circulated by Rainforest Rescue. The actions of these palm oil companies are totally unacceptable, and unless something is done soon, the indigenous peoples will have nothing left at all, and the rest of the world can kiss goodbye to the irreplaceable Indonesian rainforests. They cannot, however, stand up to these insatiable corporations alone. They need help – lots of help.

“On the morning of December 11, I heard men rattling my door,” said Basron, a 41-year-old resident of the Pinang Tinggi settlement. He then found himself confronted by an armed troop of soldiers, police officers, staff of the PT Asiatic Persada palm oil company and hired thugs.

“These houses are all slated for eviction and demolition today,” one of the men said. A little later, Basron watched as a bulldozer reduced his hut to splinters. In Jambi Province in Sumatra, a total of 1,500 men descended on the helpless indigenous Suku Anak Dalam and evicted them from their huts. At least 296 houses in four villages were looted and demolished in early December 2013.

For almost three decades, Asiatic Persada has been persecuting the forest dwellers – in 1986, the company started to cut down their rainforest for plantations. Yet the people stood firm – until December 2013.

Vast rainforest areas are being cleared for new palm oil plantations in response to the EU’s agrofuel policy. Palm oil imports from the tropics are soaring to meet growing demand for biodiesel: 2.5 million tons were imported in the first half of 2013 – a 63 percent increase over the same period the previous year.

The most important producer of palm-oil biodiesel is Neste Oil Corporation. The Finnish government maintains a 51% controlling interest in the company, which operates the world’s largest biodiesel refineries in Singapore and Rotterdam, each with an annual capacity of one billion litres.

Environmentalists in Cameroon need your support!

Please call on the EU and the governments of its member countries to stop the mandatory blending of biofuels and abolish imports of tropical vegetable oils.

Start of campaign: Dec 23, 2013

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 78 – The Togian Islands Babirusa


Babirusa wallowing in mud

“The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different”
Hippocrates

With those outlandish tusks, these wonderful creatures were always destined to be the inspiration for all sorts of fabulous legends. There is no other mammal known to man who sports this headgear.  Left alone with few natural predators, elusive and shy, the islanders have been in awe of the babirusa for centuries.  In native legend, they are said to use their tusks to hang upside down from trees in the night and sleep.  Some say they hook their tusks over low branches to support their heads whilst they sleep, while others say the males hang in the trees to spy on the females!

Babirusa tusksIndonesian people make demonic masks based on the bizarre appearance of this unique curly tusked pig.  The Balinese Hindu-era Court of Justice pavilion and the “floating pavilion” of Klungkung palace ruins are famous for the painted babirusa raksasa  (grotesques) on the ceilings – the paintings depicting scenes of the horrors awaiting the profoundly immoral and wicked after death.

They are only hunted locally for meat by non-Muslim communities.  Muslim villagers do not hunt them because of their distant pig connection.  “Pigs are haram – considered unclean, forbidden to eat or touch, and best avoided entirely”.   Actually, the hippopotamus connection is much stronger, but, nevertheless, the babirusa is still a pig.

Bearing all this in mind, and the fact that they have such a lush forest home to forage in, albeit fast disappearing, you would think these shy and retiring creatures would have quite a decent chance of flourishing.  But, no!  They are very much under threat. Extensive illegal logging is destroying these ancient animals and their ancient forest home.  Hunting is rife and they are in demand as zoo exhibits.

Togian babirusas are much larger than their cousins, the better-known north Sulawesi babirusa.  They have a well-developed tail-tuft, and the upper canines of the male are relatively “short, slender, rotated forwards, and always converge”.   Babirusas can reach up to over three and a half feet in length and can weigh up to two hundred and twenty pounds.  Males tend to be larger than females. They have grey to brown skin, sparsely covered with briskly hair, and long, thin legs.  Their snouts are also thin and they have small ears. Tusks come in fours.

Babirusa groupThe tusks can grow up to one foot in length, with the upper canines growing through the upper lip and arching towards the eyes.  These tusks grow continuously throughout the animal’s lifetime.  If they are not worn down or snapped off they can pierce the skull.  The upper tusks of females are of normal size, but, they can be absent altogether.  Male babirusa sharpen their lower tusks on trees, but not so the upper curved ones.  This may be one of the reasons these become so long and curly; they are simply left to grow.  With the tusks sited as they are, barbirusa are unable to root under the dirt for food.  Instead they use their hooves to dig for insects and their larva.

Babirusas have a superb senses of smell and hearing, both of which are gainfully employed to find food and avoid predators. They are also excellent swimmers and very fleet of foot.  They can run as fast as the deer.

And, they absolutely love wallowing in the mud.  Not only does this cool them off, and its fun, but it rids the babirusas of the parasites and insects which live on their skin.

Babirusa piglet born Tampa's Lowry ZooThe breeding season ranges from January to August, after which there is a gestation period of one hundred and fifty-eight days. Normally, two piglets will be birthed.  The little ones will not be weaned until they are six or eight months old, but their diet will have been enriched with solids, starting ten days after birth.

Once thought to be a sub-species of the Babirusa (Babirusa), the Togian Islands Babirusa (Babyrousa togeanensis) is now recognised as a separate species.  Of all four species of Babyrousa, Babyrousa togeanensis is the only one listed as endangered.  The other three species are all considered vulnerable  –  at the moment!

The name “babirusa” means “pig deer”, referring to the resemblance between the tusks and the antlers of the deer.

The average lifespan of babirusas can be as little as ten years in the wild and as much as twenty-four years in captivity.

Although they physically resemble pigs, fossil records show them to be in the hippopotamus family.  However, as only one fossil has ever been found, there is still some debate about this.

Habitat
Tropical rainforest on riverbanks and ponds, where there is a plentiful supply of aquatic plants.  They can also be found in secondary forest, freshwater swamps and beaches.
Where
Indonesia:  The Togian Archipelago, between the northern and eastern Sulawesi peninsulas.
What they eat
Leaves, roots, fruit, invertebrates and small vertebrates.
Threats
Habitat loss through forest clearance and forest fires.  Human disruption and hunting by local villagers.  Hunting for food only occurs in non-Muslim communities.
In 1998 almost 70% of the forest was damaged by fire on Malenge Island.  No barbirusa carcasses were found and the species have been seen returning to these areas since, but the fire affected their food supply.

Status: Endangered
The Togian Islands Babirusa (Babyrousa togeanensis), is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It has also been included on Cites Appendix 1 since 1982.  Under Indonesian law, all species of babirusa have been fully protected since 1931. However, hunting remains a significant threat.  The Tongian Islands were designated a Marine National Park in 2004.


Related Articles
The many babirusa species

Conservation – Reclaiming Our Identity

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 70 – The Asian Elephant


Asian elephant

Image: World Wide Fund for Nature

“Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character; and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man”
Arthur Schopenhauer

Asian elephant pulling log uphill  Photo by Zafer KizilkayaEveryday, more elephants are captured for illegal logging operations.  Forced to aid the destruction of their own natural habitat, they move around in chains hauling away huge trees, clearing the way for more palm oil plantations.  With their habitat gone, the free herds are compelled to move towards human settlements in search of food and shelter. They have nowhere else to go.  They have no choice other than to leave behind the remnants of their forests and head towards the villages.  Those that do flee are often on the point of starvation. Unfortunately, on the move, they are inclined to do a great deal of damage.  This has brought humans and elephants to the point of war in Asia.

Villagers are laying traps for elephants, tormenting and torturing them, and even killing them.  But, it is hard to blame them sometimes.  A moving elephant can, and does, trample crops, demolish homes and kill people.  And it is happening a lot.  But, that doesn’t mean the fault lies with the elephant either.

The blame for this appalling situation falls squarely on the shoulders of the greedy, callous and criminal plantation owners.  Those who see littleDeforestationin Sumatra other than a cash crop.  The West cannot get enough of palm oil, and there are few products that do not contain it.  And, these insatiable pillagers of the forests intend to meet the demand regardless of the absolute devastation they are causing to the irreplaceable and magnificent rainforests and the dependent inhabitants.

As most of us are aware, elephants are not small.  The average Asian adult male comes in at about five and a half tons.  They grow up to nine feet at the shoulder and can be as long as twenty-one feet from trunk to tail  (the tail being just under five feet long).  Females tend to be smaller.  The ears of the Asian elephant are much smaller than those of the African elephant and coincidentally resemble the shape of the India subcontinent.

Asian elephants at mud-holeIn Asian elephants, unlike their African cousins, only the males have tusks.  If any are found in females, they  (the ‘tushes’)  are barely visible.  Tusks are, in fact, elongated incisors which continue to grow throughout the elephant’s life. They are used for eating, digging for water, debarking trees, social interactions and as weapons.

Elephants usually mate during the rainy season.  After a gestation period of twenty-two months, a single calf will be born (twins are very rare).  The calf will weigh about two hundred and fifty pounds at birth.   When born, calves suckle through the mouth.  At this point the trunk does not have enough developed muscle to be of any use.  Several months will need to pass before it is able to gain full use of it.  The bond between mother and calf is known to be strong, but others in the herd will help out with the infant’s care.   Once males have reached adolescence, they will be pushed away from the group.   Most will become part of bachelor groups until they reach full maturity and go it alone.

Habitat
A wide variety of forests, grasslands and scrublands.
Where
Asian elephants occur in isolated populations in thirteen range States in parts of India and South-east Asia, including Sumatra and Borneo.
What they eat
Grasses, roots, fruit, and bark – and in enormous quantities.  One adult alone can get through up to 300 pounds of food in a day. They are also known to eat cultivated crops such as sugar cane and bananas.
Threats
Capture for domestic use;  this has become a major problem for some populations and numbers have been reduced significantly.  Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation are also huge threats.  Poaching and conflict with humans is on the rise. 
Status: Endangered
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 1. Estimates put the population, across all range States, as being between thirty-nine and fifty thousand in the wild, with a further thirteen thousand kept as working or former-working elephants. There are obvious difficulties in collecting this sort of data, so exact figures have never been published. What is certain, is that over half the elephants occur in India.
Various agencies and organisations are working towards reducing conflict between local communities and the elephants. This includes approaches to crop protection, community-based guarding methods to safely repel the onslaught of elephants and education and promotion of elephant conservation throughout Asia.

Related links
Deforestation is Killing the Asian Elephant

Asian Elephants Are Being Smuggled Into Thailand To Tightrope Walk For Tourists
A tusk-less future for the Asian elephant

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 61 – The Sumatran Tiger


Sumatran tiger in jungle

Image: Creative Commons

Description
From the eyes on its head to the whiskers on its face, there is not a single bit of the tiger that does not promise a cure for something.  Or, so decree the Oracles of Chinese traditional medicine.  And, if the Chinese are not boiling the tiger, grinding its bones into powder or making soup of it, others are selling it on the black market for as much as twenty thousand dollars per animal.  Live beasts are good, but dead pose little problem. And, of course, there is always a little bit of sport involved, too.  Then there are the land robbers, committing large scale pillage and rape.  They have logged, cleared, burnt, converted, planted and settled.  And, they show no signs of easing up until they have fully exploited the Sumatran tiger’s habitat.  The situation, by the admittance of Indonesian forestry officials, is now way out of control.  We are, in case you haven’t already guessed, back in Sumatra;  an island where they seem very practised at forcing species towards extinction.

Sumatran tigers can be distinguished by their thinner stripes.  Male Sumatrans have long fur around their faces, giving them a maned appearance.  They are smaller than other subspecies, with an average male weighing about two hundred and sixty-five pounds. Females are less heavy at about two hundred pounds.  Males grow up to eight feet in length, and females, a slightly shorter seven feet.

Tigers kill swiftly and painlessly.  A tiger will ambush its prey from behind and administer one fatal bite to the neck.  The spinal cord will break and death is almost always instantaneous.  They will then drag their prey out of sight.  They can eat up to forty pounds at a time, and will save what they don’t eat for later.  They are spectacular swimmers and have been known to chase their prey into water to gain an advantage. They live in dens and caves, and sometimes tree hollows;  they are mostly nocturnal and invariably solitary.

There is no specific breeding season for tigers, but mating often takes place between November and April, following which there is a gestation period of about three and a half months.  Three or four cubs will be born in a cave, a rocky crevice, or in dense vegetation. For the first few days their eyes and ears will remain closed.  The father of the cubs will not be involved in raising them.  They will stay within the confines of the den until they reach eight weeks.  At the age of six months they will begin their lessons in killing prey. However, their first lone kill will not be until they are about eighteen months old.  Cubs normally stay with their mothers until they are two or three years of age.  The juvenile mortality is high, however, and sadly, almost half of all cubs do not survive beyond the age of two.

The Sumatran tiger is the smallest of the five tiger subspecies.  It has lived exclusively, for over a million years, in the once extensive moist tropical jungles of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Although tigers have been killed as a result of human conflict, the most significant numbers of killings have been for financial gain.  Poaching for trade is responsible for over 78% of estimated Sumatran tiger deaths, consisting of at least 40 animals per year.  There is no evidence that this trade is declining.

Almost sixty-seven thousand square kilometres of forest was lost between 1985 and 1997.  Most of that was lowland forest, the preferred habitat of the Sumatran tiger.  Since then, the annual rate of deforestation has increased dramatically.

If these illegal activities are not stamped out soon, or at least brought under control, there will be no future for the Sumatran tiger.

Habitat
Montane and peat forests, lowlands, swamps and rivers.
Where
The Indonesian island of Sumatra.
What they eat
Young rhinos, various pigs and members of the deer family.   It will also feast on smaller prey such as snakes, fish, monkeys and tapirs.
Threats
Habitat loss, illegal logging, depletion of prey base, human conflict and poaching.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Sumatran tiger  (Panthera tigris sumatrae)  is listed on the IUCN List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.  Most wild tigers live in the various National Parks of Sumatra.    Others, about 20% of the overall population, live in unprotected areas.  However, the square acreage of these supposedly protected National Parks is constantly dwindling due to illegal agriculture. The growing of coffee has become a major concern.  This issue, and others, can only be addressed by a) the law being strictly enforced – which it most certainly is not at the moment, and b) making the penalties far more severe that they are.

It is thought three hundred of the species may still survive in Sumatra in the wild. There are roughly the same amount kept in zoos.  “The European breeding programme and the Global Management Species Programme for Sumatran tigers are both coordinated by ZSL London Zoo – where ZSL’s specialists are responsible for ensuring a healthy and diverse population of tigers in zoos around the world.” [1]
There are various international organisations and trusts who are trying to help the Sumatran tiger, but unless something is done to halt the destruction of the forests soon, the Sumatran tiger will go the way of the Javan and Balinese tigers.  Both of which are now extinct.

“Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all”
Aristotle

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 59 – The Sumatran Elephant


Sumatran elephants in the jungle

Image: Green Global Travel

Description
Why is somewhere so richly bio-diverse as Indonesia losing its wildlife at such an alarming rate?  Why are the Sumatran tiger, the Javan and Sumatran rhino, and the Sumatran orangutan, all endangered?  And, why was the Sumatran elephant moved from endangered to critically endangered, on the IUCN Red List, in 2012?  Collectively, difficult questions to find the answers to, perhaps!

Well, no… not really.  There is no mystery attached at all.  It is not poaching, disease or the illegal pet trade, but  palm oil  which they have fallen victim to, and which has now become the principal threat to the survival of the Sumatran elephant.  For goodness sakes people, stop buying palm oil-based products now.  Palm oil is ‘liquid ivory'”  [1]  to the unscrupulous.  Do not feed the greed. This elephant is rapidly losing its habitat, and dying off at a terrifying rate because of it.

For a full, up to date report on the destruction caused by palm oil plantations,  click here.   Trust me – it will both shock and disgust you.

The Sumatran elephant is a recognised subspecies of the Asian elephant, and native to the Indonesia island of Sumatra.  These magnificent creatures can grow to between seven and ten feet at the shoulder.  They weigh in at an incredible six and a half to eleven thousand pounds, and surprisingly can run up to twenty-seven miles per hour.  They have leathery grey skin and smaller ears than African elephants. They also have an extra pair of ribs.  Females tend to be smaller than males and often do not have tusks.  Those that do, have them tucked safely away under the upper lip. That surely has to be a plus for the Sumatran elephant.

Elephants wallow a lot.  This endearing habit is very important.  It protects their skin from harmful insect bites and cools them down at the same time.  They also migrate, following strict routes.  The herd is led by the eldest elephant who is expected to remember its herd’s route from the previous trek.  Migration takes place between the wet and dry seasons, when they can walk up to seven kilometres in a single night.  Should they need to cross rivers, elephants are able to submerge themselves underwater and use their trunks as snorkels.  On their travels, they communicate with each other using sounds produced by soft vibrations of the trunk.  These sounds can be heard by other elephants up to five kilometres away.

There is no particular breeding season for elephants, but the rainy season seems quite popular.  Females are ready to breed by the time they are ten years old.  There is a gestation period of twenty-two months, after which a single calf will be born.  Calves weigh about one hundred kilos and are normally taken care of by other females in the herd, as well as the mother.  Infants stay with their mothers until they are five years old.

Who is responsible for the decline of the Sumatran elephant?
(An excerpt from the Rainforest Action Network factsheet on palm oil plantations)

“North American food and agribusiness companies purchase from, operate, and own many palm oil plantations in South-east Asia, making our corporations a powerful force in the palm oil market.
The largest privately owned company in the U.S., Cargill dominates the American palm oil market. They own five palm oil plantations in Indonesia and PNG and are the largest importer of palm oil into the U.S., sourcing from at least 26 producers and buying roughly 11 percent of Indonesia’s total oil palm output. A large and growing number of investigations have shown that Cargill’s palm oil is directly destroying forests, eliminating biodiversity and harming forest peoples.”

Companies such as Nestlé and Unilever are also heavily involved.

Read more:  Problem with Palm Oil Factsheet | Rainforest Action Network

Habitat
Lowland forests.
Where
Sumatra – Indonesia.
What they eat
Green vegetation and fruit.  The Sumatran elephant  and can munch its way through two hundred kilos of food a day.
Threats
Mainly oil palm plantations, followed closely by timber plantations for pulp and paper production, and land clearance for agricultural use. Elephants have also been shot and poisoned by local farmers.  Natural predators are few.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Sumatran elephant  (Elephas maximus sumatranus)  is listed on the  IUCN List of Threatened Species  as Critically Endangered.  There are an estimated two thousand of the species left in the wild.  The World Wide Fund For Nature predicts that within 30 years this South-east Asian elephant could be extinct.  The Sumatran elephant is protected under Indonesian law, though this has not been enforced efficiently in the past.  This year,  WWF  have been working with partners in Sumatra to  “prevent destruction of forest habitat and secure well-managed protected areas and wider forest landscapes connected by corridors”.  The government of Indonesia has now passed a new law setting maximum boundaries land use.  This has upset the plantation owners and their investors.  “For example, the production target of 40 million tons of palm oil by 2020 is in jeopardy”.  [1]

For a full, up to date report on the destruction caused by palm oil plantations,  click here. (just in case you missed it at the beginning)

“We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to”
Terry Swearingen