A recent investigation by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has found that PT. Agra Bumi Niaga (PT. ABN), a palm oil producer employed by multinational corporations such as PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Nestle, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble, is illegally clearing out the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran elephant in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem.
RAN used a combination of aerial drones, firsthand accounts, and satellite imagery to determine that PT. ABN has cleared 800 acres of the Sumatran elephant’s rainforest since April 2016, which is when the Indonesian government ordered palm oil producers to stop cutting down vegetation in that area.
Despite being in direct violation of that order, PT. ABN has set up plantations that produce palm oil for Wilmar International, who resells it to the multinational corporations mentioned above. Wilmar controls more than 45 percent of the global palm oil trade, according to National Geographic.
“Month over month we found active clearance by a company that had its road blocked because of its earlier violation,” Laurel Sutherlin, RAN’s senior communications strategist, told National Geographic. “For them to do it again is a scandal.”
According to National Geographic, less than 1,000 Sumatran elephants still exist in the wild, driven to extinction by palm oil producers destroying their habitats. Their migration paths take them directly through the forest, and if found on a plantation, they’re shot dead on sight. In the past decade alone, 70 percent of the Sumatran elephant population has disappeared.
“Palm oil plantations have converted 90 percent of prime Sumatran elephant habitat to a monoculture desert,” Paul Hilton, a photojournalist who focuses on the Sumatran elephant issue, told National Geographic. “The future of the critically endangered Sumatran elephant hangs on a thread.”