How snack foods are destroying the Leuser Ecosystem

April 13, 2017

How snack foods are destroying the Leuser Ecosystem

What does your slice of pizza have to do with rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans? These animals exist together in the Leuser Ecosystem, in Indonesia, and it’s in this ecosystem that palm oil plantations threaten the habitat of these and hundreds of other species. Leuser is not as widely known as the Amazon rainforest, yet it provides an estimated $31.3 trillion worth of ecosystem services because of its abundance of plant and animal species, forests, and peatlands.

Palm oil is an ingredient found in many everyday products and foods – things like potato chips, candy bars, cosmetics and yes even pizza (dough). Palm oil companies have cleared and continue to clear some of the most critical landscapes in the world to make room for their crops. In the process, they are destroying critical ecosystems and threatening the culture and livelihoods of local communities. Despite the Indonesian government’s moratorium on forest destruction for palm oil – rogue companies persist.

In response LDF grantee, the Rainforest Action Network and their allies are working to stop these destructive forces by pressuring palm oil producers and buyers to halt these practices.  Recently RAN launched “Leuser Watch” an initiative that aggressively investigates and documents these violations. In this watchdog role, they are able to ramp up their monitoring efforts via drone videos and other tools that can capture illegal activity.

A recent RAN field investigation for example documented evidence of habitat destruction by a palm oil company which enabled them to uncover a supply chain connection that links the company to major global brands and their shared supplier. RAN is calling on these companies to demand that they trace the palm oil they process to the plantation level to eliminate suppliers that have failed to enforce the moratorium. We as individuals can do our part by urging those companies as well. Even if it means giving up our favorite snack.


Kristina Haddad
Director of Wildlife & Landscape Conservation

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