tv Earth Focus LINKTV March 28, 2016 4:30pm-5:01pm PDT
>> totoday on " "earth focus"... elephants on the edge of extinction--two stories from asia, coming up on "earth focus." beneath thehe canopy of indonesia's rainforest, life comes together to produce an amazing symphony of wild sounds. [whistling] [low growl] [roaring] [chirping] [bellowing] but now, , the rainfoforest's mt booming voice is increasingly hard to find. [deep trumpet] the sumatran elephant teeters on the edge of extinction, and
there's no one else to blame but ourselves. [loud buzzing] it's here in grocery storores where thehe fate of i indonesian elelephants begins. you may have never heard of it, but palm oil, a common vegetable oil, , has been a growing presee on supermarket shelves since the 1990s. it's high yield, versatilility, and p price maket an exceptional competitor against alternative vegetable oils. today, palm oil and its deririvatives arare present t i% of all packaged food. products like bread, cookies, chocolate, chips, and even shower soap.
the consumer benefits, but the sumatran elephants pay a prpric. their habitat is cleared by legal andnd illegal loggers to make room for palm oil planantations. we sent ourur u.. field producer jim wickens to the aceh region of north sumatra. here the leuser ecosystem m is one of the last remaining strongholds for indonesian wildlilife. it's a 6-million-acre protected park, but it's being illegally cut down to make room for palm oil. >> wewe've e driven intnto the r ecosyststem. this is a place e f tigers, elephphants, rhinos, and orangutans. it's susupposed to e protecteded. but we'veve been td off by rangegers here that there is illegal deforestation going onon as we speak. we're going to go and try to film them and get t right up close to the destructction.
keep going. we've been hiking for hours to get here, right on the edge of where the trees are being cut d down. i'm standnding just ters from whwhere the chainsawas are opererating. i'm whihisperig because we'veve been tolold by r guguides that these e people are highly dangerorous. [chainsaws in backgrouound] and it's likekely to get violent if wewe move any closer. [man shououts in didistncnce] you cacan hear the trerees fallg through the canopy. it's one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. [chopping]] and it's beining destroyed. every day we consume palm oil, labeled as vegetable oil. and a lot of it is coming from
hehere indndonesia. the'vv converted t the lowlands alread. and now the palm oioil plantatis are e moving up p and up thehe , toto here, leeuser raiinforest. we've gotta go. >> leuserer isn't the onlnly ple experiencing deforestation. sincnce 1985, more than 50% of e forests in sumamatra have b been cleared, not just for palm oil plantations, but also for paper, wood, mines, , and road infrastructure. what took thousands ofof years to grow is coming down at an alarming rate. >> look at that.
we traraveled d for over r an h, deep into t this palm o oil plantatition, till w we've got , the f front line of the expansi. this expapansion here is illegal under indonenesian law, and it's all happening for p palm oi this timbmber wilbebe shippededf to market, and in its place, in a matter ofof days, yououng m oil seedlings wiwill be planted. >> palm m oil is one of the momt widespreread vegetable oils throughout the world. within indonesia itself and also china and india, the 3 of them account for f more than h half of the, uh, the world's consumption of palm oil. but the u.s. and european unioion are also major players and can rereally, you
knknow, set the standard fofor others to follow. >> we all know about the charismatic megafauauna that lie in africica--elephants, ons,s, hippos, thingsikike that. i guess whwhat's less knowown to the inteternational communityy are t the chaharismaticegafafaua inin asia, anand particulularly sumatra. . so here wewe have ac, 3.5 million hectares of rainforest, it contains about a third of ththe sumatran elepht population, uh, possibly a third of ththe sumatran tiger popatation.t cocontns neaeay 90% of f the sumatran oraututan poputition. 'crititilly importanfor the surviv o of rge mammals, nojust in suatra b b across asia as ll. lephants pfer lowland fore haitat. th'their primeme habita that's also t h habit oror t lananthat's most mand f a agrictural lantations or for gggging concesons as wl. thexpansion palm l pltatitions rtainly s bebeen
a kecontribur to eleant fest hatat loss. at' wihout aoubt. >> the future of this mountain elephant is b bleak. it's a r ry difficicult situation. as s lons there's a demand fofor oil palm there's going to be a demand to clear lowland rainforestt in sumatra. >> the didistinct and uniquee ssumatran elephant is s now considdered critically enendangered, meanining that i'n imminent danger of extinctioion. >> you know, when you don't have governments, when you don''t hae enforcement, a y you got thehe chance to me pipiles of mononey, guess what''s ggonna happepen. right, and we're s seeing that play out. from a pure economic standpoint, you've got to sort of look at all the politicalal actors. the palm oil is generating revenue for the government in termsms of export taxes on palm oil,l, in terms of papayroll taxes and paymyments o sococial secucurity systems and all of t the government programs. palm oil is more valuable than the forest right now because of the way we value forests. >> while indonesia is looking to
scale up its p production of pam oil, thisis will come at a great cost. it wiwill come at a great cost to o the enenvironment ande ecosystem. >> with their old homes ddeforested, elephantsts and otr wildlife have toto move somewhe. it's here in farmiming villages thaat humans a and elephanants cocollide. inin aceh, comommunis rely on agriculture, and when elephants begin eating those crops, conflicts become deadly.. >> [speaking local language]
>> loss of life isn'tew to the pepeople of aceh. for over 30 years,s, violent c clashes occcd between rebels and the jakarta government, until 2004, when a peace treaty was signed. over 15,000 people died in that conflict. two yes after r the peace treaty, aceh was hit by a series of deadly floods, killing dozens. experts believe extensive logging in the surroundinhills causused the floods. >> [speaking lolocal languauage]
>> with money on the line, 'ss oftenen hard to f find solutitis tthat are good for bototh people and elephants. but with no solutions at all, the conflicts can turn ugly. baby elephants are often cacaptured, domesticated, and used for entertatainment. >> [s[speaking lolocal language] [elephanant owlsls] >> this isis rajah t the elephan he''s been named byby the villas who found him in a trap, o on a plantationon about a month a.. apparently y he'ss just over a r old. as cute as he is, it's a really tragic story. he's on his own, chained up, padlocked, well away from his family, where he should be leararning the skis to sururvive in ththe wild. and efeffectively,y, he's s now dooo a life of... being i in a camp p somewhere. and this s is--this i is rely vy
muchch the heaeart of the e prom here in n sumatra. t the communy are telllling us that they'y're really fed upup with the e elephants s coming in and taking food d crops everery, from the wild. and ththey feel pretetty strongly about, y you , the g government needs toto help themem, not the e elephants.s. d theyey're e refusing to let rajh go, to give him to t government vets, unntil they y t compensation f for their crops. >> that compensation never came, and shortly after these images were taken, rajah died. > [speaking local language] >> the body of an elephant lies rotting on the forest floor. a casualty of the human/elephant conflict, this elephant was killed using rat poison.
as more palm oil is planted and more habitat cleared, more elephants will find a similar fate. conflict elephants that aren't poisoned are often capturured ad placed in government-run camps. forcibly taken from their herds, these elephants now face a lifetime of captivity. despitite the best effort of government employees at the camps, the i issue of what to do with these so-called problem elephants remains largely unsosolved. one e nonprofit organizatation, fauna & flora international, , is trying g to help. theheir conservatio response uninit, or cru, made up of 14 elephants, is being dedeployed to o prevent human/wildlifefe conflict. in communities where conflicts
um,m, and also in the shortrt t. at the end of the e day, a as elhahant habitat shrks,, elephphants are g going to spend more and more time coming out of the forest. so the lonong-term solution is not community based initiatives to drive elephants back to the forest. the long-term solution is to make sure there's enough room for the elepephants to live in t the nal habitat without t having to come intoto human hababitation. >> the best h hope to conservee tthe sumatraran elephantnt is actualally to o conserve t the n aceh, because that's where the bbiggest populatations are.. so in order to conserve the eleephants, we've got to consere those lowland rainforests, which means conserving leuser. >> graham usheher is trying to o just ththat. he is s a man on aa mission.n. he is using new technology to capture an aerial view of ththe illegal logging opererations. he h hopes it t wl help protect elephphant habitat.
>> we've been flying a uav, unmanned aerial vehicle. that gives us the capacity to fly program missions over a set route with cameras anand other sensors on n board, s so we can basicically get a an aerial vie what's gogoing on on the ground. >> [indistinct] >> ok, can you hold this? ok, she''s on course. good airspee ground speed's ok.. today we saw that a very large areaea of regrgrowth forest in e leuser ecosystem has been cleared and is being replanted with palm oil. this sort of work, collection of evidence, provides us with a much stronger case when you go to decisionmakekers and sayay, , this is what's s going on. . the are your laws. whwhy isn't actin
beingng taken? it's very likely that palm oil from these, uh, illegalllly logged areas wililld up onon supermarkrket shelves unless we are very, very careful. >> as consumers, we need to be far more wary of which products contain n palm oil and putt pressure on the retailers and the food indudustryo o ensu that thosose products contain p palml that comes from sustainable souources. >> > we do haveve an opportrtun. previous to all of this, it was really a seller's market, although there was much more demand than there was supply. an so this i is really the time to really push hardrd aund d the palm issue, because it is gonna be about access to o markets. so we''ve got a littttle bit of leverage, but t we really soso hahave to takeke the fightht ane conversation to the chinas, the indiaias, and thehe indonesias, becausehehey have a g great, grt role in terms of being able to put market pressure and t try to change it.
>> [speaking local languagage] >> whenever i go to sumatra, whenever i walk into the forest in sumatra, it's like walking into a wall of diversity. it's incredible. if we coould save sumatran elephants in t the lowwland areas of sumumatra, we we would be saving so much moree than elephphants. that to me is the crux, is this huge amount of bibiodiversityty that you'u'e saving by protecting the--this mamagnificicent creature that ie sumatraran elephantnt.
>> if we don't takake urge action, a fefew years down the roroad we willll be looking at e leuser ecosystem and d saying, my god, why didn't we do more when n we had the chance? >> for baby elephants like this, the future remains uncertain. if deforestation continues, it is unlikikely the susumatran elephanants will survive. but people can make a difference before it's ttoo late and the elephants disappear forever. whwhile elephants in susumatra e habitat loss from palm oil, elephants in thailand face e a completely different set of problems.s. here, tourism is ffueling the illegal trarade of baby elephants. >> [speaking thahai] >> elephant rides, festivals,
and camps are a must for thousands of tourists who flock toto thailand each yearar. but beyond the happy smiles, there is a dark reality behind the origin of these elephants. a brutal trade that experts claim threatens the survival of some of the world's last remaining populations of asian elelephants. >> we traveled to the region of chiang mai in northern thailand, home to many of the elephant camps enjoyed by tourists. >> there have been recent sites basesed in africa watching elephantnts, among other t thin, for a veryry, ryry lontimeme, whereas in asia there's very little e research has been n do. very little has been said about the dramatic drop in population.
no one would have any idea that this species isis also endanger. >>ohohn roberts s runsn elelepht camp. he was one ofof the firsto recognize the link between the supply of elephants for the tourism industry and elephant hunting in the wild. >> we've beenumpiping up andd dowwn saying, , if you buyuy an elephant, you''re prprobably tag ananother elepephant out of thte wild. we realized very early on that buying elephants was causing a problblem and hururtig the wild popululation or a at ls thee burmese p population. >> the hunting of wild elephants is illegal in thailand, but experts claim the practice is widespread in neighboring burma, and itit threatens the lasast healthy popopulations s asian elephants that reside there. baby elephants are particularly sought after. >> it's very attractivive to totourists or thaiai people, so evererybody wants baby elelepha, and ththey are worth a lot of money. you don'n't need any documents, no microchip, so it's super e easy. you go into t the jungle, you catchch an elephant, you trtrain them, , and a mononh later you can get likeke 600,000
baht, and if you can imagine how much money t this is in n thaild and d how easy it is to dodo... >> teams of hunters surround herds of elephants, killing the parents and other adults who try to defend their young. investigations have revealed that as many as 5 adults m may e slain for every calflf captured. the defenseless calves are then smuggled across the border. these e rarely seen images s shw elephants being forced to endure a cruel spirit-breaking ritual known as the fashong. these activities take place in remote camps on the e burmese boborderr fromom the publilic eye. >> in thailand, they use sharp things to stab them. theyey use knives, they use axe, they use a stick to beat them. anything that will make the elephant painful and afraid of people. a lot of them die. we have a
record how ththe elephantnt die. die e from suffocate, die e from ststarvation, die from m the st, and somme of them diee from the heartbreak because they y uldn't accept it. >> while the lucrative trade in wild elephant smuggling is illegal in thailand, lekek alles that it involves corruption on various levels. >> have the police involved, have thehe militarary involved. you know, if you want to make birth certificate or i.d. card, you can fake it. big money for the e official t to issue the p. >> once you are confronting these infnfluential p people tht are abobove the law, it can g gt quite dangerous. there were some camp owners that like told me literarally that i if i was a ay i would be dead a already. >> shortly before the making of this film, a local informant in the area disappeared. activists fear the worst but carry on nevertheless. >> people who work with the animal in this coununtry, t th'e afraid. myself, i afraid, , too,
but to be honest, the animal are more afrfraid. >> we put these allegations to the deputy director of the nattional parks authoritity, whe remit isis to protect and police the coununtry's wildlife. >> [speaking thai] >> but despite such assurances, evidence suggests trade in wild calves is still ongoing. >> investigations in ththe last 6 months and conversatitions hae beenen had with tradaders and elelephant owowners have e showt least 14 w wild-caughtht calvese bebeen traded d across the boder from burmrma into thahai camps. aand we believe this is justst a fraction of the numbers. >> elephant advocates claim the
presence of scarreded baby elephants at the recent surin elephant festival also hihighlight ththe need foror urt action. >> the world has lost u up to 9% of its asian n elephants in t te last 100 years. and unless actualally more isis done to prt this species and stop activities susuch as thee illegal l live t, then we're g going to lose the asian n elephant in the wiwild foforever.r. what we're e askinr is only a registration of captive bull l calves so o that they're actuaually registstered within two weeks of f birth. and to makeke thievenen stronger,r, we're also o callining for a dna ddatabase. >> nowow, with allll this prooot we have, is rereally the m momet to form a an internatational ccommunity to, y you know, push thailaland to realally enforcece lalaw a finally realllly protect the wild elepephants. >> until then, the plight of burma'a's wild elephantsts conts to hang in the balance. @ñññç