Defending a oil palm plantation may have been the justification behind poisoning three critically endangered Sumatran elephants, Elephas maximus sumatranus. The poisoned pachyderms’ corpses were found last week on a palm plantation in Aceh province of Sumatra in western Indonesia.
The same forces threatening much of Indonesia’s wildlife are pushing the Sumatran elephant closer to extinction. Along with poaching and extermination, one of the biggest threats is loss of habitat to oil palm farms. Oil palms are grown as single species plantations, as opposed to being integrated into forest ecosystems as some farmers do with coffee and other commodities. The plantations replace biodiverse forests and provide no habitat for Indonesia’s wildlife, such as orangutans.