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A Sumatran elephant endangered from illegal logging has died. ITV News highlighted the story of Raja who was being held to ransom by villagers in Aceh, Indonesia. They were demanding compensation from the government for the financial loss they were suffering.
In a statement charity Elephant Family said: "The villagers buried Raja soon after his death, and without having been able to examine his body, it is difficult to know for sure how he died.
"From the reports they gave, it seems that very tragically, through their inexperience and without checking with the vets, the villagers started giving Raja something new to eat from the forest - something he could naturally eat, but which is very rich in protein and which his body wasn't used to.
"It seems that they gave him too much of this particular plant, and this caused a sudden bacterial infection and bloating, and his young body couldn't cope. It apparently all happened so quickly."
Demand for palm oil, found in hundreds of UK food products, is fueling large-scale deforestation of areas where endangered elephants live.Read the full story ›
The Sumatran elephant, one of the smallest of the Asian elephants, is the most endangered elephant in the world. Currently there are between 2,400 and 2,800 left, making the species "critically endangered", according to Elephant Family.
Like all Asian elephants, the Sumatran elephant is threatened by poaching and habitat loss, caused by increasing demand for palm oil: Across Indonesia hundreds of thousands of acres of tropical rainforests and peatlands have been destroyed to make way for plantations.
Environmentalists and scientists say that 65% of Aceh’s forest needs protected to save the Sumatran elephant, and the government's current plan would only allow for 45% to be protected - a difference of way over a million hectares.
More: Ecologist Film Unit
UK elephant conservation charity, Elephant Family, have launched a campaign to rescue baby elephant Raja, captured by villagers in Indonesia a few weeks ago.
Villagers are holding the baby elephant to ransom to ask their government to protect them from the fallout of the startling loss of habitat rapid deforestation is creating. As Jo Cary-Elwes from Elephant Family explains:
"The status of the Sumatran elephant was changed to “critically endangered” at the end of 2011, meaning they are in imminent danger of extinction. 85% of their habitat is located outside of protected areas and is constantly vulnerable to conversion.
"Forest conversion (for things like palm oil and paper pulp) results in conflict with humans: Stressed and starving herds are fleeing from the chainsaws in search of safety and food, as the elephants walk through farmland they destroy people’s crops and livelihoods."
In the UK, most major food manufacturers use palm oil, normally labelled as "vegetable oil."
43 of the 100 most popular products in our supermarket shelves contain palm oil, according to Greenpeace. It is commonly found in the following:
- Peanut butter
Palm oil is also used in household objects, including:
- Laundry detergent
- Body lotion
Demand for palm oil - a substance found in many everyday products - is threatening some of the world's most endangered species.
The rapid expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia has already led to the clearance of large tracts of rainforest, driving out animals like tigers, orangutans and Sumatran elephants.
Campaigners fear a new law may soon be passed which would open up another area the size of Yorkshire to the diggers.
ITV News' Science Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:
Critically endangered wild Sumatran elephants are being forced into villages as their forests are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, according to environment campaigners.
As forests shrink, elephants are increasingly close to fields and cultivated land - instead of eating the produce of the forests they increasingly eat and destroy crops grow by local small-scale farmers.
This generates conflict with humans that often results in poisoning or capture for the elephants.