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This page was created in support of Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary - Click here to join this cause


Help Save Critically Endangered Species & Build a Healthy Future in Sumatra

My Story

After fulfilling a childhood dream to visit the Amazon Rainforest in the fall of 2015, I left knowing I needed my next experience in the jungle to be part of something greater. With this in mind, the search began to join a cause that would allow me to use my craft to share stories and help create a positive change. 

Arriving home to the news of the forest fires halfway across the world was an immediate call to action for me. Indonesia was burning. People and wildlife were losing their homes and lives in the wake of rapidly expanding palm oil production. Sumatra is one of the hot spots in Indonesia suffering from deforestation via palm oil production. More than half of Sumatra's natural rainforest has been lost since 1990. Due to the alarming rates of habitat destruction here, a partner project was formed between local NGO Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) and Photographers Without Borders (PWB). 

The Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) began with 5 hectares of land adjacent to the buffer zone of the Gunung Leuser ecosystem. This conservation project provides animals such as the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, elephants, pangolin, rhino, and tiger more protected habitat to migrate to and from safely. 

In February 2017 I joined fellow PWB members and leaders in conservation to visit the sanctuary and other areas in North Sumatra to document the complicated threats of palm oil production and find out what is and can be done to help build a more sustainable future on this island.

Pictured above is one of the few vantage points of the Sumatran landscape I was able photograph from, covered in palm oil fields. I thought I had a good idea of how bad the situation was here, but seeing it first hand really hit home. As soon as the island came into view from my window seat on the plane I could see palm plantations covering nearly everything in sight. On the roads through the country and urban areas, truck after truck could be seen full to the brim with palm fruit.

I am told there are 100 palm oil mills in Sumatra alone. We passed this one a few times during our stay, black smoke billowing out every time. 

Occasionally we would wander around one of the many plantations we drove through. Evidence of the natural rainforest that once stood where palm oil trees now take root could be seen regularly. The trunks of forests past were both small and massive, some belonging to trees that were hundreds of years old.

One single palm tree uses 30 gallons of water a day. Due to the extremely damaging effects palm trees have on the soil, the idea of reforesting palm plantations has been thought to be impossible, and in some places this is still the case. But the people working here are proving that is simply not the case. 

My finals days in Sumatra were spent working on some amazing change. We helped plant roughly 100 new trees at a reforestation site operated by OIC.

The next morning we drove to the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park, where we the site of illegally encroached natural rainforest, destroyed for palm oil. Here we witnessed a the early stages of a long and victorious process. A few of the 30 workers cutting down a goal of 10,000 illegally grown West African Oil Palm trees can be seen below. This was the first step in replanting the rainforest of this national park and expanding the ever-decreasing habitat of thousands of species.

Pictured below is a view I long anticipated to see. Standing on a muddy hilltop and gazing at the land I helped purchase, shrouded in the fog of an incoming storm and full of echoing bird songs, I took in a small glimpse hope. Knowing there is still so much work to do, I returned to the U.S. with a renewed passion. 

The dream that traveled with me to Sumatra was not fulfilled, it simply grew. Helping the Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary is now one of my life's biggest missions.

Why the need for a sanctuary/conservation lands?

There is only one place in the world where you will find orangutans in the wild--and that is Indonesia, on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Sumatran rainforests (orangutan and primate habitat) are being bulldozed at an alarming rate for palm oil plantations and agriculture, threatening wild populations of Sumatran orangutan and other endangered species such as Sumatran tiger and rhino. This not only affects wildlife--it also affects people living in small villages who rely on natural water sources for sustenance. Palm plantations require so much water that they are sucking natural water aquifers dry and in some cases, it is becoming more and more necessary for small villages to order bottled water to survive.

Without your help, these lands will very likely fall into the hands of palm oil plantations and other developments.

To create a palm oil plantation, the forest is chopped down and animals (such as orangutan, Tigers, elephants, and rhino) that remain or defend their territory are killed, captured or driven away. Palm plants suck up tons of water from the ground, which in turn affects people, who need water for drinking, cooking and bathing. It's not as easy as "saying no to palm oil"--not only is palm oil in countless products (often disguised in labelling as "vegetable oil"), we need to conserve and palm plantation workers need job alternatives. Conservation provides all kinds of opportunities.

The Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary will provide a natural environment and an opportunity for those orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhino and other species safe corridors to pass from one area to the next. Conserving lands is the most important gift we can bestow upon future generations.

The goal of this fundraiser:
We will raise $100,000 USD to purchase around 50 hectares (roughly equivalent to 50 football fields) of rainforest land that will be conserved as a sanctuary for wildlife and natural resources.

I hope to raise at least $10,000 to help aid the efforts of this endeavor. Every dollar counts! Will you join me in the fight to save the Sumatran rainforest and all the beings who depend on it?

More about us:

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Paul Cappetta
I wish we were able to make it today. Hope your very special event is a success!
Todd A. Sherlock
Sorry I will miss your event today but wanted donate to THE CAUSE. Keep up the GREAT work. SHerlock
Erin Kostner
Art show :)
Love what you are doing, Mike!
Mike Talladen | Hiraeth Diaries
The first two fundraisers I held this year helped raise a total of $1,160.00 for the SWS. One small show on Feb 24 raised $320 and another larger show on March 21 raised $840. My goal is raising three times more than last year (about $1,500) is already well on track. Thank you everyone who helped make this possible!
Michelle Weber
This donation is for Cole T. Happy 8th birthday buddy! Hope you reach ur goal! Ur amazing n have remarkable parents!! Enjoy ur day!
Nico, Nathan & Nolan
For Cole
Jason fuhs
Happy birthday Cole
The Straub Family
Donation in honor of Coke Tukiendorf’s birthday! Way to have a big heart, buddy!
Donating for Cole
For Cole’s 8th Birthday
Michelle and Colby
In honor of Cole Tukiendorf’s birthday!
For Cole
Mike Talladen | Hiraeth Diaries
A huge thank you to everyone who supported my campaign by attending presentations, purchasing prints and photo sessions, and donated cash just to help out. This donation is made possible by all of you!
Adam Swaney $50.00
Noble cause! Good luck!
Melody & Nathan Keasler
Thank you for what you've already done, and what you continue to do to educate others. Keep going!
Good luck Mike! Such a great casue!
Lisa Schilling $50.00

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