Welcome to the Forest Journey!

 

Enter your name to begin.

 

{NAME}, a third of the Earth’s surface is covered by forests. 

They might be dry or wet, warm or cold, dense or sparse, 

but all forests have two things in common-- 

that they are dominated by trees,  

and that they are vital to life on the planet. 

Today you will venture through three unique forests to discover how these precious ecosystems support humans and wildlife every day. 

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On our way out of the Gran Chaco, we see lots of heavy equipment used to cut down trees. 

What’s driving the majority of deforestation in the forest? 

Beef and soy production

Much of the Gran Chaco is being destroyed to farm beef and soy. Paraguay is now one of the world’s top exporters of the two commodities, and nearly 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of the Gran Chaco have been lost in the last 10 years as a result. 

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We’re on the lookout for our first creature,  

And I have a feeling we’ll need our binoculars for this one. 

Kayah-Karen is home to the  

world’s smallest mammal-- 

Do you know what it is? 

KITTI’S HOG-NOSED BAT 

Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, also called the bumblebee bat, can fit in the palm of your hand! These tiny critters live in limestone caves near rivers and munch on insects like spiders and flies. Habitat destruction and human disturbances (including tourism) now threaten to endanger the bats. 

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All around us are towering trees, some up to 100 feet high, with long, narrow branches and green leaves. 

What is the name of this iconic tree species of the Gran Chaco? 

QUEBRACHO

If the Quebracho tree sounds familiar, it might be from the Argentine film of the same name. This staple of the Gran Chaco is known for its dense wood, an important source of timber and tannin. Although harvesting quebracho trees has always been an important economic activity, the introduction of heavier equipment shows us the need for sustainable practices. 

Hooray, you’ve seen the Kayah-Karen Forest!

We hope you enjoyed your tour, {NAME}.

The Kayah-Karen Forest is in a league of its own, 

A place where tigers, elephants, and crocodiles roam together.  

Like other forests, the Kayah-Karen helps mitigate climate change, provides livelihoods, maintains the water cycle, and houses biodiversity. 

But these benefits are only maintained if the forest is healthy. 

You can help protect the forest from being cut down and over-hunted by 

  • Buying certified agricultural products, making sure they come from areas that have not been cleared of forests  

  • Supporting petitions and campaigns for better regulation of wildlife trade  

  • Supporting campaigns for protecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights and their role as stewards of nature. 

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Hold on, is that... an emu? Nope,  

it’s a rhea! 

Rheas are large, flightless birds related to ostriches and emus. 

Do you know what rheas eat? 

All of the above

Rheas have quite the varied diet, and unfortunately for farmers, they even have a taste for agricultural products! Rheas are hunted for meat and leather, and they exemplify how good trade regulations can prevent over-hunting. 

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I spot another critter up ahead!  

This fellow is part of the mammal species that has been  

on Earth the longest  

and still lives today.  

What could it be? 

Rhino

Rhinos have been roaming the planet for millions of years! They help shape their native landscapes when they graze for food. The species found in the Leuser Ecosystem is called a Sumatran Rhino, and there are less than 100 left in the wild. These rhinos are killed when the forest is cleared to make way for agriculture and human settlements, and they are targeted by poachers for their horns.  

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The moment we step foot into the Leuser Ecosystem, we are surrounded by activity. 

Some of it we can see or hear—critters scurrying through the damp soil and leaves rustling in the breeze—but most of it is happening invisibly. 

The Leuser, like all ecosystems, provides what is called “ecosystem services”, or benefits to humans that are gifted by healthy ecosystems. 

Which of the following is NOT an ecosystem service provided by the Leuser Ecosystem? 

PRECIPITATION REDUCTION 

Rather than reduce rain, ecosystems like the Leuser are actually part of the water cycle, and they help create a giant upward air current that then pulls moisture in from the ocean.  

That’s not all forests do—they also regulate the climate by storing carbon, purify air and water, cycle nutrients, provide recreation and cultural value, and produce goods like food and timber.  

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On to something a little bigger! 

I see a water buffalo up ahead. 

Kayah-Karen has one of the only wild populations of water buffalo in Asia. 

Do you know what common product is made from water buffalo milk? 

MOZZARELLA CHEESE

Buffalo mozzarella, unlike buffalo sauce, actually does come from the milk of water buffalos! Domesticated populations of these large animals can be found around the world, though they originated in Asia. Sometimes domestication can diminish wild populations, so it’s important to maintain healthy ecosystems that support wild buffalo. 

Thanks for visiting the Leuser Forest!

You’ve seen firsthand how the Leuser is brimming with life. 

The health of this unmatched biodiversity hotspot is directly related to the wellbeing of our own human communities,  

Especially the four million people living near the forest.  

For these people, the Leuser provides physical, economic, cultural, and spiritual benefits in its healthy state. 

And when it is destroyed, not only do these benefits disintegrate, but newfound problems arise. 

Fires caused by deforestation create haze pollution, 

Flooding is induced by the elimination of natural watersheds, 

And landslides are provoked by a sudden lack of trees keeping soil compact. 

But hope is not lost! 

You can help protect the Leuser and ecosystems like it by  

  • Writing emails to your favorite brands asking them to stop using palm oil, or to source sustainably-grown palm oil 

  • Boycotting brands who refuse to provide transparency around their supply chains 

  • Donating to organizations working to protect the Leuser, like Love the Leuser

  • Talking to friends and family members about what makes the Leuser so special, and how we can play a role in protecting it

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Shhh, I hear something in the bushes!  

Looks like it might be an orangutan and her baby.  

Do you know what the name  

orangutan  

means in the Malay language? 

Person of the forest

The name “orangutan” roughly translates to “person of the forest” in Malay. That’s because they share 97% of their DNA with humans!  

These great apes help disperse seeds from the fruits they eat and promote plant growth by pruning them. Unfortunately, deforestation has driven them to the brink of extinction. Only around 7,500 Sumatran orangutans live in the wild today, and 75% of them are found in the Leuser. 

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Woah, check this out! 

It’s a Rafflesia Kerri flower! 

What are these flowers famous for? 

SMELLIEST FLOWER 

That’s right, these beautiful and unique flowers totally stink! But that’s a good thing. Their foul odor, which smells like dead flesh, attracts insect pollinators and helps stabilize their populations. These enormous rarities are threatened by habitat destruction. 

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The water buffalo sure didn’t have teeth like our next creature! 

Looks like we’ve entered  

Siamese crocodile territory. 

The Siamese crocodile was once widely believed to be extinct in the wild.  

In what year was it rediscovered?  

2000

Siamese crocodiles were almost hunted to extinction for their leather. Their population was so small that people believed they were extinct, until someone found one! While the fate of these creatures may have worked out to be positive, other near-extinct species likely won’t be so lucky.  

Welcome to the beautiful Gran Chaco Forest!  

This expansive, dry forest is sparsely populated with trees and covers parts of northern Argentina, western Paraguay, and south-eastern Bolivia, with a small area in south-western Brazil. 

Let’s see what South America’s second-largest forest (behind only the Amazon) has in store. 

You've seen the Gran Chaco up close!

South America’s Gran Chaco is home to some of the world’s most interesting creatures, including jaguars, ocelots, pumas, tapirs, giant armadillos, and capybaras.  

It creates fertile soil, clean water, and clean air for humans while providing habitats for plants and animals.  

It’s also a source of livelihoods for indigenous peoples and helps mitigate climate change by storing carbon. 

Sadly, these benefits are being diminished by an onslaught of deforestation driven by a global demand for beef and soy. 

But because deforestation is directly linked to our own choices, we have the ability to take a stand, 

And influence the conservation of the Gran Chaco and other precious forests.  

You can help by 

  • Reducing your consumption of beef and soy, or sourcing certified organic brands 

  • Emailing or calling your favorite beef and soy brands and asking where their products are sourced 

  • Boycotting brands who do not provide transparency about their supply chains 

  • Sharing the information you’ve learned with people in your circle 

 

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Much of the deforestation that is responsible for killing orangutans comes from the demand for palm oil, an edible vegetable oil that comes from palm tree fruits.  

Which of the following common household items often contains  

palm oil?  

ALL OF THE ABOVE

Palm oil is the most commonly used vegetable oil in the world, found in a shocking variety of household products, from food to cosmetics to cleaning supplies.  

The unregulated destruction of forests to plant palm oil plantations is responsible for the loss of many species’ habitat, including the orangutan. It's a prime example of how our seemingly small choices, such as which cookies to buy, might impact wildlife. 

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If you travel all around the Gran Chaco Forest, you might notice the landscape looks a little different. 

That’s because the forest is actually made up of multiple ecosystems! 

How many ecosystems do you think the Gran Chaco encompasses? 

50 

The Gran Chaco is more than just a forest—it's actually a biome, or a community of plants and animals that have common characteristics for the environment they exist in. Biomes can be made up of many different ecosystems, and the Gran Chaco exemplifies this. It contains variations of savannahs, forests, and wetlands all in one place! 

Welcome to the Kayah-Karen Forest! 

This vast ecoregion is made up mostly of moist forests and includes over 70 protected areas. 

Its lush landscape supports a stunning variety of endangered and endemic wildlife as well as diverse human communities. 

Let’s venture through the forest to understand what makes it so special! 

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This time I hear something much louder in the forest-- 

It sounds like a chainsaw! 

The area cut down every day in the Leuser is equivalent to how many football fields?  

40 FOOTBALL FIELDS, 

or 21,000 hectares! The massive destruction of the forest can only be stopped through equally massive solutions, such as widespread monitoring and enforcement of government regulations and corporate policies. 

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The Kayah-Karen Forest is home to the Karen and Mon people, alongside several indigenous groups. 

Many of these groups use traditional farming practices that model  

sustainable use of natural resources. 

Can you name an example of one such practice? 

CROP ROTATION 

Long-cycle crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops in the same field during different cycles. It produces healthier plants and soil by breaking the cycles of pests, diseases, and weeds. Sustainable farming in the Kayah-Karen is an example of conservation that goes beyond preserving untouched nature—it shows us how our practices can work with nature to protect it. 

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Look! It’s our lucky day!  

We’ve spotted the Gran Chaco’s most famous and elusive creature, 

the jaguar. 

Do you know what the bumps on a jaguar’s tongue are for? 

Scraping meat off bones

Jaguars are expert hunters, and even their tongues play a role in this! Their hunting keeps the populations of their prey in check so they don’t overpopulate and graze too much vegetation. Although they are naturally elusive, jaguars are increasingly hard to spot because they are threatened by habitat loss and wildlife crime. 

Beneath towering trees crowned with mist and through steamy peat swamps walk an abundance of creatures, from gentle giants to fierce predators. 

Only here, in the Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia, do orangutans, elephants, tigers, and rhinos still roam together.  

In fact, 17 of the 26 total Wild for Life species can be found in this extraordinary land and sea ecosystem! They include: 

  • Tigers  

  • Elephants 

  • Rhinos 

  • Pangolins 

  • Orangutans 

  • Helmeted hornbills 

The tropical lowland rainforest comprises 2.6 million hectares, or six and a half million acres, and part is currently preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Let’s journey through the Leuser to understand why it’s so important,  

and how we can protect it.