Adventurer and environmental advocate Phillippe Cousteau, on a mission to rescue global rainforests and figure out reasons for their decline, has just concluded a behind-the-scene reality TV series on the same. Cousteau, whose "Expedition Sumatra" is currently airing on CNN International, trekked to the Indonesian rainforest, which has lost half its rainforest to deforestation, pushing endangered species and indigenous people almost out of existence. "We wanted to gauge the magnitude of what was at stake and find out why. The goings were tough with potential for danger from many groups who did not want us to tell the story.
We knew there were illegal loggers, poachers and representatives from industries and companies who were engaged in pillaging of the island's critical natural resources," Cousteau told PTI in an emailed inteview. In the last two decades, the island of Sumatra located just below the equator has lost half its rainforest to deforestation, pushing endangered species and indigenous people almost out of existence. In 2011 the United Nations World Heritage Committee had declared the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra on the "danger" list. "The heritage has been placed on the danger list to help overcome threats posed by poaching, illegal logging, agricultural encroachment and plans to build roads through the site" the committee said. Additionally, research studies also suggest that between 1985 and 2007, the Sumatran island alone lost 12 million hectares of natural forest, a 48 per cent loss in 22 years. Despite several threats, Cousteau says he closely worked with the keepers of an orangutan sanctuary to learn to train them and release many orangutans into the wild. "This work involved interacting with local communities in Sumatra. One of the most important experiences for me was the visit to the Frankfurt Zoological Society where the staff had me help teach an orphaned baby orangutan how to find food. I was given a rotting piece of wood with termites which I had to suck out of the wood to demonstrate to the baby what to do!" recounted Cousteau, terming it one of his most unusual experiences.