Malaysia, Indonesia Denounce Ban On Palm Oil In Biofuels

Short-Term Gains Driving Biodiversity Into History

Found in everything from shampoo to donuts, palm oil is now the most common vegetable oil in the world—and also one of the world’s leading deforestation drivers. It’s also being used to fuel our automobiles. The controversial product has given new meaning to the old campaign sloga, “put a tiger in your tank.” In fact, the palm oil industry is driving the highly endangered Sumatran tiger and other species towards extinction.

In defense of our planet’s vanishing biodiversity, European lawmakers approved draft measures last Wednesday to reform the power market there and reduce energy consumption, with the plan including a ban on the use of palm oil in motor fuels starting in 2021.

palm oil plantation deforestation

Malaysia, the world’s second-largest palm producer, said on Monday it would work with other producing countries to voice “strong concerns” to the World Trade Organization, following the European Union’s move to back a ban on using palm oil to make biofuels. Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, joined the outcry against the ban, which is aimed at preserving massive tracts of tropical rainforests and countless endangered species that rely on them for habitat. The palm oil industry alone has caused massive slash and burning of millions of acres of rainforests to create palm oil plantations at the expense of biodiversity and the future of our planet.

Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of the oil palm tree, Elaeis guineensis, which thrives in humid climates. Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce nearly 90 percent of the world’s palm oil, called the move discriminatory and said there should be fair treatment for all vegetable oils.

A large portion of European palm oil imports is used to make biofuels, giving the industry’s top two producers cause for concern as they fear overall demand will fall. Palm oil exports are a key source of revenue for Malaysia and Indonesia. The European Union is their second-biggest market after India.

deforestation climate change

Malaysia’s trade minister called the move a “regressive step which will fuel further uncertainty surrounding global trade,” according to a statement on Monday evening.

“Malaysia will intensify collaboration with other palm oil producing countries to consider more concerted efforts to voice our strong concern before the various committees under the WTO,” said Mustapa Mohamed, minister of international trade and industry, in the statement, adding that the ministry would raise the issue with two committees in March and April.

One huge source of global warming emissions associated with palm oil is the draining and burning of the carbon-rich swamps known as peatlands. Peatlands can hold up to 18 to 28 times as much carbon as the forests above them; when they are drained and burned, both carbon and methane are released into the atmosphere—and unless the water table is restored, peatlands continue to decay and release global warming emissions for decades.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the burning of peatlands releases a dangerous haze into the air, resulting in severe health impacts and significant economic losses. Each year, more than 100,000 deaths in Southeast Asia can be attributed to particulate matter exposure from landscape fires, many of which are peat fires.

Beyond its global warming and human health impacts, palm oil production also takes a toll on biodiversity and human rights. Only about 15 percent of native animal species can survive the transition from primary forest to plantation. Among the species vulnerable to palm oil expansion are orangutans, tigers, rhinoceros, and elephants. Furthermore, palm oil growers have also been accused of using forced labor, seizing land from local populations, and other human rights abuses.

palm oil and orangutans

The impacts of palm oil production have begun to draw a response from both governments and the private sector in recent years.

There has been significant movement from Southeast Asian governments to address palm oil impacts, though there is still much to be done. In 2010, Indonesia established a moratorium on new concessions for oil palm, timber and logging operations on primary forests and peatlands. In addition, Indonesia has responded to worsening haze conditions by calling for a halt to clearance and drainage of peatlands, and for the restoration of those already drained. Malaysia has also begun to act to protect some of its forests, though its protections thus far have not been as strong as Indonesia’s.

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

On the private-sector side, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)was formed to bring oil producers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders together to improve the sustainability of palm oil production. However, current RSPO standards fall short in important respects. For instance, while primary forests are protected under RSPO regulations, secondary, disturbed, or regenerating forests are left unprotected. Peatlands are also given limited protection under RSPO guidelines. So “RSPO-certified” does not necessarily mean “deforestation-free.”

PR firm climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

Natural Systems The Best Defense Against Climate Change

Study Highlights Ecosystems As Key Strategy

Though his business card says Director of Forest Carbon Science at The Nature Conservancy, Bronson Griscom introduces himself as an ecological accountant. Griscom radiates an optimism somewhat rare in seasoned environmentalists, especially when he discusses the “carbon economy” of nature: the everyday role that trees, grasslands and coastal habitats play in the carbon cycle. Griscom can measure the carbon impact of logging in old growth forests, or how well different forest ecosystems work as sinks for absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere. He helps link our economy with the economy of the biosphere.

In recent decades, forest use—Griscom’s area of expertise—has been widely studied for its climate impacts. Forest loss accounts for 8 to 10 percent of carbon emissions globally; tropical rainforests like the Amazon have become almost synonymous with land conservation, largely because they work as massive carbon sinks and are home to many of the world’s indigenous people and endangered species.

deforestation and climate change

But other global ecosystems and managed lands—from farmlands and peatlands to seagrass and tidal marshes—have garnered less attention from climate regulators, both as a source of emissions and a potential mitigation solution. In fact, until recently no one had ever integrated the raw data on all the carbon that all ecosystems were already sequestering, and what the potential was for increasing carbon storage among all these habitats together, as Griscom and his team studied.

“I thought we would review a few papers and take an average to answer the question,” he says. “We were shocked to find that important gaps remained in answering the question: how much can lands contribute to solving climate change? So we took it upon ourselves to convene a large group of scientists across 15 research institutions to take a comprehensive look at this question.”

Answering that question became the highest priority for Bronson’s team, and the foundation for what has become the most comprehensive study on the role that nature can play in keeping global temperature increases to 2°C or below. They found that, with the right management, nature can play a bigger role than we realized.

Natural climate solutions offer up to 37% of the mitigation needed between now and 2030 to keep global temperature rise below 2°C.

Mt. Kilimanjaro deforestation

The paper offers a comprehensive roadmap for reducing carbon emissions through nature. The study is the culmination of a partnership between the Conservancy and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that brought together more than two-dozen leading natural scientists and economists from fifteen research, educational and private institutions around the world.

The land-use sector is currently responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. But this new study shows that this could change—and with concerted global action on land use over the next decade, nature can be a significant part of the climate solution.

The analysis found that the total biophysical potential for natural climate solutions while still taking account of food production needs is as much as 23.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year—approximately 30 percent more than previous, less comprehensive estimates.

In addition, the study’s economic analyses show that half of these natural climate solutions (11.3 billion tons CO2e) offer cost-effective mitigation opportunities, because they cost less than the future impacts of climate change, expected to cost society more than $100 per ton of CO2 in the atmosphere. These cost-effective NCS mitigation options offer up to 37 percent of mitigation needed between now and 2030 to keep global temperature rise below 2°C —the widely recognized target of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Pathways to Natural Climate Solutions

To synthesize the research, Griscom and his team developed a framework to distill the world’s “natural climate solutions”—the proven ways of storing and reducing carbon emissions in forests, grasslands (including agricultural and rangelands) and wetlands—into a taxonomy of 20 specific pathways that account for the full climate potential of nature.

In addition to covering three biomes, the pathways also look at different practices across a variety of economic scenarios that mitigate climate change, including the implementation of low-cost opportunities only ($10 per tonne CO2e or less).

Another striking aspect of these pathways is the additional benefits they provide. Most nature climate solutions—if effectively implemented—also offer water filtration, flood buffering, improved soil health, protection of biodiversity habitat, and enhanced climate resilience.

“The approach is synergistic,” says Justin Adams, managing director for Global Lands at the Nature Conservancy. “We can hit multiple targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals if we get this right.”

palm oil plantation deforestation

There is, however, a catch: The world must act soon.

Assuming current business-as-usual trajectories, increased emissions entering the atmosphere, coupled with continued environmental degradation, will lessen the impact that nature can have. If natural climate solutions are mobilized over the next 10 to 15 years, they could provide 37 percent of the needed mitigation for global climate targets. But if action is delayed until after 2030, that number drops to 33 percent, and drops again to only 22 percent after 2050.

Over the past two years, the world experienced unprecedented global climate momentum. In September 2015, international leaders adopted the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to fight poverty, promote sustainability and address climate change. Shortly after, nearly 200 countries came together in Paris to adopt the world’s largest ever international climate treaty.

And despite recent setbacks, including the United States announcing its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, many countries have moved forward implementing voluntary measures to limit emissions. And while natural climate solutions are part of many countries’ pledges, there remains a gap between promised action and realized climate progress.

“Natural climate solutions are available now, are cost effective and greatly benefit communities,” said Justin Adams.

As they are currently written, the Paris Agreement pledges still fall short, likely keeping warming around 4°C. Every five years, international representatives and negotiators will meet to ramp up ambition, but the current timeline for countries to end their reliance on fossil fuels while still maintaining development and economic growth does not align with what is needed to achieve climate stability. Barring a technological miracle, the world likely needs more time than it realistically has to move to full economic decarbonization.

“There’s a growing recognition that to get to below 2°C, we need to actively drawdown carbon from the atmosphere,” Adams says. “And while there’s lots of interest and investment in new technology solutions to capture and store carbon, this is new, experimental technology. Trees and other plants, meanwhile have already perfected this process over hundreds of millions of years of evolution—we’re unlikely to see a better carbon capture and storage technology than that which nature provides.”

deforestation and biodiversity

This makes the findings from the 20 pathways particularly important: they provide a scalable near-term option that, combined with fossil fuel emission reductions, can put the planet on a 2° path by 2030. If world leaders hold off on concurrently investing in nature now, emerging technology will have to play an exponentially larger role in reducing emissions later on. “That’s a gamble on the future that can be prevented today,” Adams says.

“The rapid deployment of clean energy technologies currently being witnessed is truly inspiring, and we absolutely must press forward with the deployment of renewables, electric cars, energy efficiency and other methods for fossil fuel reduction,” Adams adds. “But we also need to see a similar level of investment in natural solutions, which are available now, are cost effective and greatly benefit communities.”

Read The Full Story at Climate Change News via Nature

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Ecosystems Collapsing In Face Of Climate Change

Millions Of Lives Depend On Ecosystems Under Siege

Some of the world’s most iconic ecosystems are collapsing due to climate change and human encroachment, which, in turn, is contributing to more climate change. Collapse of one ecosystem will contribute to the collapse of the next. As human refugees escape one danger zone, they will contribute to the creation of the next collapse. It’s a very high stakes version of the domino effect. Momentum is the enemy.

The Great Barrier Reef, for example, is under assault from ocean acidification. The Amazon rainforest has been suffering from deforestation for years and now a wicked drought is adding to the momentum of its downfall, while threatening the lives of millions of people downstream. To combat such climate-related threats, we need to stop the encroachment and expedite the healing, according to findings published in the journal Science.

wildlife conservation and deforestation

“We show that managing local pressures can expand the ‘safe operating space’ for these ecosystems. Poor local management makes an ecosystem less tolerant to climate change and erodes its capacity to keep functioning effectively,” the study’s lead author Marten Scheffer, chair of the Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management at the Netherlands’ Wageningen University, said in a press release.

The research team examined Spain’s Doñana wetlands, the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. While many ecosystems are indeed important to the environment and to their local people, these ecosystems in particular have a global importance.

Coral reefs have gained a lot of attention recently due to the effect of ocean acidification – the increase in acidic waters due to buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide – that have led to extensive bleaching events. Worse still, studies have shown that ocean acidification is eating away at the structural integrity of these unique marine animals, causing coral to become more susceptible to both predators and disease.

In fact, the Great Barrier Reef’s growth rate has plummeted by 40 percent since the mid-1970s.

But overfishing, nutrient runoff and unprecedented amounts of dredging are exacerbating these climate change-related threats. By eliminating these stressors, the Great Barrier Reef may have a chance in our warming world.

However, like corals reefs, rainforests and wetlands around the world are also under increasing pressure from both climate change and local threats.

Mt. Kilimanjaro deforestation

Such local threats include nutrient runoff from the use of agricultural fertilizers and urban wastewater, which is degrading water quality in the Doñana wetlands in southern Spain. This, in turn, is causing toxic algal blooms that endanger the ecosystem’s biodiversity.

A warming climate could encourage more severe blooms, causing losses of biodiversity, researchers say. This ecosystem is a vital wintering site for waterfowl – hosting over half a million birds – and home to numerous unique invertebrate and plant species.

“Local managers could lessen this risk and therefore boost the wetlands’ climate resilience by reducing nutrient runoff,” explained co-author Andy Green, a professor at the Doñana Biological Station.

To reduce nutrient runoff, he added, managers could reduce fertilizer use, improve water treatment plants, and close illegal wells that are decreasing the flow of clean water to these wetlands.

When it comes to the Amazon rainforest, rising temperatures and severe dry spells, along with deforestation, are major threats to its survival.

This deadly combination could turn the ecosystem into dry, fire-prone and species-poor woodland. The United Nations has pledged to end deforestation completely by 2030, which no doubt would help. But researchers also recommend curtailing canopy damage from logging and speeding up forest regeneration. These management efforts could protect the forest from fire and maintain regional rainfall, helping the Amazon to thrive and better resist climate change.

deforestation and climate change

“Local management options are well understood and not too expensive. So there is really no excuse for countries to let this slip away, especially when it comes to ecosystems that are of vital importance for maintaining global biodiversity,” Scheffer pointed out.

“All three examples play a critical role in maintaining global biodiversity. If these systems collapse,” he added, “it could mean the irreversible extinction of species.”

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Orangutan Conservationists Can’t Stop Deforestation

Sustainable Palm Oil Wiping Out Biodiversity

A population trend analysis of Bornean orangutans reveals that, despite decades of conservation work, the species is declining rapidly – at a rate of 25 percent over the past 10 years.

University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences researcher Dr Truly Santika, an Indonesian statistician and researcher at the ARC Centre of Centre for Environmental Decisions (CEED), led the study on the critically endangered Bornean orangutans.

Analyses show declines are particularly pronounced in West and Central Kalimantan, but even in relatively well protected areas, such as the Malaysian State of Sabah, the rate of decline is still 21.3 percent.

Every year US$30-40 million is invested by governmental and non-governmental organizations to halt the decline of wild populations. The study shows that these funds are not effectively spent.

deforestation and climate change

Dr Santika said, for many threatened species, the rate and drivers of population decline were difficult to accurately assess.

“Our study used advanced modeling techniques that allowed the combination of different survey methods, including helicopter surveys, traditional ground surveys, and interviews with local communities,” Dr Santika said.

CEED Director Professor Kerrie Wilson said the new approach facilitated the break-through and, for the first time, enabled researchers to determine population trends of the species over time.

She described the study, conducted by a group of some 50 Indonesian, Malaysian, and international researchers, as “a wake-up call” for the orangutan conservation community and the Indonesian and Malaysian governments who had committed to saving the species.

One of the study’s initiators, UQ Honorary Professor Erik Meijaard said that the study’s worrying outcomes suggested the need to fundamentally rethink orangutan conservation strategies.

“The biggest threats of habitat loss and killing are not effectively addressed, despite government commitments through national action plans,” he said.

“The focus of orangutan conservation is on rescues and rehabilitation, but that only addresses the symptoms and not the underlying problem.”

According to Dr Marc Ancrenaz, a Sabah-based orangutan scientist and contributor to the study, there is hope for orangutans, despite the negative trends that the study demonstrates.

palm oil and orangutans

“As we learn more about orangutans we come to understand that the species is ecologically much more versatile than previously thought,” he said.

“Orangutans can survive in multifunctional landscapes, which includes plantations and agricultural lands. But they are very slow breeders and much more needs to be done to reduce killing rates.”

Previous studies have indicated up to 2,500 orangutans are killed annually on Borneo in conflict situations or by hunters looking for food, explaining a considerable part of the orangutan’s decline.

“Inappropriate land use planning is another major factor,” Professor Meijaard said.

“For example, 10,000 orangutans presently occur in areas that have been allocated by national and local governments to oil palm development.

“If these areas are converted to plantations without changes in current practices, most of these animals will be destroyed and the steep population decline is likely to continue.

palm oil plantation deforestation

“Viable populations of large roaming animals such as the orangutan require a network of protected forests that are properly managed, and sustainable practices outside of these protected areas.”

Biodiversity News via University of Queensland.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

EU Considering Palm-Oil Boycott To Curb Deforestation

Deforestation Driving Climate Change, Extinction

Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce more than 80 percent of the world’s palm oil, are resisting proposals by European parliamentarians that could limit their access to the second biggest palm oil market after India.

Government ministers from Malaysia and Indonesia, along with some regional palm oil producers, met in Jakarta on April 11 to plan a response to a resolution approved on April 4 by European parliament members concerning palm oil and deforestation.

The parliamentarians requested the EU to “introduce a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the EU market and phase out the use of vegetable oils that drive deforestation by 2020.”

They hope for an EU-wide ban on biodiesel made from palm oil by 2020, claiming that the expansion of palm oil plantations, mostly in Southeast Asia, is causing “massive forest fires, the drying up of rivers, soil erosion, peatland drainage, the pollution of waterways and overall loss of biodiversity.”

palm oil plantation deforestation

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar called the EU proposals an “insult,” while the foreign ministry accused the EU of “protectionism” and of ignoring the rights of millions of Indonesian farmers whose main source of income is from small oil palm plots.

The growth in global demand for palm oil, which is used in a wide array of products from cosmetics and fuel to foods such as margarine and chocolate, has resulted in the massive clearing of forests, particularly in Indonesia, over the last 30 years. The slash and burn methods used on Sumatra and Borneo have led to forest and peatland fires that have enveloped Singapore and parts of Malaysia in a smoky haze that has spread as far as southern Thailand.

Images of orphaned baby elephants and orangutans rescued from cleared forests and plantations have spurred vigorous environmental activism and consumer awareness campaigns in recent years. Species such as the Sumatran elephant have been put on endangered lists, with the ensuing bad publicity forcing governments and palm oil companies to sign up for various national and international certification schemes to guarantee that palm oil products are not causing environmental damage.

palm oil and orangutans

But members of the European parliament argue that a single certification scheme is needed. “MEPs note that various voluntary certification schemes promote the sustainable cultivation of palm oil,” but “their standards are open to criticism and are confusing for consumers,” said a European parliament press release issued on April 4.

In response, Indonesia’s Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman told reporters in Jakarta that “we cannot let Europe dictate Indonesia’s agriculture. We have our own standard called Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil.”

Mah Siew Keong, the Malaysian plantation industries and commodities minister, said that “Malaysia too already has a national certification system.” He noted that “only palm oil is subjected to certification while similarly produced vegetables oils are not subject to sustainability certification,” asserting, “this is not fair.”

With the Indonesia Oil Palm Producers Association executive director Fadhil Hasan calling on the government to “retaliate,” mentioning wine, aircraft, perfume and pharmaceuticals as imports from Europe that Jakarta could target, the dispute over palm oil could undermine work started in July 2016 by the EU and Indonesia to move toward a free trade agreement, as well as disrupt longer-standing negotiations between the EU and Malaysia on a similar deal.

Indonesia is Southeast Asian’s biggest economy and accounts for almost 40% of the total 620 million population of Southeast Asia. “European companies already provide 1 million jobs here in Indonesia and we hope it can grow,” said EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, during a Nov. 2016 trade mission visit to Jakarta.With tensions over palm oil threatening to undermine free trade negotiations, some European officials sought to play down some of the concerns raised by MEPs.

deforestation and climate change

Jean-Charles Berthonnet, the French ambassador to Indonesia, described the MEP resolution as “unilaterally critical and moralizing” in an opinion article published in the Jakarta Post, though the ambassador agreed that a better certification system is needed.

“Deforestation is a very complex issue and I think we can agree on a number of points. But we need to take a broader look at deforestation because it is not caused only by the palm oil industry,” said Karmenu Vella, the EU commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

Indeed, one recent agreement suggests that the EU and Indonesia can collaborate on preserving forests. In November 2016, Indonesia and the EU launched a licensing scheme that aimed to stop illegally logged timber from being exported from Indonesia — the world’s third biggest jungle area after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — to Europe, and in turn reduce deforestation across the archipelago. “Indonesia has shown true leadership and now sets a high standard for other countries to emulate,” said Vincent Guerend, the EU ambassador to Indonesia, when the initiative was launched.

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

But both sides will now have to come to terms over palm oil. The April 11 meeting of palm oil growers in Jakarta was convened to plan a negotiating strategy ahead of a possible meeting with European officials in May to discuss the proposed restrictions on palm oil.

“We will do whatever we can to convince the European parliament and European countries not to implement it,” Darmin Nasution, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for economic affairs, told reporters. “We will negotiate in full force,” he added.

The European parliamentarians also accused the palm oil companies of not living up to their claims that their products are environmentally friendly. “Some companies trading in palm oil are failing to prove beyond doubt that the palm oil in their supply chain is not linked to deforestation, peatland drainage or environmental pollution, and to demonstrate that it has been produced with full respect for fundamental human rights and adequate social standards,” the MEPs stated.

Anita Neville, vice president of corporate communications and sustainability relations at Golden Agri-Resources, a Singapore-based palm oil company that manages 480,000 hectares of Indonesian palm oil plantations, said that producers hoped that the EU would not back away from the use of palm oil. “If your motivation is to tackle deforestation and poverty, you need to stay in the game and demand sustainable palm oil,” she said.

Malaysian palm oil producers Sime Darby and IOI announced in March they had joined the year-old Fire Free Alliance, which “focuses on fire prevention through community engagement.” It includes environmental groups and major forestry and agriculture companies such as pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International and major palm oil players Musim Mas Group and Wilmar International.

deforestation climate change

The Indonesian government is backing the FFA, which so far supervises activity in just 200 villages covering roughly 1.5 million hectares of land. This amounts to just over a quarter of what the Indonesian government estimates are 731 villages in seven of Indonesia’s 34 provinces where slash and burn clearances are undertaken.

Among those most affected by plantation expansion and deforestation in Indonesia is the country’s indigenous population, which is seeking more rights over traditional lands in many places that overlap with some of the country’s forests and plantations.

But granting such rights would likely make it more difficult to conduct agribusiness on up 8 million hectares of land claimed by indigenous peoples. This is seen as one reason why Indonesian President Joko Widodo belatedly cancelled a scheduled appearance at a March congress of indigenous leaders in northern Sumatra.

Rukka Sombolinggi, the newly elected head of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), said she was not surprised at the president’s reluctance to attend the event. But she added, “the problem is with the ministry of environment and forestry, they are the ones who are claiming our land as state land.”

Her group contends that giving indigenous groups legal rights to their land is the best way to ensure that forest ecologies are preserved. Rukmini P. Toheke, a prominent activist for indigenous peoples from Palu in central Sulawesi, said: “For us the forest is ‘katu vua,’ or life itself.” She added: “If we destroy the forests, we destroy our own lives.”

Deforestation News via http://asia.nikkei.com/Markets/Commodities/Asian-palm-oil-producers-slam-EU-moves-to-restrict-market-access?page=1

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. We have projects ready across Africa now. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

International Day Of Forests Promotes Conservation

Deforestation Threatens Biodiversity

Today is the International Day of Forests. Deforestation is a major contributor to global warming, wildlife extinction, droughts and other threats to life as we know it.

Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, and home to more than 80 percent of all known terrestrial species of animals and plants. They play a vital role in storing water, regulating climate, preserving soils and nurturing biodiversity, and provide important economic and social services.

On this UN day that is dedicated for forests, CITES highlights its commitment to help countries manage forests more sustainably. Through strictly regulating international trade in certain timber and non-timber forest products to ensure legality, sustainability and traceability, CITES is contributing towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal #15 as it relates to the sustainably managed forests and halting biodiversity loss.

deforestation and climate change

Recent years have witnessed a major development in the use of the Convention with Parties deciding to include many commercially valuable trees in the CITES Appendices. While only 18 tree species were listed in the CITES Appendices in 1975 when the Convention came into effect, CoP17 alone (held in Johannesburg, September/October 2017) brought over 300 new timber species, namely all Dalbergia rosewood and palisander species found across the world  under CITES trade controls. Today, more than 900 tree species are protected under CITES, including some of the world’s most economically valuable trees.

Legal international trade in timber is worth hundreds of billions of dollars every year. Thanks to CITES trade regulations, CITES Management Authorities establish the veracity of the legal origins of listed species before they enter international trade, and CITES Scientific Authorities advise on the sustainable nature of the harvest and exports. Customs officials at border crossings of source, transit and destination States across the globe will verify CITES permits for all such international shipments.

deforestation and jaguar conservation

“The decisions taken to bring so many new tree species under the CITES trade control regime reflect the growing confidence that Parties have in CITES in helping them manage these valuable resources more sustainably, and the determination to ensure the legality of such timbers in trade,” said CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon.

CITES works in partnership with other organizations to enhance sustainable forest management and timber trade practices. The successful long-term collaboration between CITES and ITTO, for example, has contributed greatly towards reducing biodiversity loss, fostering sustainable development and helping poverty eradication by enabling biodiversity-rich countries to better manage their natural forest resources.

Beneficiary countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas have been given support to sustainably harvest and trade in CITES listed tree species, which is good for people and wildlife, and contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal #15:

“Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.”

palm oil and orangutans

“Through our collective efforts we are ensuring that wild plants, and the animals that depend upon them, will be protected for this generation and the generations to come. Effectively regulating trade in forest products also has great benefits for people by ensuring sustainable livelihoods, and protecting social and cultural assets. Wildlife-based industries, including tourism, can bring significant benefits for some national economies and be a major generator of local jobs and foreign exchange” concluded Scanlon.

Deforestation News via https://cites.org/eng/CITES_highlights_its_contribution_to_sustainable_forest_management_on_International_Day_of_Forests_2017_21032017

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com 

Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

PR Firm Launches Campaign To Defend Ecosystems

Deforestation Promoting Climate Change, Loss Of Biodiversity

Deforestation generates about 20 percent of greenhouse gasses, which contribute to global warming and climate change. Deforestation also cripples our planet’s ability to filter carbon dioxide from our air. Unfortunately, deforestation also threatens entire watersheds, endangered species and endangered cultures around the world. An international PR firm based in Phoenix, Arizona has launched a program to help reverse deforestation, while defending entire ecosystems.

If all CO2 emissions stopped today, climate change will still intensify because of existing carbon in the atmosphere. Energy conservation, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture are vital, but we need proven carbon capture strategies to help restore balance to our atmosphere. Forest conservation is more important than ever.

wildlife conservation and deforestation

“Thousands of community stakeholders across East Africa are ready to act now,” said Gary Chandler founder of both Crossbow Communications and its subsidiary Sacred Seedlings. “They can help us all fight global climate change, while defending critical ecosystems in Tanzania, Kenya and beyond. We’re launching a campaign to help them secure the resources to succeed.”

According to Chandler, several NGOs, including the Mellowswan Foundation Africa-Tanzania have plans to save remaining forests in the region, while promoting reforestation, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. The program will plant more than 10 million new seedlings just in the Kilimanjaro ecosystem.

A new report by the United Nations Environment Programme says that protecting East Africa’s mountain ecosystems would safeguard the region’s $7 billion tourism industry, not to mention the lives of millions of people and iconic endangered species.

“Across the continent, the damage done to these ecosystems is depriving people of the basic building blocks of life,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment agency.

deforestation Tanzania and Kenya

He said Mt. Kilimanjaro was an example of how climate change was severely damaging Africa’s mountains and the people who depend on them. Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest in Africa, contributes to more than a third of Tanzania’s revenue from tourism but is facing several problems, ranging from shrinking glaciers to rampant wild fires. As climate change intensifies, it is essential that governments act swiftly to prevent more harm and more downward momentum. The report urges Tanzania to protect the mountain’s water catchment area by reforestation, investing in early warning systems and making climate adaptation a top priority.

Forests are critical to the way Earth functions. They lock up vast amounts of carbon and release oxygen. They influence rainfall, filter fresh water and prevent flooding and soil erosion. They produce wild foods, fuel wood and medicines for the people who live in and around them. They are storehouses of potential future crop varieties and genetic materials with untapped healing qualities. Wood and other fibre grown in forests can be used as a renewable fuel or as raw material for paper, packaging, furniture or housing.

While the pressures on forests vary across regions, the biggest cause of deforestation is expanding agriculture – including commercial livestock and major crops such as palm oil and soy. According to Chandler, Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, carbon capture, reforestation, urban forestry,sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems, including millions of people who live in the region.

endangered species Africa

Loss of forests isn’t the only problem in East Africa. Tanzania may have lost half its elephant population since 2007. It could be wiped out entirely in just seven years. Kenya’s wildlife also is under assault like never before. Adding to the crisis, there has been loss of wildlife habitat and biodiversity as a result of fragmentation and loss of critical ecosystem linkages and over-exploitation of the natural habitats. This loss of habitat brings humans and wildlife into more and more conflict over food, water and space–which means more bloodshed.

Tanzania’s elephant population declined from an estimated 109,000 elephants in 2009 to around 70,000 in 2012. Around 30 elephants are killed for their ivory every day, almost 11,000 each year and rising. It’s estimated that more than 35,000 African elephants were killed for ivory in 2012. The number keeps rising.

Read The Full Story at http://crossbowcommunications.com/deforestation-contributing-to-climate-change-loss-of-biodiversity/ To donate, please click here.

PR firm climate change and deforestation

Crossbow Communications is a full-service advertising agency and public relations firm in Denver, Colorado and Phoenix, Arizona. The firm specializes in issue management and public affairsCrossbow has helped influence public opinion and public policy around the world. It has won state and national awards, while setting state and national records for our clients. For more information, write to Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com

CITES Fails On Elephant Conservation

Nations Fail To Give Elephants Maximum Legal Protections

Africa has lost more than a third of its wild elephants to poachers in the past decade. The next decade might be their last without global interventions.

Unfortunately, a bid to give the highest level of international legal protection to all African elephants was defeated on Monday at the CITES wildlife summit. The EU played a pivotal role in blocking the proposal, which was fought over by rival groups of African nations.

elephant conservation Africa

But the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), meeting this week in Johannesburg, passed other new measures for elephants that conservationists say will add vital protection.

All 182 nations agreed for the first time that legal ivory markets within nations must be closed. Separately, a process that could allow one-off sales of ivory stockpiles was killed and tougher measures to deal with nations failing to control poached ivory were agreed.

More than 140,000 of Africa’s savannah elephants were killed for their ivory between 2007 and 2014, wiping out almost a third of their population, and one elephant is still being killed by poachers every 15 minutes on average. The price of ivory has soared threefold since 2009, leading conservationists to fear the survival of the species is at risk.

The debate over elephant poaching has split African countries. Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, which host about a third of all remaining elephants, have stable or increasing populations. They argue passionately that elephant numbers are also suffering from loss of habitat and killings by farmers and that they can only be protected by making money from ivory sales and trophy hunting.

elephant conservation Africa

However, a group of 29 African nations, which host about 40 percent of all elephants and are led by Kenya and Benin, have smaller and plummeting populations and countered that poaching and the illegal trade in ivory is the greatest threat.

Most African elephants already have the highest level of international legal protection – a Cites “appendix 1” listing – which bans all trade. But the elephants in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, are listed on “appendix 2”, a lower level of protection. On Monday a proposal to add the elephants in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana to appendix 1 was defeated.

Tshekedi Khama, Botswana’s minister of environment, said: “There is concerning evidence that elephant poaching is moving south. The criminal networks that facilitate much of this trade are highly organized and fluid, operating over several regions in the continent. Therefore no population should be considered secure. Put simply, a threat to elephants anywhere is a threat to elephants everywhere.”

The Cote D’Ivoire delegate said it was absurd to have some elephants on appendix 1 and some on appendix 2: “An elephant that crosses a border may have protection on one side and not on the other. Elephants do not have passports.”

Lee White, the British-born director of Gabon’s national parks and Cites delegate, said poachers were now shooting on sight at his rangers. The upgrading of all elephants to the highest protection would have sent “a signal that we will come down as hard on poaching as we do on the trafficking of drugs, arms and people”.

ivory traffickers Tanzania

However, Namibia’s delegate threatened to withdraw entirely from Cites protections for elephants if the all populations were upgraded the highest levels. “It is completely fallacious that legal ivory trade covers illegal trade,” he said, a statement flatly rejected by other nations.

South Africa’s environment minister, Edna Molewa, said rural communities must benefit from elephants if they are to tolerate the damage caused to crops and the lives sometimes lost. “We dare not ignore their voices,” she said. “Trophy hunting is the best return on investment [in elephant protection] with the least impact.”

The EU, which with 28 votes is a powerful force at Cites, also opposed the upgrade to appendix 1. It said that Cites rules meant the highest level protection is reserved for populations that are in steep decline, and that this did not apply to the elephants in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Some scientific and conservation groups agreed with this, including WWF, Traffic and the Zoological Society of London, arguing the integrity of the Cites was at risk.

The issue was forced to a vote and was defeated, leaving the southern African elephants on appendix 2. Earlier on Monday, Namibia and Zimbabwe had attempted to legalize the trade in ivory from those countries.

Namibia said its elephant population had doubled to 20,000 in the last 15 years. Charles Jonga, from the Campfire Program, a rural development group in Zimbabwe, told the Cites summit: “The people in my community say: ‘These elephants they eat our crops, they damage our houses, what benefit do we get?’ If they get benefits, they will protect and not poach.”

But Patrick Omondi, Kenya’s delegate, said: “Poaching levels and trafficking in ivory are at their highest peak. History has shown the ivory trade cannot be controlled. We are reaching a tipping point and need to give elephants time to recover.”

Both Namibia’s and Zimbabwe’s proposals, supported by Japan but opposed by the EU and US, were soundly defeated. Observers believe Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa did not expect to unpick the ban on the ivory trade at this summit, but wanted to keep the debate open, in the hope of future success. Another proposal, from Swaziland, to legalize the trade in its rhino horn was heavily defeated.

Africa wildlife conservation

Many conservation groups wanted all elephants to get the highest protection, but Tom Milliken, an elephant expert from wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic, said: “Where elephants fall on the Cites appendices is inconsequential to their survival. All the paper protection in the world is not going to compensate for poor law enforcement, rampant corruption and ineffective management.”

He said the real success of the summit were measures to crack down on countries failing to halt illegal trade.

But Kelvin Alie, at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said the failure to put all elephants on appendix one was a disaster: “This is a tragedy for elephants. At a time when we are seeing such a dramatic increase in the slaughter of elephants for ivory, now was the time for the global community to step up and say no more.”

Elephant Conservation Update via https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/03/bid-for-stronger-protection-for-all-african-elephants-defeated-at-wildlife-summit

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

African Elephant Census Paints Bleak Picture

The Push Toward Extinction Gaining Momentum

Results of a new survey reveal that Africa’s savannah elephants are going fast. The Great Elephant Census estimates that about 352,000 elephants remain—down from previous estimates of 419,000 to 650,000 elephants in 2013. The authors estimate that they recorded 93 percent of all savannah elephants. Elephants in Africa are threatened by poaching for their ivory, habitat loss and human encroachment and conflict.

elephant conservation Africa

“The statistics are frightening, and I hope they shock people out of their apathy so we can stem the tide,” said Mike Chase, founder of Elephants Without Borders, the group that oversaw the $7 million project.

A team that included 90 researchers from governments and conservation groups collectively flew 288,000 miles of aerial surveys — the equivalent of circling the globe almost a dozen times. They covered 18 countries, focusing on the national parks, refuges and range lands that are home to 93 percent of savanna elephants. Even in protected areas, researchers found many carcasses of elephants killed by poachers.

If the rate of decline continues at the current level of 8 percent per year, the continent will lose half its elephants within nine years and some populations could be wiped out, Chase said.

But the survey also uncovered some bright spots. Elephant numbers in Uganda more than quadrupled since the late 1980s. In Botswana, which is home to Africa’s largest elephant population, numbers held steady in many areas. And in a little-known park complex in Western Africa where the researchers expected to find perhaps 1,000 animals, they counted a thriving population of 9,000.

“The Great Elephant Census is an amazing feat of technology and science working together for wildlife — but these results are shocking,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Elephant populations in Africa are declining at an alarming rate and more severely than we anticipated.”

Tanzania wildlife conservation

“The data now clearly show that if we don’t act immediately to stop poaching, close ivory markets and extend the strictest protections to elephants, we’ll lose these iconic creatures forever,” Sanerib continued.

The survey results do not include Namibia (which refused to release its survey results but is estimated to have more than 22,000 elephants, bringing the total to 375,000 elephants) or South Sudan and the Central African Republic, where surveys could not be completed due to armed conflict. The surveys were only conducted for savannah elephants and did not include forest elephants, a separate and smaller species inhabiting west and central Africa. Forest elephants could not be surveyed using the same aerial techniques due to the forested ecosystems they inhabit.

“Forest elephant populations are already known to be decreasing at alarming rates and now the Great Elephant Census has revealed that savannah elephants are in the same boat,” Sanerib concluded. “A world without elephants would be a very sad place and it’s time for international action on the ivory trade to make sure we never live in that world.”

forest elephants Arabuko Sokoke Kenya

Now, it’s up to individual nations and international regulators like CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to crack down on poaching and protect elephants, Chase said.

“The Great Elephant Census holds us to account,” he said. “We can no longer use ignorance about elephant numbers to avoid action.”

In addition to the threat from poachers, elephants and other endangered species are losing critical habitat to expanding human populations. The battle over land use and water will play an increasing role with every passing day.

Africa drought and wildlife conservation

The Save Kilimanjaro program is an initiative of the Mellowswan Foundation Africa Tanzania. It will help reforest the ecosystem, while promoting forest conservation, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. It will generate food and income for men and women in the region. For more information, please contact us.

Please visit and share our online campaign.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Palm Oil Plantations vs. Biodiversity

Palm Oil Plantations Do Not Tolerate Wildlife

By Melati Kaye, Scientific American and Mongabay

I have been hiking through an oil palm plantation in Borneo for hours but have yet to see a single oil palm. Instead, mahogany and other native tree species tower overhead. Mushrooms, flowers and huge pitcher plants line my trail, uniquely adapted to the island’s peat swamp forests. This lush portion of the plantation should be ideal habitat for orangutans. I have not spotted any, but according to Hendriyanto, my guide from the plantation’s conservation team, an estimated 14 of the red apes do indeed live here.

Surveyors came up with that number by counting orangutan nests in this 657-hectare so-called “High Conservation Value” (HCV) enclave within the 18,000-hectare plantation. The population density survey and the HCV set-aside are required of oil palm companies like Hendriyanto’s employer, Ketapang-based PT Kayung Agro Lestari (PT-KAL), for eco-compliance certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a consortium that has been setting the industry’s sustainability standards since 2004.

deforestation and climate change

But one step outside this refuge lies a very different scene: blistering tropical heat and regimented rows of spiky oil palm trees spread over miles of ochre mud that turns to deep, rutted puddles after a drizzle. Borneo’s forest-to-plantation ratio has plummeted in recent decades. Satellite data show that the island’s forest cover dwindled from 76 percent to a mere 28 percent between 1973 and 2010. Deforestation has only accelerated since then, especially in 2015, when fires smoldered across 1.3 million hectares of peatland for months on end.

From an ape’s point of view, the plantation vista presents an uninhabitable hellscape. From an industry standpoint, it is a prospect of burgeoning revenue. Half of the vegetable oil consumed around the world comes from oil palms. According to data from USDA and the World Bank, the global market for palm oil and palm kernels is around $47 billion.

palm oil plantation deforestation

Can an industry maintain profitability if consumers associate palm oil with the rape of the jungle and the imminent extinction of its iconic orangutans?

Some leading oil palm companies have tried a series of conservation initiatives to show that orangutans and plantations can co-exist–hence the RSPO, the HCV enclaves and the relocation of orphaned apes to rehabilitation centers for later reintroduction back to the forest. The latest scheme is to interlink isolated HCV patches with migration “corridors” so that orangutans and other forest-dwelling creatures can disperse in accordance with their natural behaviors.

To implement such measures (and garner some third-party credibility), many companies have partnered with environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But results have so far been elusive. Part of the problem is a general lack of data. But companies can also ignore or skimp on the NGO recommendations. Compounding matters, the RSPO and its ilk are agonizingly slow at investigating complaints, and their findings are no more than advisory, with no force of law. Moreover, Indonesian licensing laws can undermine conservation by reallocating forest leases of companies that do not exploit their allotted tracts fully or quickly enough. And with RSPO covering barely a fifth of the world’s palm oil operators, there is always a queue of wildcat planters ready to take up rescinded leases.

Orangutan-friendly forests once provided contiguous habitat for the tree-dwelling apes throughout South and Southeast Asia, from India to China to Indonesia. Human settlement shrank and fragmented the forest range, and with it the orangutan population According to a 2006 study by Cardiff University molecular ecologists Benoit Goossens and Michael Bruford, there were an estimated 315,000 orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo in 1900. Today, only an estimated 60,000 orangutans remain in the wild. They live solely in the peat-swamp forests of Borneo and Sumatra.

These peatlands were once deemed too remote and nutrient-poor for agriculture. With the advent of large-scale logging and plantations, however, they started getting cleared for development. The oil palm boom of the 1970’s kicked deforestation into hyperdrive. It began in Malaysia and, by the 1990s, spilled over into neighboring Indonesia. Together the two countries account for 80 percent of the world’s palm oil.

palm oil kills orangutans

Habitat loss not only starves orangutans, it brings them into closer contact with humans. The contact can be lethal. In a study published inPLOS in 2012, conservation biologist Erik Meijaard and his colleagues found that between 2,383 and 3,882 orangutans were killed every year in Borneo. They derived this range from nearly 7,000 interviews conducted with villagers about human-animal conflict.

In the first rounds of deforestation, when the number of displaced orangutans became too many to ignore, palm oil companies and NGOs airlifted them to rehabilitation centers or intact forest elsewhere. But relocating the apes is no longer an option, according to Karmele Sánchez, director of International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia program, an NGO rehabilitating primates. “The habitat is so heavily disturbed and fragmented,” she says, that “there isn’t near enough forest to put all rescued orangutans.” Instead of overcrowding protected areas like national parks, Sanchez urges plantation operators to accommodate their resident orangutans onsite. For RSPO members, this means a greater emphasis on HCV inholdings within their plantation tracts.

In 2010, Greenpeace activists ran a TV ad showing a man chomping into a Nestlé’s chocolate bar only to find, to his horror, blood dribbling down his chin. Cut to a jungle scene of a screaming orangutan. Then the punch line: “Ask Nestlé to give rainforests a break.”

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

Partly in response, Nestlé joined the RSPO and temporarily docked one of its most environmentally egregious palm oil suppliers, Jakarta-based Sinar Mas. The company also redesigned its “responsible sourcing guidelines” to only buy palm oil from law-abiding plantations that maintained peatlands, as well as “high carbon” and “high conservation value” forests on their property.

But some environmentalists are unconvinced that such efforts are effective. Hardi Baktiantoro, co-founder of the Center for Orangutan Protection in Jakarta, Indonesia, likens them to “mopping the floor while ignoring the still-gushing tap that’s causing the puddle in the first place.” Others, like Michelle Desilets of the policy think-tank Orangutan Land Trust in Derbyshire, England, remain agnostic: “the RSPO is not a perfect solution but it is the only way to get larger consensus” on orangutan conservation and protection on palm plantations.

But whereas the RSPO may be useful for setting industry standards, its efficacy for enforcing them is another matter. When RSPO-member company First Resources, based in Singapore, converted its HCV patches into palm plantations, IAR filed a complaint with the standard-setting consortium. That was 10 years ago; the case is still pending. Even the model HCV enclave that PT-KAL so proudly showed me was smaller than what was recommended by the biodiversity assessors it contracted. Why should companies go overboard with HCV set-asides when they could lose their forest leases for under-exploiting their conditional “use permits”? The RSPO has yet to reconcile this incongruity between its own charter and Indonesian licensing laws. It does not help that RSPO sanctions are not binding, anyway. The organization’s charter says companies will be kicked out for flouting their commitments, but repeated NGO “hit lists” of violators have led to few reprimands.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that some conservationists see the RSPO as a cynical exercise in “greenwashing”–dressing up business-as-usual practices with a semblance of environmental stewardship while shirking any real change. After all, the whole endeavor was conceived for PR purposes to begin with, notes Marc Ancrenaz, co-founder of the Malaysia-based NGO, HUTAN. “Companies comply because they want a good image.”

Sonny Sukada, the sustainability director at PT KAL’s parent company ANJ, maintains that the reduced size of the HCV area was needed to “align” the company’s commitment to local communities and its planting objectives, in addition to conservation needs.

In an email, RSPO communications manager Letchumi Achanah acknowledged that the RSPO complaint system was a “long process.” But she defended the speed of negotiations as necessary to “engage” the complainers and the offending party “rather than taking action on the involved party,” which might “formally end a complaint sooner but leave no avenue for improvement on the ground.” As for greenwashing, Acanah noted, “palm oil production has been linked to deforestation, violation of labor rights and displacement of local communities.” The RSPO was set up to address this “urgent concern.”

orangutan conservation

The HCV concept is hardly unique to the palm oil industry. First developed in 1999 by the Forest Stewardship Council to manage timber plots, it has since been adopted by nine sustainability-certification schemes, including those for soy, wood and pulp producers. But in new palm plantations, the HCV enclaves are particularly beleaguered.

Hendriyanto, of PT KAL’s conservation team, says at least once a month he spots orangutans outside the enclaves at large in the plantation. There, they’ll eat the palm shoots and fruits, adds Nardiyono, Hendriyanto’s boss. With an estimated 100 to150 of them at a time roaming through the plantations, he adds, they present a ready target for human depredations. Villagers have been known to catch the stray orangutans for pets or food. There even is a record of a non-RSPO palm company offering bounties for dead orangutans as a means of protecting their crop.

To guard against such outcomes, Hendriyanto uses booming “sound cannons” to herd the runaways back into their protected areas. As further insurance, the monitored HCV patches are surrounded by moats to contain animals and keep out forest fires. That arrangement may spare the orangutans from human attack, but it creates siege-like conditions that may be stressful for the animals.

The enclaves make for high-density habitat, which is anathema to the orangutan’s free-roaming nature, according to Gail Campbell-Smith an IAR conservation biologist who trains PT KAL staff in wildlife management. Overcrowding means more competition for food and, hence, increased aggression. In fact, researchers recently documented a female orangutan teaming up with a male to kill another female – a striking departure from the species’ usual norms of mutually tolerant females.

Isolated populations also lead to inbreeding and eventually “genetic erosion,” says Cardiff University professor Michael Bruford, who researches the genetics of fragmented animal populations. An “eroded” or generally smaller gene pool makes communities more susceptible to disease and extinction.

To relieve such isolation, IAR and other NGOs and government offices, are discussing a network of wildlife corridors. The eventual goal is to link all the privately held HCV patches in PT KAL’s vicinity, together with the Gunung Palung National Park 40 kilometers to the north and the 1,070 hectares of protected forest maintained for carbon credits by the nearby village of Laman Satong.

Their plan is ambitious but it is not the first of its kind. Two plantations owned by RSPO-member company United Plantation in Central Kalimantan have already established wildlife corridors of their own. And then there is the grandfather of such schemes: a 15 kilometer-long, 25- to 50-meter-wide orangutan corridor in Malaysia maintained for the past five years by RSPO-member company PT Wilmar Berhad, which is headquartered in Singapore.

The wildlife corridor strategy has at least a 40-year history. It has been applied to species ranging from lions in Africa to pandas in China. Some animals take to them better than others. Australian sugar gliders, for instance, want no part of them.

Indonesia deforestation

So how will they play out with orangutans? The limited geographic span and duration of the existing corridors mean that it is still too early for data-driven answers. But odds are that results will depend on how much connectivity can be achieved. University of Zurich anthropologist Carel van Shaik, who has been studying orangutans since the 1980s, says that populations can rebound, but only if the islands of remaining habitat can be somehow bridged so that animals can travel between them.

The viability of the corridors will depend, first, upon their physical dimensions. So far, PT KAL has built just one “corridor”: two rows of oil palms that they allowed to go fallow, connecting an HCV plot with the Laman Satong forest. The area was set aside in July, 2015, and so far just one orangutan has been sighted in it.

But even that narrow corridor represented a revenue sacrifice on the company’s part, so Campbell-Smith hesitates to push for more width. Instead, she aims to expand the corridor network by incorporating riverbanks within the plantations. Not only do the rivers provide migrating animals with abundant food and water, but Malaysian and Indonesian law guarantee the watercourses 30- to 100-meter buffer zones, to safeguard against floods and pollution.

Borneo and Sumatra biodiversity threatened

Indeed it is far more effective to link up HCV enclaves using already legally protected natural features, than to carve new corridors out of deforested plantation land, says conservation biologist Matthew Struebig of the University of Kent in England. Struebig, who is under contract with the Malaysian government for a review of tropical wildlife corridor studies, nevertheless admits, “you can create the best design but if the company doesn’t adopt it then it’s useless. You need to make it easy for them.”

When it comes to displaced orangutans, though, solutions are rarely easy. It takes far too long to implement and evaluate wildlife management solutions. In the meantime the animals and their habitat are diminishing rapidly. Under such circumstances, it might seem prudent to err on the side of conservation. But the lure of fast profits pulls in the opposite direction.

Forest Conservation News via http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-oil-palm-plantations-and-orangutans-coexist/

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com