Palm Oil Producers, Buyers Still Blowing Smoke

World Economic Forum Promoting New Avenues

Palm oil is the fastest-growing commodity on the planet. Sales are expected to exceed $88 billion by 2022. Unfortunately, the industry and its supporters are still blowing smoke about deforestation, biodiversity and climate change. There’s a better way forward and we can help make it a reality.

Palm oil is one of the most controversial commodities. It’s driving deforestation on a massive scale across Southeast Asia, South America and Africa. Deforestation is a major contributor to global warming, land-use change and wildlife extinction.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of crude palm oil. Approximately 45 million acres of land in Indonesia has been licensed for palm oil development. Unfortunately, licenses mean very little in the land of smoke and mirrors. Even protected areas, such as the Leuser National Park, are under siege. RSPO members aren’t defending biodiversity or the forests. They only protect themselves from the truth.

palm oil plantation deforestation

Palm oil is derived from the fruit harvested from date palm trees. Presently, more than 95 percent of palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is marketed as a low-cost form of vegetable oil. It’s used in the majority of consumer goods, including food and personal products, such as lotion and soaps. It’s also marketed as a biofuel. Multinational corporations, including Unilever, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Ferrero and many others are under fire from customers and stockholders for supporting deforestation. These companies and the palm oil industry have gone to great lengths for years to cover their tracks and green wash their supply chain with claims of so-called sustainable palm oil. There is no such thing as sustainable palm oil. It’s no more sustainable than crude oil or coal.

The Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was set up in 2004 following a series of meetings between WWF and palm oil companies. According to WWF, “One of the huge successes of the Roundtable is the development of a certification system for sustainable palm oil.” Unfortunately, that certification system was riddled with fraud and abuse. It’s a label bought not earned.

In 2015, a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency and Grassroots exposed serious problems in the RSPO certification system. Auditing firms that are supposed to monitor palm oil companies’ operations are colluding with the companies to hide violations.

The latest trend is called Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Call it what you will—palm oil plantations and biodiversity do not mix. Animals that enter palm oil plantations are killed. In many cases, bounties have been put on endangered orangutans, elephants and Sumatran tigers. Indonesia has already pushed two tiger species into extinction. The Sumatran tiger could easily follow the Java tiger and Bali tiger into the history books thanks to an industry with no reverence or conscience.

deforestation and climate change

In 2013, Greenpeace produced a report titled “Certifying Destruction,” which highlighted some of the tactics being used to shield the truth about this massive industry. A similar report came out again in 2015 by EIA. In a similar vein, PepsiCo recently released a report in an attempt to cover its tracks. Rainforest Action Network pounced on the report this week as another attempt to cover up the blood in its supply chain.

A report released by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in April 2017, titled “Profits over People and the Planet, Not ‘Performance with Purpose’; Exposing PepsiCo’s Real Agenda,” revealed PepsiCo’s connections to Conflict Palm Oil suppliers, which are driving deforestation, climate emissions, and human and labor rights abuses across Indonesia, Malaysia, and Latin America. Today’s release by PepsiCo lacks a meaningful response to the issues raised in RAN’s report.

“PepsiCo’s latest “Palm Oil Action Plan Progress Report” is a masterful attempt to window dress its lack of progress in addressing the systemic environmental and human rights violations in its palm oil supply chain and in the operations of its joint venture partner Indofood. In the real world, forests continue to fall and workers continue to be exploited for the production of palm oil used in PepsiCo’s products.

“While PepsiCo openly acknowledges in its report that deforestation and labor rights violations are rampant in the palm oil industry, the company has once again failed to set a deadline to end these abuses in its own supply chains,” said Robin Averbeck, Senior Campaigner of RAN. “Instead, PepsiCo hides behind false claims of sustainability made by the RSPO––the same certification system that has continued to certify its controversial partner Indofood, despite its ongoing exploitation of workers exposed by RAN, Indonesian labor rights organization OPPUK, and International Labor Rights Forum in June 2016.”

orangutan conservation

“PepsiCo needs to stop the corporate greenwash and stop rainforest destruction and the violation of workers and communities’ rights in its supply chain and the plantations controlled by its partner Indofood. Until it does so, PepsiCo and its financial backers will be exposed to campaigns that demand real outcomes on the ground.”

The palm oil industry and its pimps throughout the supply chain, including the RSPO, continue throwing misinformation into the market to placate investors, wholesale buyers and consumers of products that contain palm oil. Meanwhile, RSPO members continue to rape and pillage virgin rain forests and peat lands as they produce more than half of global palm oil supplies.

European nations are threatening to ban palm oil as a “renewable biofuel” in an attempt to reduce demand and force meaningful changes in the palm oil industry. Indonesia and Malaysia are digging in to keep palm oil production and consumption at an all-time high. The industry accounts for billions of dollars per year for the countries’ tycoons and cronies.

As all of this fraud indicates, the palm oil industry and palm oil buyers are desperately seeking solutions, while deforestation and its contribution to wildlife extinction continue. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the push to get commodity producers, including beef and soy, out of the world’s last rain forests represents a multi-billion dollar opportunity. The good news is that an alternative production model exists that isn’t dependent on rain forest destruction.

palm oil and orangutans

Cities around the world in the tropics, subtropics and deserts represent a powerful opportunity to expand the footprint of palm oil production, while promoting urban agroforestry, sustainability, resiliency and economic development. It can also cut shipping costs by decentralizing the production so that it’s closer to the buyers, such as PepsiCo and others. It’s a win-win opportunity for all stakeholders and stockholders. We need a leader to step forward to demonstrate the benefits of urban agroforestry. It’s a deforestation-free production model that offers valuable benefits.

This initiative will make cities more productive, livable, sustainable and resilient. Some of the new palm trees can help combat the urban heat island effect on our streets and highways. Others can reduce energy demands by sheltering homes, schools and office buildings. Strategically placed trees also can shade parks, golf courses, parks, school grounds and rooftops, while absorbing and sequestering tons of carbon dioxide. Farms and ranches will have an incentive to line their fence lines with a new cash crop. Most importantly, we can create jobs, educational opportunities and sustainable palm oil worth millions of dollars every year just by being resourceful and innovative.

Deforestation and Biodiversity News

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 Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

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 Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

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

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 

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.

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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

Deforestation In Mexico Driven By Illegal Avocado Farms

Agriculture Driving Global Deforestation

You might want to think twice about buying avocados the next time you’re at the grocery store. The delicious green fruit has become hugely popular in recent years, topping many a salad and burrito, not to mention its glorious transformation into guacamole, but unfortunately, the path avocados travel from Mexican groves to American mouths is not nearly as smooth as its texture.

Most avocados sold in the United States and Canada come from a region in western Mexico called Michoacán, that is responsible for 80 percent of avocados exported worldwide. Unfortunately, these avocados are a leading cause of deforestation in the country, according to an announcement made by the attorney general’s Office for Environmental Protection on Monday.

deforestation Mexico

Talia Coria, who heads the office’s division in Michoacán, said that nearly 50,000 acres of forest land are converted to agricultural uses each year in the state, and that between 30 and 40 percent of the annual forest loss is due to avocados, about 15,000 to 20,000 acres. (Previous deforestation, before avocados were so popular, happened at a much lower rate—around 1,700 acres per year between 2000 and 2010.)

Now that demand and prices of avocados are on the rise, however, growers are eager to do whatever they can to reap the benefits of avocado farming, even if it means destroying the lush forests that are so valuable to the region. 

Experts say a mature avocado orchard uses almost twice as much water as fairly dense forest, meaning less water reaches Michoacán’s legendary crystalline mountain streams on which trees and animals in the forests depend. Species like the monarch butterfly also rely on Michoacán forest as habitat, though Coria said there does not appear to have been damage to the monarch wintering grounds from avocado expansion yet.

monarch butterflies in Mexico forest

Unfortunately the state suffers from extreme poverty, and is notorious for its production of synthetic drugs. It is home to awful gang violence that led the Wall Street Journal in 2014 to suggest that avocados from the region are tainted, “blood avocados—the Mexican equivalent of the conflict diamonds that are sold from war-torn parts of Africa.”

Under these circumstances, it is difficult to imagine that environmental protection will take priority over survival in the minds of local farmers, but hopefully the attorney general’s announcement will generate greater concern and spur on important conversations.

rainforest conservation Latin America

Deforestation is responsible for about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation also impairs the planet’s ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide. Agriculture, including beef, soy and palm oil, is the largest driver of deforestation around the world.

Deforestation News via

reforestation and climate change solution

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

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

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

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.

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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

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

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

Logging Taking Toll On Alaska’s Tongass Wolves

Tongass National Forest Shredded By Clear-Cutting

Editor’s Note: Thanks to William Yardley of the LA Times and also to the SitNews in Alaska for their excellent reporting on this topic. We pieced work from both sources for this post. Links to both sources follow.

Wolves in the Tongass National Forest, in southeast Alaska, are making their last stand. They have become the focal point in one of the most remote and revealing battles between ecosystems and economies in the American West.

The wolf is known as the Alexander Archipelago wolf, a relative of the more common gray wolf that roams mainland North America.

Tongass wolf conservation Alaska
A Tongass wolf, by J. Cannon and B. Armstrong.

The island is Prince of Wales Island, an outpost 55 miles northwest of Ketchikan that, at nearly 2,600 square miles, is home to just 6,000 people and accessible from the mainland only by boat or plane.

The forest is home to giant evergreens — spruce, hemlock and cedar, some 800 years old and more than 200 feet tall. They are part of the 17-million-acre Tongass, America’s largest national forest. The government calls it “the most intact temperate rain forest on Earth.”

This spring, with the approval of the U.S. Forest Service, loggers began cutting thousands of acres of old-growth trees on Prince of Wales Island in one of the largest and most controversial timber sales in the Tongass in two decades. State and federal officials say the project is essential to the livelihoods of people on the island, where the last remaining large sawmill employs about 50 people.

Tongass National Forest logging

Yet the wolf population has been in steady decline, and cutting down more trees is expected to pressure them further. The animals den in the roots of very large trees and prey on deer that live beneath the forest’s dense canopy. Roads built for logging cause problems too, splintering habitat and providing easy access for hunters to shoot and trap wolves, sometimes illegally.

Just two decades ago, Prince of Wales was home to about 300 wolves. Now, state officials estimate that as few as 50 remain — about one wolf for every person working in the sawmill.

By the end of this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to make a final decision on whether the wolf should be listed as an endangered species. While that decision is pending, logging continues, as does hunting — of both wolves and the deer that are their food supply.

In response to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game report in May that revealed a drastic decline in the wolf population on Prince of Wales and surrounding islands, Audubon Alaska’s science and policy team developed a report, Prince of Wales Wolves, examining the underlying reason for the decline. Audubon Alaska’s science and policy teams concluded large-scale, old-growth, clearcut logging to be the culprit behind the wolf population decline on Prince of Wales and surrounding islands.

Wolf conservation Tongass National Park

“The alarming population decline is most immediately caused by the direct take of wolves from significant poaching and the unsustainable legal take authorized by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, but the underlying cause is extensive logging and roads that initiate many harmful effects, including over-harvest of wolves,” said Melanie Smith, Audubon Alaska’s Director of Conservation Science.

The May 2015 ADFG report said the recent population dropped from 221 wolves to only 89 in the span of a year, before logging on the Big Thorne timber sale – the largest old-growth sale in the Tongass in nearly 20 years – began this summer.

The new Audubon Alaska report points out three ways old-growth logging has and will continue to drastically impact the wolf population on Prince of Wales:

  • 4,200 miles of logging roads on Prince of Wales and surrounding islands allow poachers easy access into wolf habitat.
  • Clearcutting old-growth trees removes crucial winter habitat for wolves’ main prey, Sitka black-tailed deer, ultimately resulting in a lower deer population.
  • The reduced deer numbers, in turn, make some people perceive wolves as competition for hunting, “leading to increased poaching and public pressure to authorize unsustainable legal limits on wolf take to drive down the wolf population.”

According to Audubon Alaska, the bottom line is the decline of wolves is a management problem that desperately needs fixing. The Audubon Alaska report offers three steps necessary for survival of wolves on Prince of Wales Island:

  • Halt hunting and trapping until the wolf numbers return to a sustainable level.
  • End large-scale old-growth logging on Prince of Wales and the surrounding islands while closing unnecessary roads.
  • Protect the wolves in the Prince of Wales region under the Endangered Species Act.

At the heart of the debate in southeast Alaska is the so-called Tongass transition. The Forest Service has cast the plan as an economic and environmental bridge, providing just enough old-growth timber to keep the region’s few remaining sawmills running while slowly shifting the industry toward logging younger trees planted in areas previously cut.

The timber industry in southeast Alaska is a fading fraction of what it was before new federal regulations began limiting old-growth logging in the 1990s. The industry supports fewer than 300 jobs in the region, compared with the 3,500 workers it employed two decades ago. While the industry has plummeted, others, including tourism and fishing, have grown.

The Obama administration’s goal is to continue managing that transition — most recently through the controversial Big Thorne timber sale.

“The Big Thorne decision is a critical step in the Tongass National Forest’s transition to young timber growth management,” Forrest Cole, the forest supervisor, said in 2013 when he announced the Big Thorne Project, the name of the current logging operation on Prince of Wales. “By providing a stable supply of timber to the industry now, we are giving the Forest Service and the industry the breathing space needed to prepare for the transition to young-growth timber.”

In other words, the industry can cut down a limited number of old trees now while it waits for younger ones to grow. Mills on Prince of Wales were built to process larger, older trees. The younger, second-growth trees the Forest Service more readily allows to be logged are shipped to Asia and milled there more cheaply. Although the Forest Service has cast Big Thorne as providing enough old-growth trees to keep the mill busy for six to 10 years, industry leaders say there may be enough timber to last only three or four years. The mill on Prince of Wales, run by Viking Lumber, is viewed as important because it provides year-round work, while logging jobs are seasonal.

“We don’t need a lot of it,” Graham said of the old-growth forest, noting that the Forest Service says 90 percent of old growth in the Tongass remains intact. “We just need enough to get us through these next 30 years, maybe 2-3 percent of it. There’s plenty of room to have a few sawmills with year-round jobs and still have this last old-growth forest out there untouched.”

Conservationists say logging old-growth trees to save sawmills is misguided, putting wildlife and the forest at risk to preserve a few dozen wood products jobs even as broader economic trends pose long-term challenges for the region’s timber industry.

Wolf conservation Tongass

“There’s got to be a way to transition this small number of people and communities in a way that makes sense, instead of just totally trashing this species and this ecosystem,” said Larry Edwards, who works on Alaska issues for Greenpeace and is based in nearby Sitka.

Defining the species and its ecosystem will be an important part of the listing decision. Named for a group of islands, the largest of which is Prince of Wales, the wolf is also found on coastal parts of mainland southeast Alaska and British Columbia, where it is probably not as threatened. Although scientists say the archipelago wolves are genetically different from gray wolves inland, they also say the wolves on Prince of Wales and several of the islands nearby show even further distinctions. The Fish and Wildlife Service could find the wolf endangered across its entire range, only on the islands, or not at all.

Even some scientists who question the depth of the wolves’ genetic distinctiveness do not dispute that the animals on Prince of Wales may be at risk. “If there are only 100 wolves, yes, a population like that could go extinct,” said Matthew Cronin, a professor of animal genetics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Deforestation News via

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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

Community Empowerment Can Reduce Elephant Poaching

Community Conservation Strategies Can Save Wildlife

Establishment of community wildlife conservancies is the best solution for reducing elephant poaching in Northern Kenya, says a new study.

Community involvement would create understanding among pastoral communities that wildlife conservations can bring in the much needed revenue for funding development projects, says the study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE and conducted by researchers from the Kenya Wildlife Service, University of Twente, Northern Rangelands Trust, Save the Elephants and Colorado State University.

wildlife conservation and deforestation

Pastoral communities living in Northern Kenya must benefit from ecotourism proceeds as well as avail the area under conservation for grazing cattle all year round.

“Financial investments in anti-poaching and elephant protection should prioritize the newly established community run conservancies to accelerate their growth towards self-sustainability,” says the exhaustive report.

It found out that elephants living outside government protected areas within the Laikipia-Samburu region were more than those living within Shaba, Buffalo Springs and Samburu Game Reserves whose total areas is 533 square kilometers. Land outside the protected areas is pivotal for elephant conservation in the Laikipia-Samburu ecosystem because it accounts for 98.5 per cent of the elephant range. The unprotected land under private ranching and community conservation had the highest densities of elephants, indicating their importance for elephant conservation in the ecosystem.

forest conservation Africa

“Significantly higher densities of elephants are found in the community conservancies rather than in the community pastoral areas indicate the success of this model of conservation: management of wildlife alongside communal grazing,” it observes.

The study says that despite lower densities of live elephants and higher ratios of illegally killed carcasses, the unprotected community pastoral land is important for connecting the formally protected areas and the wildlife friendly private ranches and conservancies in the greater ecosystem.

The unprotected areas that are largely unoccupied were found to play an important role as corridors for elephants’ migration from one area to another thereby raising the need for communities which ‘preserved’ the vast hinterlands as ‘pasturebanks’ to look into ways of forming conservancies to manage the areas.

The study adds that the unoccupied areas must be closely monitored since they usually turn into battlegrounds between pastoral communities during the dry season. It observed that heightened conflict forced elephants to migrate en masse but where conservancies had been established, communities held deliberations and conflicts had been eased creating room for establishment of eco-tourism bands that bring in the much needed revenue for local communities.

lion conservation Africa

“Encouraging and promoting land owners to adopt land use types that recognize the importance of protecting wildlife would substantially reduce poaching levels. The unoccupied community pastoral areas had the highest overall levels of poaching during the entire study period,” according to the report.

It says that unhindered access to the forest reserves created lush grounds for poaching to take place but the same was effectively curbed where forested sections fell under community sanctuary management.

“In areas where community sanctuaries thrive, elephants numbers continue to increase as compared to unprotected pastoral areas. Community sanctuaries create employment for rangers, drivers and camp staff with the community conservancy management committee creating a forum for conflict resolution,” it says.

African Wildlife Conservation Strategies via

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