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.

Investors, Stakeholders Demand Reforms In Palm Oil Industry

Editorial Note: The following development is good news for the last forests, but it doesn’t appear to address the issue of endangered species and biodiversity. That is one of the weak links in the current RSPO scheme of smoke and mirrors. Presently, palm growers and buyers can kill endangered species and still conform. They have gone to great lengths to dodge this bullet. One reason is that deforestation isn’t the only threat to these animals. Once removed from their homes, those that survive can never return for a snack or a drink of water. They are shot and killed. In some cases, bounties have been paid for dead orangutans. Sumatra is ground zero in this war over biodiversity, but this reckless and destructive industry is making similar impacts elsewhere around the tropics today.

Sustainable Palm Oil A Sham

Institutional investors worth trillions of dollars, along with some of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, have called on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to quickly plug loopholes in its palm oil certification standards.

In an open letter addressed to RSPO Secretary General Darrel Webber on June 1, investors and 16 other consumer goods giants such as Procter and Gamble (P&G) and Starbucks called on RSPO to ensure that by 2016, its principles and criteria certification were changed to include measures to conserve forests.

Indonesia forest fires palm oil plantations

Suggestions by the letter’s authors included requirements on the conservation of areas considered as ‘High Carbon Stock,’ peatland protection, reporting in greenhouse gas emission, and ensuring that palm oil came from known sources.

RSPO, the trade association for the $44 billion a year palm oil industry, should raise its standards for company assessments on human rights standards and the conservation value of land so that they are rigorous and objective.

RSPO administers a global sustainability certification for palm oil growers who comply with their standards on socially and environmentally responsible practices. A set of eight principles – including a commitment to transparency, conservation of natural resources, and legal compliance – and numerous other requirements constitute the ‘RSPO Standard’ for certification.

To date, RSPO has certified 12.65 million tons of palm oil – about 20 percent of the total global supply. More than 90 percent of certified palm oil originates from Malaysia and Indonesia, with Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and Colombia accounting for the remainder.

The certification guidelines were first introduced in 2007. They have been reviewed once from 2012 to 2013, and are due for another review in 2018. The task force carrying out these reviews comprises growers, environmental and social NGOs, and consumer goods companies such as Unilever.

deforestation and climate change

The letter’s authors noted that RSPO’s certification scheme is “uniquely positioned to support, promote, and enforce the widespread uptake of responsible and sustainable production practices across the palm oil industry.”

In its current state, the certification “does not include protections for some of the most critical externalities of palm oil production” such as the conversion of forest and peatlands, the letter added. (In fact, the RSPO scheme allows its members to trash ecosystems and biodiversity, while washing its hands with the purchase of green certificates. It’s like confession for environmental crimes. Say a few hail Mary’s and plants a few trees in Costa Rica. Call it even.)

sustainable palm oil deforestation

Peatlands are wetlands that must be drained before cultivation. This process not only results in significant carbon emissions as peat dries and decomposes, it also increases the risk of forest fires and results in the land sinking, and eventually flooding, as it dries out.

Waiting till 2018 to plug these gaps “would be inconsistent with the imperatives of addressing deforestation, peatland conversion, and human rights violations swiftly and efficiently,” said the letter’s authors. They urgedRSPO to bring the timeline forward to 2016.

Lucia von Reusner, shareholder advocate at Green Century Capital Management – one of the firms that organized the letter, along with the New York State Common Retirement Fund, said that companies and investors increasingly recognize that environmental degradation and conflict with local communities pose real risks to shareholder value. (Killing endangered species, including orangutans and tigers isn’t acceptable, either. Wildlife are not welcome on palm plantations. They are killed for returning to their former homes.)

“We are calling on RSPO to provide the assurance that strong protections are being upheld throughout palm oil supply chains,” she said. “Companies and investors increasingly recognize that widespread forest clearance degrades the environment and drives conflicts with local communities in ways that pose real risks to shareholder value.”

orangutan conservation

RSPO acknowledged the letter as an encouraging sign of a proactive push from the business community on making sustainable palm oil the norm. Stefano Savi, acting communication director, RSPO, said that the multi-stakeholder nature of RSPO meant that “at times, compromises are necessary to move forward and ensure buy-in of all stakeholder groups represented within the RSPO.”

Savi promised that RSPO was “taking all constructive comments on board,” and expressed confidence that a market transformation towards sustainable palm oil would be possible.

Environmental groups welcomed the investors’ letter too, saying it reinforced a message they had been trying to send to RSPO for a long time. Marcus Colchester, senior policy advisor of UK environmental group Forest People’s Programme told Eco-Business that as one of the members of the task force “profoundly disappointed by the way Indonesian and Malaysian growers blocked RSPO from adopting higher standards during the 2012-2013 revision process. None of these standards and declarations of intent mean anything if we continue to see forests despoiled, people shunted aside and lands taken without communities’ consent by aggressive planters,” he said.

Forest Conservation News via http://www.eco-business.com/news/companies-worth-trillions-tell-rspo-to-improve-standards/

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