Orangutan should become symbol of palm-oil opposition
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
January 2, 2008


Organutans could serve as a symbol to unite conservationists against damaging palm-oil production.



In a letter published today in Nature, Oscar Venter, Erik Meijaard and Kerrie Wilson argue that proposals for conservation groups to purchase and run oil palm plantations for the purpose of generating funds for forest protection are unlikely to be successful. The concept was originally put forth by Lian Pin Koh and David S. Wilcove in a 2007 Nature article.

Venter and colleagues say that because Indonesian NGOs are too small to fund and operate plantations or parks, they should "combine a range of approaches to conservation, in order to maximize their influence through strategic alliances" with local communities, carbon traders, and the palm-oil industry itself. Reserves should be a secondary strategy for local conservationists, say the authors.

Orangutan in Borneo
"Reserves should be purchased only if and when doing so is a more cost-effective means of conserving biodiversity than any of the available alternatives: that is, when resources are available, the benefits are substantial and the alternatives are limited," the authors write.

The authors say NGOs should also pressure palm-oil producers by "increasing consumer awareness of the impact of palm-oil production on biodiversity -- particularly on orangutans." Using the demise of the orangutan as a symbol for destructive palm-oil practices, conservationists may be able to reduce demand for palm-oil and force the industry to make greener reforms.

"The NGOs involved must move on to foster relationships that simultaneously work both with and against the palm-oil industry to limit its impact," the authors conclude.

Environmentalists say palm-oil production is driving deforestation across southeast Asia. Oil palm estates have expanded in Indonesia from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to more than 6 million hectares in 2007. In Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo), the area of plantations has increased from 186,744 hectares in Sabah and Sarawak in 1984 to 1,673,721 hectares at the close of 2003. Scientists estimate the use of palm oil biodiesel from plantations established on peat soils releases 8 to 21 times the carbon dioxide emissions as conventional diesel fuel.


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CITATION:
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com (January 02, 2008).

Orangutan should become symbol of palm-oil opposition.

http://news.mongabay.com/2008/0102-palm_oil.html