November 12, 2010
The measure, put forth by the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS), was passed on the final day of the RSPO's annual meeting.
“SOS wanted public acknowledgment from the RSPO that it is not only primary forests that have conservation value," Helen Buckland, SOS UK Director, said in a statement. "This success sends a strong message that the palm oil industry acknowledges that even degraded forests can provide important habitats for endangered species, and that companies expecting to receive RSPO certification must not have cleared any forests which could have conservation value.”
Sumatran Orangutan in Gunung Leuser. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
“Conversion of forests to oil palm plantations is now considered the greatest cause of deforestation in Indonesia," said Buckland. "It is therefore very important that RSPO ensures its members and auditors understand the value of even degraded forests to the survival of endangered species.”
Scientists say logged-over forest still retains considerable biodiversity, supporting 50-80 percent of its original biodiversity. By comparison, oil palm plantations are biological deserts.
"Most lowland forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan have been logged by commercial timber companies, or by illegal loggers, even within National Parks," said Buckland. "With so little orangutan habitat remaining, it is vital to preserve even degraded forests to ensure the survival of this critically endangered species in the wild."