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Environmental campaign blocks palm oil project in Cote d’ Ivoire wetland

Environmentalists have thwarted plans to establish an oil palm plantation in the Tanoe forest wetlands of southern Cote d’ Ivoire (Ivory Coast), reports AFP.

In announcement Friday, Palmci, the country’s largest palm oil company, blamed environmental groups for scuttling the project.

“Palmci has decided to abandon this project in the face of the refusal of certain NGOs to accept the coexistence of environmental preservation and the development of economic activity,” the company said in a statement. Palmci claimed that abandonment of the project would lead to the loss of a potential 1,000 new jobs for plantation workers, 300 industrial positions, and an investment of 18 billion CFA francs (€27 million / $36 million).

The company did not cite the recent sharp decline in palm oil prices as a factor. Palm oil prices are down more than 40 percent from their peak in March 2008.

Environmental concerns also contributed to Unilever’s decision to sell its oil palm stakes in Cote d’ Ivoire to Singapore-based Wilmar International and Olam International last June.

Inza Kone, the coordinator of RASAP-CI, a program seeking to protect primates in the country said he was pleased with the decision but “rejected the idea that ecologists were ideologically opposed to development,” according to AFP. Kone recently published a paper in the journal Tropical Conservation Science documenting the wildlife richness of the 12,000-ha area slated for conversion to oil palm plantations. They found 11 species of primates, including the critically endangered Diana Roloway (Cercopithecus diana roloway), and the endangered Cercocebus atys lunulatus and Colobus vellerosus. Environmental groups, Ecological Internet ( and Rainforest Rescue of Germany, also conducted a campaign against the Tanoe project.

Palmci said it would continue to seek sites for oil palm plantations in the west African country.

Environmental groups now aim to push for protected status for the Tahoe region. Its high levels of biodiversity may make it a potential site for ecotourism.

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