Jaguar cub approaches camera trap in palm oil plantation in Colombia. Mother looks on from behind. Photo by: Panthera.
As the highly-lucrative palm oil plantation moves from Southeast Asia to Africa and Latin America, it brings with it concerns of deforestation and wildlife loss. But an ongoing study in Colombia is finding that small palm oil plantations may not significantly hurt at least one species: the jaguar. Researchers in Magdalena River Valley have taken the first ever photos of jaguars in a palm plantation, including a mother with two cubs, showing that the America’s biggest cat may not avoid palm oil plantations like its Asian relative, the tiger.
“Typically, jaguars can move across human-dominated landscapes by traveling through riparian forests or using road underpasses, but until now, scientists had no photographic proof that jaguars entered oil palm developments in this region,” said Esteban Payan, the Northern South America Jaguar Program Director with wild cat-NGO Panthera, in a press release.
The researchers emphasize that the jaguars, which were photographed by remote camera traps, were found in a small palm oil plantation near an indigenous reserve, which they note is probably a “best-case scenario” for the collision of jaguars and palm oil.
“Our data suggest that plantations can be part of a landscape mosaic that jaguars will use. But careful planning that avoids large-scale replacement of forest with huge palm oil areas will be essential if we want to avoid the kind of isolation that tigers now suffer,” Howard Quigley, Panthera’s Jaguar Program Executive Director, said.
Photos showed other South America feline species in palm oil plantations, such as the puma, jaguarundi, and the ocelot.
The rise of palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia have been blamed in part for the decline in wild species like orangutan, elephants, and tigers, as well as the loss of carbon-rich habitats like rainforest and peatlands. Criticism of palm oil’s impact in Southeast Asia is not without evidence: for example a recent study found that nearly 70 percent of new palm oil plantations in Indonesian Borneo were over peatlands, while last year another analysis found that 65 percent of deforestation in the Malaysian state of Sarawak was linked to palm oil between 2005 and 2010.
The crop’s movement into South America is already raising deforestation concerns as well: a report in January found that 72 percent of new palm oil plantations in Peru were in forest areas.
“Human development in the shape of large monocultures, like oil palm plantations, are drastically changing the face of the planet, creating refugees out of wild cats by breaking up their habitats and forcing them to live within smaller, often degraded, and more isolated pockets of land,” Quigley said.
“Data collected through Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative (JCI) are critical for oil palm growers, national policy makers and local governments in their decision making so they can account for the needs of jaguars across their range and minimize impacts on wildlife.”
Panthera is currently working with governments and other conservation groups to establish a Jaguar Corridor, an ambitious project that would connect jaguar populations from Mexico to Argentina.
Jaguars are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List. They are imperiled by deforestation, fragmentation, human-wildlife conflict, and a big decline in prey.
Mother jaguar and two cubs in palm oil plantation in Colombia. Photo by: Panthera.
Ocelot in palm oil plantation in Colombia. Photo by: Panthera.
Male jaguar in palm oil plantation in Colombia. Photo by: Panthera.
(05/16/2012) At first, an encounter between a jaguar (Panthera onca) and a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) seems improbable, even ridiculous, but the two species do come into fatal contact when a female turtle, every two to four years, crawls up a jungle beach to lay her eggs. A hungry jaguar will attack the nesting turtle, killing it with a bite to the neck, and dragging the massive animal—sometime all the way into the jungle—to eat the muscles around the neck and flippers. Despite the surprising nature of such encounters, this behavior, and its impact on populations, has been little studied. Now, a new study in Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park has documented five years of jaguar attacks on marine turtles—and finds these encounters are not only more common than expected, but on the rise.
(06/05/2012) One of the world’s largest palm oil companies has become the first to identify and disclose high carbon forests and peatlands in its concessions. Golden Agri-Resources Limited (GAR), the owner of Indonesia’s palm oil giant PT SMART Tbk, on Monday published a carbon assessment of its holdings in Indonesian Borneo. The report is an important milestone under GAR’s forest conservation policy, which prohibits conversion of land with more than 35 tons of carbon per hectare and moves the company toward a zero deforestation target.
(06/01/2012) Three critically endangered Sumatran elephants were poisoned to death within an palm oil plantation on the island of Sumatra, reports the Associated Press.
(05/29/2012) Palm oil giant PT SMART appears to be honoring its commitment to avoid conversion of high carbon forests in Indonesian Borneo, reports a new assessment published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental activist group. The report was issued 15 months after PT SMART — a subsidiary of Singapore-based Golden Agri Resources (GAR) and owned by Indonesia’s Sinarmas Group — signed a landmark agreement with The Forest Trust (TFT) to spare forests and peatlands that have more than 35 tons of carbon per hectare. The deal came after a damaging Greenpeace campaign, which targeted PT SMART for clearing orangutan habitat in Kalimantan and cost the company millions of dollars in contracts.
(05/23/2012) 100 percent of New Britain Palm Oil Limited’s palm oil will be eco-certified, segregated, and fully traceable by the end of the year, reports the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
(05/23/2012) Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has stopped using palm oil for fast food sold in its Australian outlets, reports ABC News.
(05/19/2012) A mother orangutan and its baby were rescued from an area of forest that was being bulldozed for an oil palm plantation in Sumatra, reports the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), which participated in the translocation of the red apes.
(05/18/2012) The palm oil industry has hired lobbying powerhouse Holland & Knight to help overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that palm oil-based biodiesel fails to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets under the country’s Renewable Fuels Standard, reports The Hill.
(05/11/2012) The acting head of Nagan Raya Regency — the location of Tripa peat swamp — on Thursday demanded a stop to a controversial palm oil development project that conservationists say threatens a population of endangered orangutans, reports Serambi Indonesia.