Saturday, October 3, 2009

Palm oil industry pledges wildlife corridors to save orangutans

By Jeremy Hance
October 03, 2009

In an unlikely—and perhaps tenuous—alliance, conservationists and the palm oil industry met this week to draw up plans to save Asia's last great ape, the orangutan. As if to underscore the colloquium's importance, delegates on arriving in the Malaysian State of Sabah found the capital covered in a thick and strange fog caused by the burning of rainforests and peat lands in neighboring Kalimantan.

After two days of intensive meetings the colloquium adopted a resolution which included the acquisition of land for creating wildlife buffer zones of at least 100 meters along all major rivers, in addition to corridors for connecting forests. Researchers said such corridors were essential if orangutans were to have a future in Sabah.

"This has to be the way the way forward to restore or allow reversion of forests along riverbanks," John Payne with WWF-Malaysia said.

If the corridors, both connecting forests and alongside rivers, are implemented this will prove a huge success for conservationists and a vital step forward in saving the last remaining—and still declining—populations of orangutans in Malaysia. Such action would also represent a seismic shift in the palm oil industry's quest to repair a long-battered reputation due to large-scale deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Sponsored by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), the Bornean Conservation Trust, and the local conservation organization HUTAN, the meeting provided a rare venue for government officials to have drinks with primatologists, and palm oil entrepreneurs to share a meal with conservationists. …

Palm oil industry pledges wildlife corridors to save orangutans

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