Industry News

MPOC at the forefront of wildlife conservation

Friday, August 24 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) is tasked with promoting the market expansion of palm oil through creating awareness of various technologies, economic advantages, nutritional wholesomeness and environmental sustainability of Malaysian palm oil.

But, very little is known about the council’s forefront role in protecting wildlife through conservation efforts especially in the interiors of Sabah, the country’s top palm oil producing state.

One may wonder why the council is involved in such wildlife conservation and rescue work and the answer may lie in its need to showcase to the world that Malaysia does not continue to destroy rainforests and wildlife habitats, particularly orang utans, to produce palm oil.

“In fact, Malaysia currently boasts of 56 per cent permanent natural forest cover while developed nations, on the other hand, have less than 30 per cent.

“Most in the West claim to have a deep interest and desire to protect the already protected orang utans, but often no funding is contributed for these groups for initiatives to protect them,” said MPOC chief executive officer Tan Sri Datuk Dr Yusof Basiron.

A recent visit to an orang utan nesting area in Sukau, Sandakan, organised by MPOC, revealed the extensive research and conservation work being done from dawn to dusk to collect a wide range of data ranging from dietary observation, feeding behaviour, social aspects and ranging patterns.

The findings show that orang utans in Kinabatangan spend about 40 per cent of their time resting and 40 per cent feeding and make a new nest on tree tops to bed daily.

Dr Isabelle Lackman, director of HUTAN – Kinabatangan Orang-Utan Conservation Programme, who presented the current situation on orang utans in secondary forest (previously logged), said the distribution of orang utan in Borneo had rapidly decreased, due to human encroachment.

This has reduced the available habitat for these apes especially through felling by logging interests.

“Orang utan thrive in secondary forests, and efforts are underway to ensure that these habitats are also not lost in the near future,” she said.

Lackman, a primatologist by profession, said crucial and urgent steps were needed to solve these conflicts to prevent the possible extinction of the orang utans.

This can be achieved with active engagement and support from stakeholders in creating innovate mechanisms where local development becomes compatible with the long-term conservation of the orang utans and its habitat, she stressed.

In Sabah, there are more than 200 species of mammals, around 540 species of birds and about 100 species of reptiles.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF) was mooted by the MPOC in 2006 at the height of challenges faced by the industry in the form of negative campaigns mounted by Western non-governmental organisations.

It launched the fund with an initial investment of RM20 million, of which RM10 million is a grant from the government, and the balance is provided by the industry.

MPOC, in recognising the importance of striking a balance between development and wildlife conservation, is currently active in funding several programmes via the MPOWCF. — Bernama