Blame humans, not palm oil, for wildlife extinction, says minister

Zuraida Kamaruddin says changes in the use of land and sea in Asia Pacific make up only 43% of the factors threatening the wildlife population in the region.

KUALA LUMPUR: The plantation industries and commodities ministry says that hunting by humans is a major contributor to the decline of Bornean orangutans over the last 200 years, long before significant oil palm development began in the 1970s.

In conjunction with International Orangutan Day, celebrated every year on Aug 19, the ministry said it needed to clear the air over allegations of palm oil being the biggest threat to the orangutans, with some quarters even going to the extent of brandishing the golden oil as an “orangutan killer

“While it is true that orangutans in Borneo have become an endangered species, it is equally true that many other animal species have become endangered due to the explosion of the human population across the planet,” she said in a statement.

Citing a study, Zuraida said changes in land and sea use in Asia Pacific make up only 43% of the factors threatening wildlife populations, while more than 50% are due to species over-exploitation, invasive species and diseases, hunting, pollution and climate change.

“All wildlife – not just orangutans – are threatened across the world. They are not limited to other monkey and animal species that inhabit Borneo but also across North America, Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, Caribbean and Africa,” she said.

According to Zuraida, Malaysia has allotted 43 sq km of protected land at the edge of the Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve in Sabah as a rehabilitation site for orangutans.

“Today, around 60 to 80 orangutans are living independently in the reserve while approximately 25 orphaned orangutans are housed in the nurseries,” she said.

She said her ministry has also initiated the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation (MPOGCF) through the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) as a sustainability platform funded by the palm oil industry through the collection of cesses to reflect the industry’s commitment toward ensuring palm oil players and smallholders remain sustainable in their practices.

“In this regard, MPOGCF is joining forces with the Sabah wildlife department to support wildlife rescue and conservation efforts.

“This includes the establishment of Sabah’s wildlife rescue unit which was set up by the Sabah wildlife department in collaboration with MPOGCF, with the main task of rescuing and translocating distressed wildlife, including orangutans,” she added.

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