Authorities made ignorant remarks regarding wildlife conservation to fight criticism against Malaysia’s timber and palm oil industry
Malaysia has been blessed with rich biological diversity. It has many natural resources and is home to various species of flora and fauna. However, with countless blessings comes many challenges in its biodiversity preservation.
In the name of progress and development, the importance of preserving the country’s flora and fauna is often being overlooked.
Recently, several incidents involving Malaysia’s timber and palm oil industry made people question if the country was serious about protecting its environment and wildlife species. Several remarks made by the authorities about wildlife conservation left the nation in shock.
Bizarre and ignorant
In an event, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin was seen to make a statement regarding orangutans which was described by the President of Ecotourism and Conservation of Malaysia Andrew Sebastian as “bizarre and ignorant”.
Zuraida, in her speech, said: “In Malaysia, if you see an orangutan, the orangutan will kill you first, not you kill the orangutan first, am I right?”
She said the wildlife and national parks department (Perhilitan) had its policy and procedure and did not simply kill orangutans. She made the statement in response to the criticism that the palm oil industry was killing the mammal.
According to the report by Free Malaysia Today, Sebastian said Zuraida failed to recognise the well-documented decline in the population of orangutans.
“From 1973, it was estimated that there were 288,500 orangutans in Borneo and by 2025, it is estimated to drop to 47,000 only,” he told the news outlet, adding that the statement made by Zuraida did little to help the palm oil industry in refuting the criticism it received regarding its effects on the species population.
Stable number of orangutans
According to WWF-Malaysia, sustainable palm oil and orangutan conservation can go hand-in-hand. The organisation explained that orangutans were not hunters and did not possess a ‘predatory’ attack mode.
It shared that the Bornean orangutan had been listed as critically endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status since 2016. It means that the species faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild if its population continues to drop.
“The orangutan face threats in the form of conversion of forests for agriculture, mining and settlement, fragmentation, and are vulnerable to threats of forest fires. Over the last two decades, population surveys have shown that orangutan numbers have stabilised. This is done through multi-stakeholder collaborations between WWF-Malaysia, the Sabah Forestry Department, the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Forest Department Sarawak.
“To date, there is an estimated number of 13,000 orangutans in the wild in Sabah and Sarawak, collectively. These numbers are considered stable and are believed to remain, provided good forest and conservation management practices continue to be implemented. This is in line with the government’s policy of maintaining 50 per cent forest cover that provides the habitat for orangutan conservation.”
Sustainable palm oil is the way to go
For palm oil, WWF-Malaysia stated that the massive demand for its products and massive expansion in the tropics makes it a significant deforestation driver and a great threat to wildlife, such as orangutans, elephants and tigers. It said palm oil cultivation and production threatened the natural habitat of wildlife and posed risks to fragile environments and biodiversity if done unsustainably.
“However, WWF-Malaysia believes that the palm oil industry can develop sustainably without further damaging rainforests, harming communities, and endangering wildlife,” it stated, saying that the organisation was working with various stakeholders and government agencies to develop standards and planting procedures that ensure the sustainability of palm oil production.
“We would like to state that it is not a human versus primate issue, where the ultimatum is to kill or be killed. Rather, it is about tolerance, acceptance and co-existence. The now stable orangutan numbers show that both humans and wildlife can live in harmony with nature.” — @Forest