2 April 2007
Mr. Roger Alton
Dear Mr. Alton,
David Smith’s article (25.03.2007) headed ”Five years to save the orang utan” contains some challenging statements regarding the biofuels industry. As the Malaysian palm oil industry is recognised as setting the world’s highest standards of sustainable rainforest management and oil palm cultivation, while maintaining a commitment to wildlife conservation, I would like to make the following key points.
Over the last 50 years, oil palm expansion in Malaysia has used land mainly converted from former rubber, cocoa and coconut cultivation, and no rainforest land has been used since 1990. Less than 20% of Malaysia is used for agriculture, with more than 60% dedicated to permanent rainforest – a proportion that has not changed for the last ten years, and is governed by national law.
The fear that palm bio-diesel demand in the EU will prompt uncontrolled expansion of oil palm plantations and thus further erode tropical forests and the natural habitat of the orang utan is therefore unfounded as far as Malaysia is concerned.
Orang utans are far better protected than is suggested in this article. For example, since 2000, about 27,000 hectares of the flood plain of Kinabatangan has been gazetted as the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary under the Land Ordinance. A recent survey showed that thousands of orang utans remain in and around the protected area.
Malaysia has long made concerted efforts to ensure the conservation of its biodiversity and natural resources by creating and supporting charitable projects both inland and at sea, some examples being the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center and the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Fund.
We realize that there is more that the industry needs to do in order to achieve an acceptable balance between the need to develop the oil palm plantations and to continue to protect and preserve the population of wildlife in Malaysia.
This is a task that the Malaysian palm oil industry is prepared to undertake and this commitment is reflected in our active participation in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, through which the industry is finalising standards and processes for a sustainable palm oil certification scheme, which will start to be implemented later this year. This scheme is built on many of the sustainable cultivation and cropping processes already adopted by the Malaysian palm oil industry.
Dr Yusof Basiron
Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC)
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