Friday, June 19, 2015

Study- Increasing Palm Oil Prices Could Help Save Indonesia's Tigers and Orangutans

A wild Sumatran tiger caught on camera.

A study has found that supermarkets could help save Indonesia's endangered species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger by raising the prices of palm oil products providing the money boosted went to the conservation of forests. Scientists indicated that by placing a price bonus on palm oil components, which equal to about half of all supermarket products, would have a major effect on protecting the surviving forests that have not been completely annihilated by palm oil plantations. The study discovered that customers would be prepared to pay between 15 and 56 percent extra for palm oil products if they knew it would help protect natural habitats in Indonesia and Africa, where palm oil plantations have spread quickly over the past twenty years. Scientists found in research on customers and a palm oil company on the island of Sumatra that the higher prices people were ready to pay for "conservation grade" palm oil more than created for the extra costs the company acquired when protecting nearby forests. The study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, evaluated palm oil plantations, nurseries, forests, and cleared land in Sumatra where large areas of virgin forests have been taken over by palm plantations due to the high expedience of the oil crop. The researchers discovered that establishing conservation efforts on areas near current forests produced the best results, with priority on land that was away from current roads which minimized the impact on company profits. They used this data to establish rules for optimum habitat conservation. According to Brendan Fisher from the University of Vermont, the study indicates how necessary it is for the palm oil industry and scientists to work together to find possible win-win solutions. Chris Carbone of the Zoological Society of London added that habitats surrounded by palm oil plantations still maintain a number of threatened species, and that it could be likely to protect and even restore wildlife in such areas at comparably low and viable economic costs without massively impacting palm oil production.

Palm oil production is one of the major threats to Indonesia's biodiversity. How is increasing the price of palm oil products going to help save the country's most iconic, yet endangered species? That is like raising the price of ivory, rhino horns, or other products made from endangered species that had already been killed in order to discourage the public from purchasing them and encourage them to save the remaining populations of the animals targeted by poachers to satisfy the growing demand of such animals. The palm oil production has and continues to push Indonesia's endangered species closer and closer to extinction. In fact, scientists have recently warned that the Earth has entered the sixth mass extinction. That is, non-human animal species are disappearing 100 times faster than the normal rate due to ongoing threats humans impose on the world's wildlife. These include, but not limited to the palm oil production in Indonesia. The country is famous for being one of the few biodiversity hotspots in the world, but is also home to some of the most critically endangered species such as the Bawean deer, Sumatran elephant, orangutan, tiger, rhino, and the Javan leopard and rhino. These animals live under constant fear of palm oil production and there has never been any news of either of these following species' populations making a comeback from the brink of extinction. It is highly crucial to take necessary action to prevent Indonesia's palm oil production from further decimating the country's forests and the animals inhabiting them. The eradication of any remaining forests in Indonesia would not just result in extinction of the animals, but would also increase the possibility of human infectious disease-spreading. This is because vectors like mosquitoes, sandflies, and other carriers of diseases are sensitive to small changes in temperature, humidity, and availability of breeding sites. This means that clearing forests for palm oil plantations would expose humans to these insects and the diseases they carry. This is why it is extremely crucial to take action in preventing Indonesia's palm oil production from rapidly decimating the country's wildlife.

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