Certified Palm Oil Essential For Wildlife Conservation In Sabah

A Wildlife Rescue Unit member in action to save this bird.



COMMENT: Wildlife in Sabah will be offered a better chance to thrive in Sabah once the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) scheme is put in place.

We have known since 2010 that Sabah’s iconic wildlife, including our orangutan and elephants, would face severe pressure from development. The Sabah Wildlife Department’s warning of increasing human-wildlife conflicts, especially in the heavily-developed lower Kinabatangan area has materialized in recent years with numerous human-elephant conflicts reported in the area.

The department’s dire warning was supported this year when an international study on orangutan populations and habitats identified Sabah as a region where the primate populations will drop, unless drastic measures are put in place to reconnect wildlife habitats.

Maps from the 2012 report on the status of orangutan show clearly where isolated populations of orangutan are expected to suffer localized extinction unless the palm oil industry stepped in to help create the Corridor of Life.

A Borneon Pygmy elephant that was caught in an oil palm plantation.
The Wildlife Rescue Unit of the Sabah Wildlife Department played a major role in trans-locating the Pygmy elephant back to its natural habitat in the wilds.

In the lower Kinabatangan area, this is extremely challenging as the ownership of lands in the area range from state lands to private plantations and local villagers.

The presence of plantations certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has meant the preservation of some riparian areas but these are by far, inadequate to provide the level of habitat needed by big wildlife especially elephants.

The MSPO as a nationally-mandated scheme for sustainable palm oil production in Malaysia has the necessary clout to ensure that key wildlife habitats like the riparian areas along the Kinabatangan are preserved for wildlife.

In addition to industrial plantations, the MSPO influence on smallholders through the MPOB will help to ensure that there are no broken links when local villagers own lands in between industrial plantations.

A Sun Bear, whch is a protected species in Sabah, gets attention from the WRU.

We need the industry and NGOs to work together with government in order to show the world that palm oil from Sabah does not threaten the orangutan and other wildlife with extinction.

The Malaysian palm oil industry, through its conservation funds, have funded conservation measures including the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary and the Wildlife Rescue Unit #sabahwildliferescueunit.

As certification under the MSPO progresses, the goal of creating a favourable environment for Sabah’s iconic wildlife is starting to look very achievable so let us not stop.

Having said that though, the Malaysian palm oil sector can and must do more for wildlife conservation.

• Dr Sen Nathan is Assistant Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, but is on a study sabbatical in Cardiff, Wales. An avid Conservationist, his remarks here are in his personal capacity as a concerned Sabahan. He also attaches two earlier articles on the issue that was published in theedgemarkets.com


Sabah Snubs MSPO

KUALA LUMPUR: Sabah, home to Malaysia’s largest oil palm plantation area, is adamant about seeking the internationally recognised certification for sustainably cultivated palm oil — the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification — instead of following the local certification, the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO).

In a media briefing last week, Sabah Forestry Department director Sam Mannan said the East Malaysian state has the right to choose what it thinks best in matters that concern its land, forest and water, as stipulated under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

“We can choose what we think is best. If anything (new rule or policy) is going to touch on these issues, they must be referred to Sabah’s cabinet.

“We have chosen the RSPO long before [the] MSPO was talked about. [The] MSPO can carry on — we are not against any system that will improve the performance [of the palm oil industry], but in the end, we will decide what we want. This is our land, our rights, our hardwork, [and] our failures or successes,” he said.

Sabah aims to be first fully RSPO-certified state by 2025, Sam said, and warned that his officers would not be detracted from that goal by those wanting to instruct them on what is required under the MSPO instead.

“[If] you get somebody with no power to come here and enter our forest land under me, and tell my people what to do, I will arrest you on the spot. Don’t pretend you have the power when you don’t. This is a state matter,” he said.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Mah Siew Keong announced in February this year that every plantation in Malaysia must be MSPO-certified by the end of 2019 to elevate the industry to global standards.



MPOCC concerned over Sabah Forestry’s decision to opt for RSPO certification

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council (MPOCC) has expressed concern over the Sabah Forestry Department’s decision to seek the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification for sustainably cultivated palm oil.

In a statement, MPOCC, which is the developer and operator of MSPO, said it views Sam’s statement with concern.

Noting that RSPO certification has been implemented since 2004, MPOCC said RSPO is a business-to-business arrangement and voluntary in nature.