What animals does palm oil production effect?
There are over 300,000 different animals found throughout the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra, many of which are injured, killed and displaced during deforestation. In addition, palm oil development increases accessibility of animals to poachers and wildlife smugglers who capture and sell wildlife as pets, use them for medicinal purposes or kill them for their body parts. The destruction of rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra is therefore not only a conservation emergency, but a major animal welfare crisis as well. Currently, a third of all mammal species in Indonesia are considered to be critically endangered as a consequence of this unsustainable development in their habitat.
Orangutans are one of our closest relatives, sharing over 97% of our DNA. These clever primates are said to have the same intellect as a 5-to-6-year old child, with the ability to undo bolts, pick locks and learn sign language. Despite this high level of intelligence and similarity to humans, an estimated 6 - 12 orangutans are killed each day across Borneo and Sumatra, often in severely brutal ways.
Over 90% of orangutan habitat has been destroyed in the last 20 years, and as such, is considered “a conservation emergency” by the UN. An estimated 1000-5000 orangutans are killed each year for this development. The orangutan is a keystone species and plays a vital role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem. An example of this being the spread of rainforest seeds in Indonesia, many of which can only germinate once passed through the gut of an orangutan, hence this primate is essential for the existence of the forest.
Orangutans have been found buried alive, killed from machete attacks, guns and other weaponry. Government data has shown that over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil in the last two decades. This either occurs during the deforestation process, or after the animal enters a village or existing palm oil plantation in search of food. Mother orangutans are also often killed by poachers and have their babies taken to be sold or kept as pets, or used for entertainment in wildlife tourism parks in countries such as Thailand and Bali.
The habitat of tigers is often fragmented by clearance for plantations or by the construction of roads. The tigers then lose there habitat, increasing the poaching of tigers for the illegal supply of their body parts to international markets. The most common method of hunting tigers is through the use of live-traps and snares, which are thick wire rings that grasp tigers by their feet, often digging deep into their skin. Tigers can be trapped in such devices for days until they are found by poachers, who then proceed to shoot them. The cash value of a tiger, when broken down into its constituent parts, can reach tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore people struggling for their own survival will often participate in the poaching of tigers as they have the opportunity to earn years worth of money in a single kill. A 2004 study estimated that some 253 tigers were killed or live-trapped between 1998 and 2002, and investigations have even found tiger parts openly on sale in cities across Sumatra.
One of the most serious impacts of the loss of tiger habitat is an increase in human-tiger conflicts. Rapid deforestation, human population growth and economic development within and around Sumatran tiger habitats have forced tigers into increasing contact with humans, presenting a significant danger to both tigers and people. The presence of palm oil plantations means that there is a larger population of humans in areas that were previously the habitat of tigers, therefore humans are considered viable prey for a hungry predator like a tiger. Between 1998 and 2011, a total of 638 human-tiger conflicts were recorded in Sumatra, in which tigers killed 72 people and wounded 63 more. These conflicts resulted in deaths of 59 tigers, this is a significant loss considering that only an estimated 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild today.
Just as deforestation and palm oil development increases the frequency of tiger poaching, it also causes animals like the sun bear to become more accessible to wildlife smugglers. At the edge of forests bordering cleared lands, bears that may have been difficult to track in the forests suddenly become easy targets. These bears are captured and confined to cages barely larger than their own bodies, where they are milked for their bile. The bile produced by sun bear is worth a significant amount of money in traditional Chinese medicine.
Cubs are also worth money in an illegal pet trade, so a mother in search of food that roams onto a plantation or cleared land offers people with some cash, money for her parts and money for her cub. Bear paw soup is also an extremely expensive delicacy throughout Asian as well as claws and teeth which are sold as trinkets. An adult sun bear also provides a lot of meat for an plantation worker.