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Palm Oil Action Australia | May 21, 2022

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Environmental Impacts of Deforestation


Impacts on the Rainforest and Wildlife in Borneo, Sumatra and Papua New Guinea

Indonesia is now in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest rate deforestation. The entry reads: “Of the 44 countries which collectively account for 90% of the worlds forests, the country which pursues the highest annual rate of deforestation is Indonesia with 1.8 million hectares of forest destroyed each year between 2000 – 2005.”

Jakarta Post 4/5/07

  • Indonesia is facing the highest rate of tropical rain forest loss in the world.
  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates, over 2000-2005 Indonesia had the second largest area of deforestation (after Brazil) with about 1.87 million hectares cleared every year (1.91% of forest area per year).
  • There are millions of hectares of degraded land available that could be used for oil palm plantations. Instead, many companies choose to clear high conservation value rainforest in order to gain the additional timber profits.
  • Borneo is home to 13 primate species, 350 bird species, 150 reptiles and amphibians and 15,000 plant species.
  • Sumatra is home to Sumatran rhinos, clouded leopards, Sumatran tigers, Asian tapirs, Sumatran elephants, and thousands of other species.
  • Papua New Guinea (PNG) harbors the third largest unbroken chain of rainforest in the world. It is home to some 7.5% of Earth’s biodiversity, including 197 species of frog, 762 species of bird, and 3000 species of fish.
  • The PNG forests are also home to tiny tree kangaroos and over one thousand varieties of wild orchids. Many of these are endemic such as the Queen Alexandra Birdwing, the largest butterfly in the world.
  • Much of PNG remains to be surveyed and studied but time is running out as between 5 to 6 million hectares of forests have already been cleared and a further 10.5 million hectares are earmarked as logging concessions. The annual deforestation rate is estimated to be 300,000 hectares but this will increase if oil palm expansion unfolds as planned.
  • Over 95% of PNG’s land and forests belong to the people. Land cannot be bought or sold, but is inherited through the customary land tenure system. Land, forest and waterways are revered as not only an essential practical resource, but also as a basis for rural livelihoods and for the Melanesian identity and pride. The people plant rich and varied food gardens on small areas of fertile lands. Further environmental degradation and deforestation from large-scale agriculture projects such as oil palm will lead to poverty and increasing conflicts in PNG.

Impacts on Orangutans

  • Orangutans are the only Asian great ape; they are the largest arboreal (tree dwelling) mammal on earth. The wild population of Bornean orangutans is estimated at 45,000-69,000. There are only approximately 7,300 Sumatran orangutans remaining; they are amongst the top 25 most endangered primates in the world.
  • Orangutans give birth once every 6 -10 years, the longest interbirth interval of any mammal! (A slow reproductive cycle makes orangutans extremely vulnerable to extinction).
  • After logging rainforest habitat, palm oil companies often use uncontrolled burning to clear the land. In 1997-98 a devastating fire killed almost 8,000 Borneon Orangutans. Orangutans are predicted to be extinct in the wild within the next 20 years if the rate of deforestation remains unchanged.