Stick Your Nose in to Help Save Theirs
Photo credit: Anna Nesbit
Even living in a protected area does not guarantee survival for proboscis monkeys. Despite an estimated 5,000 proboscis monkeys living in protected areas, entire populations still lose their habitat and die. Twenty years after establishing the Pulau Kaget Nature Reserve, in Indonsian Borneo (Kalimantan), 90% of the island had been cleared for agriculture, only providing narrow strips of forests surrounding the clearings for proboscis monkeys. This led to the remaining trees dying from over-use by proboscis monkeys, as they were forced to survive in these narrow strips. The end result was that proboscis monkeys began to die, forcing the remainder of the population to be moved to unprotected areas or zoos, where many died on route or following arrival. Protected lowland forests in Kalimantan decreased by 56% from 1985 to 2001, and by 2001, 53% of the remaining protected lowland forests in Kalimantan were overlapping with concessions and plantations.
Fire is used throughout Borneo for shifting cultivation and large-scale forest conversion in plantations and land clearance. The high rate of deforestation occurring in Borneo is causing the land to dry out, making normally controlled fires much more severe, resulting in large fires occurring approximately once every five years. This frequency however is increasing as degraded forests and previously burned forests are susceptible to more severe and damaging fires, moving through previously burned forests faster and more intensely.
A major cause for the high levels of deforestation occurring in Borneo, and the increase in fire severity and frequency, is due to the demand of palm oil worldwide. Palm oil is derived from the seeds of oil palms, and is used in everyday products, such as a vegetable oil in foods (margarine, bread, chips, cereal, cookies, chocolate, chewing gum, etc.), and other products such as cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste (it makes these products lather!).
Photo: Danica Stark
The amount of suitable land available for oil palm plantations is also declining and less ideal land is being explored – such as draining deep peat swamp. The movement into less ideal land increases the difficulty in reaching sustainable developments in the oil palm industry.
Palm oil is a massive industry, which will not slow down or stop any time soon. There has been positive steps taken by the Indonesian government stating that new plantations cannot be issued in currently forested areas, and we need to keep this pressure on governments (including our own) so this is maintained. We need to stick our noses into these issues to really learn what is going on and how we can help. Reducing the demand for unsustainable palm oil is crucial so that our funny nosed friends, the proboscis monkeys, will still have a home in the next 15-20 years.
- Read the ingredients of what you are buying
- Other names for palm oil (taken from www.palmoilaction.org.au):
Sodium Laureth Sulphate (Can also be from coconut)
Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (can also be from ricinus oil)
Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
Palm Oil Kernal
- Chemicals which contain palm oil
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (coconut and/or palm)
Hydrated palm glycerides
Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid)
Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate (and anything with palmitate at the end)
- Tell everyone you know about palm oil!!! Most people don’t realize what is happening!
- Write to your supermarkets, or to food/ cosmetic companies and ask them where they get their palm oil from and pressure them to obtain it from a sustainable source. Palm oil can also be listed as just vegetable oil, so if unsure, still write the company and ask if palm oil is included as “vegetable oil”
- Support organizations involved in reconnecting forests, especially those along rivers, as they provide an important link for many different species.