Manila, Philippines – Palm oil is a vegetable oil obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree. It is used as cooking oil, and is in processed foods such as chocolates, crackers, instant noodles and many more food stuff. It is also an important ingredient of soaps, washing powders and personal care products.
A Japanese company was questioned by consumers in a TV show in 2004 if their products utilizing eco-friendly palm oil had caused misery to elephants in Sabah, Malaysia in Borneo Island. It showed a footage of human-elephant conflicts in the Kinabatangan forest, where oil palm plantations are located. The forests along the 560 km-long Kinabatangan River are home to an estimated 13,000 orangutans and 1,100 Borneo pygmy elephants.
The encroachment of oil palm plantations is pushing wildlife into pockets of forest. Due to barriers formed by large rivers, large water channels, oil palm plantations and villages, the forests have been fragmented into 15 patches. Elephants can only move between these patches by swimming across rivers, and walking through plantations and villages.
Immediate efforts were taken to join back the patches by acquiring back 20,000 hectares to create the “ecological corridors” for animals to move around. The Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) was set up in 2006. A parallel body was set up in Japan to raise funds for purchasing alienated land along river banks for the ecological corridor for elephants and orangutans.
The Japanese company pledged 1 percent of total sales on their products to BCT. And the company, on its own, is acquiring land around the lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.
The 5.7 acres of land, identified as one of the key ecological corridors, has been secured recently by BCT with the financial support from the Japanese corporation, which consists of 250 key cooperatives supported by 20 million consumers.