In recent weeks a campaign aimed at the Malaysian palm oil industry has spread misinformation with respect to the industry’s record on wildlife preservation and protection. The anti-industry campaign was timed to coincide with the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium (SWCC 2012).
It is worth noting that the industry is a strong supporter of existing Malaysian conservation laws and supports strengthening those laws when appropriate. Malaysian law rightly recognizes the orang-utan as a protected species. That protection is enforced via Malaysia’s International Trade in Endangered Species Act, enacted in 2008, which wisely provides further protection by making it illegal to trade species listed under CITES. What’s more, Sabah has enacted the Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997, which sensibly prescribes a Ringgit Malaysia (RM) 100.000 fine and up to five years in jail if violated.
In recent weeks, some industry critics such as Nature Alert have smeared the palm oil industry and called for the adoption of a so-called “No Kill Policy.” But as the Colloquium concluded, this policy makes little sense as law already exists to protect wildlife from illegal killing. The Colloquium – which was attended by nearly 300 NGOs, conservationists, policy makers and industry representatives – suggested that if “companies would make it clear that employees could be fired for killing (endangered species), this could be a highly effective tool to reduce wildlife losses.”
Tan Sri Datuk Dr Yusof Basiron, Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), stressed his unyielding support for wildlife preservation. “On the matter of wildelife protection, the industry is clear – it fully supports national laws to protect our wildlife heritage. The Malaysian palm oil industry strongly supports the prosecution of any offenders to the full extent of the law.”
And the industry does not rely only on law to protect Malaysia’s wildlife. It has also spearheaded a wide-ranging, effective, and sustained wildlife preservation campaign that goes well beyond the preservation efforts of its critics.
For example, The Malaysian Palm Oil Council Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF) was launched in 2006 with an initial funding of RM 20 million from government and industry. The Fund is administered by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, which has the overall responsibility to manage the various conservation projects funded through MPOWCF. Funds are provided for projects and studies on wildlife, biodiversity and environmental conservation. The MPOWCF also accepts contributions from independent donors and matches those donations ringgit for ringgit.
Malaysian wildlife benefits when all stakeholders cooperate and engage in constructive dialogue. It is harmed when industry critics make erroneous and irresponsible accusations.