Malaysia has always been serious about conservation, but with the state of Sarawak’s newly passed Forest Bill, Malaysia’s commitment to conservation is soaring to new heights. This is great news for the Malaysian palm oil industry which champions responsible agricultural practices. The industry has also been fighting illegal deforestation for years through its Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund.
In Malaysia, palm oil can only be grown on legal agricultural land. There is also a zero burning policy. A 2004 report prepared for the American Forest and Paper Association acknowledges that illegal deforestation happens all over the world, including the United States. The report ranks Malaysia’s level of illegal logging much lower than other tropical countries and more closely aligned to the European Union and U.S.
This new Forest Bill further empowers forestry officials to deal with any illegal deforestation in Malaysia. It includes stiffer penalties, as much as one million Ringitts, equivalent to $271,000 U.S. dollars. This is a substantial amount considering Malaysia’s average monthly household income is RM 5,000 (or $1,356). This new bill complements the country’s Wildlife Protection Ordinance and National Parks and Nature Reserves Ordinance, which helps protect the country’s sun bears, hornbills, clouded leopards and other native species. The tougher deterrents should further reduce incidences of wildlife displacements and help conserve the nation’s pristine environment. Malaysia, which has dedicated more than 50 percent of her total land mass to forest cover, remains one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. The Malaysian state of Sarawak is home to more than 12,000 species of plants and more than 1,000 animal species.
This new bill also aligns with a Malaysian Palm Oil Council-funded conservation project involving the Sarawak Forestry Corporation. This collaboration focuses on orangutan protection and habitat conservation.