Alternative Health Expert Bruce Wylde, BSc, DHMHS traveled to Malaysia to investigate whether the palm oil industry is harming Malaysia’s wildlife. He was specifically interested in learning about palm oil’s impact on orangutans, elephants and sun bears. After touring several animal welfare facilities, Wylde went to an oil palm plantation to question Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s Deputy CEO Dr. Kalyana Sundram. He learned that the country cares deeply about its animals, and that its palm oil industry is a compassionate partner in wildlife conservation initiatives.
Wylde said much of the controversy stems from well-intended and conscientious people, and the deep concern they have for Malaysia’s animals. His trip helped him understand the issue. “This visit has opened my eyes really wide,” he said. “Seeing what the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) is doing, and the efforts they have put in place to save the wildlife, and frankly the environment.”
Orangutans and deforestation are at the center of the debate. Wylde and Sundram met in Sabah, the Malaysian state on the island of Borneo which is a major palm oil producer, to discuss this issue. “A lot of people think that we have decimated the orangutan population in this country in order to plant the plantations you are seeing here,” commented Sundram.
In reality, more than 11,300 orangutans live in the wild in Sabah. The Malaysian government and palm oil industry are committed to maintaining or bettering this number. “One of the ways we do this is by establishing the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF),” said Sundram. “We fund a number of conservation efforts in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department.”
Wylde met with authorities from the Wildlife Rescue Unit, which works under the direction of the Sabah Wildlife Department. “It’s just one of the efforts put in place by the MPOC,” he said. This group helps distressed animals, often ones which have wandered out of protected areas. “We were instrumental in setting up the Wildlife Rescue Unit, which is very unique to this part of the world,” said Sundram. Malaysia is home to some of the world’s oldest rainforests which house an impressive array of wildlife, from 11,000-pound elephants to venomous snakes. Sometimes these animals roam into populated areas. “They (Wildlife Rescue Unit) have become very successful,” praised Sundram. The unit has rescued or translocated many animals including long-tailed macaques, sambar deers, orangutans, elephants and crocodiles. MPOWCF helped establish this unit, and also provides operating funds.
“No animal will be harmed while (palm oil operations) are being done,” Sundram pledged. “We are also very conscious that the environment needs to be preserved for the betterment of not only the animals, but for the future generations that will inherit this planet.”
Robin Miller is a health and nutrition editor with more than 30 years of industry experience. She researches and writes about the nutritional benefits of palm fruit oil, with the goal of giving readers factual, science-based information that will be useful in their daily lives.