Malaysia’s biggest conservation area is getting even bigger. The area, located in the state of Sabah, has grown nearly 200,000 hectares, or just less than half a million acres, in about two years. “Arguably, it is the biggest totally protected area in one conservation block in Malaysia,” said State Forestry Department Director Datuk Sam Mannan. Right now, more than 50 percent of the country’s land is conserved under forest cover.
These beautiful rainforests can flourish thanks in part to the Malaysian palm oil industry’s strict regulations and conservation practices, as well as the efficiency of the trees themselves. Oil palms don’t need as much land to produce the same amount of oil as other vegetable oil crops, such as soy or sunflower. And on average, these non-GMO oil palms produce for 25 to 30 years, which makes them a more efficient oilseed crop than any of their competitors. Their longevity also means this certified sustainable oil is harvested consistently.
The Malaysian palm oil industry is always trying to make improvements to reduce its carbon footprint. It is already a carbon sink, in part because:
- The crop’s canopy cover helps absorb greenhouse gasses before they escape.
- Oil palm trees have a higher leaf area index than other forest canopies, which enables them to produce more oxygen and take in more carbon dioxide.
- Thanks to sustainable practices, palm oil production requires less fertilizer and fuel energy than other oilseed crops.
Malaysia and the Malaysian palm oil industry continue to set high conservation and sustainability standards. Accolades from organizations around the world, such as the UK Royal Society South East Asia Program, have been given to Sabah’s state government for its ability to set aside land. Mannan explained that the conserved land expansion will also give Sabah a unique advantage in world tropical forest management.