This post was originally published on March 1, 2021 and updated on July 19, 2021.

Malaysia is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, and its palm oil industry is determined to both protect and conserve its natural resources for future generations. 

Unlike other oil crops that are harvested to the ground, oil palms produce fruit for 25-plus years. In fact, oil palms are considered to be keystone ecological resources, providing crucial links between the plant and animal communities. Many animal species also use the oil palm plantations as stopping points as they move between forest patches. This is something they might be able to do if the land was planted with annual crops or grasslands. 

What types of animals can be found living among Malaysia’s oil palms

  • Birds: An estimated 163 species of birds live on oil palm plantations, many providing pest control seed dispersal and pollination services. Many oil palm plantation owners use Barn Owls to help control the rodent population on plantations.  
  • Mammals: From Orangutans to Malayan Sun Bears, there have been sightings of 32 species of mammals using Malaysia’s oil palm plantations as their habitat or as passageways as they travel from one forest to another. The Orangutan population, now stable in Sabah, has adapted to living, nesting and feeding within the plantations as well as in the forests. 
  • Amphibians: Considered to be an indicator of ecosystem health because they are sensitive to environmental changes, some researchers have found more species of amphibians living in Borneo’s oil palm plantations than in the nearby forested habitat. 
  • Reptiles: The local reptile population commonly includes the Water Monitor Lizard, which plays vital roles in nutrient cycling as well as disease control.  
  • Freshwater fish: Some 35 species of freshwater fish have been found in Sarawak’s oil palm plantations. 
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In addition to the industry’s stringent sustainability standards, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council manages the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation, formerly known as the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund. This foundation has initiated and conducted many conservation programs to save and conserve Malaysia’s iconic wildlife species including the Asian Elephant, Pygmy Elephant, Orangutan and Malayan Tiger.

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