Palm oil’s green body comes under fire from activists

Some activist groups are withdrawing support for the palm oil body that provides sustainability certificates for the industry, saying it is biased towards producers and its complaints panel is flawed. Aidenvironment, an Amsterdam-based green group, could become the latest to cut ties with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) over what it calls poor handling of a complaint against major palm producer IOI Group.
RSPO — a body of palm producers, consumer companies, and activist groups — has long faced criticism for weak enforcement standards. Some faith was restored earlier this year when RSPO suspended IOI’s certificates, which then dissipated when RSPO revoked the suspension four months later. A withdrawal by green groups, long seen as the conscience of the RSPO, could undermine the credibility of the industry body, especially for consumer manufacturing companies under pressure globally to ensure they have a sustainable supply chain.

Alaska Airlines flies first commercial flight with new biofuel made from forest residuals

Alaska Airlines made history flying the world’s first commercial flight using a new sustainable alternative jet fuel made from forest residuals from the Pacific Northwest – the limbs, stumps and branches that are left over after a timber harvest or forest thinning of managed forests on private land. The flight departed this morning from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., powered by a 20 percent blend of the new, sustainable biofuel sourced directly from the Pacific Northwest.

SE Asian countries want to improve zoo management

Southeast Asian countries have committed themselves to improving the management of zoos across the region, including in animal breeding techniques. Indonesia Safari Park (TSI) director Jansen Manansang said zoo representatives from Indonesia and member countries of the South East Asian Zoos Association (SEAZA) had discussed conservation efforts, animal welfare and ethics improvement and sustainable zoo visitor education programs in their five-day conference in Cisarua, Bogor, West Java, recently. As an institution, Jansen said, SEAZA continuously strove to develop and push forward both the management of animals and changes in animal breeding techniques through conservation programs.

Seven African nations commit to sustainable palm oil production

Seven African countries have pledged to protect their rain forests by moving to sustainable palm oil production, according to a statement issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the sidelines of the Climate Change Summit. The governments of the Central African Republic (CAR), Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Liberia, the Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone have agreed to "protect over 70 per cent of Africa's tropical forests" from unsustainable palm oil practices.
The WEF said that their representatives were due to sign a joint declaration at the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) being held in Marrakesh from November 7 to 18.

Serious threats to natural habitats in Malaysia

At least two forest reserves in the Malaysian state of Penang, with one dating back more than a century, have been encroached on, posing a serious threat to natural habitats. Recent checks showed that the Bukit Relau and Bukit Penara permanent forest reserves had seen large tracts of land cleared for farming and orchards, respectively. While encroachment on the Bukit Penara reserve was not severe, the Bukit Relau reserve was facing increasing threat due to increased farming activity believed to be for the planting of ginger. Sources told the New Straits Times that the Bukit Relau forest serve was badly encroached on in the north, south, east and west. A source said many of the farms were recently set up. He said some of the clearings were less than a year old based on tree stumps found there. Many of the trees felled were young ones. “The Bukit Relau permanent forest reserve is only 69ha, and small parcels have been eaten into from all sides. There is a possibility that about 20 per cent of the forest reserve had been encroached on. “The Bukit Relau forest reserve is one of the last expanses of protected forests on the hills of Paya Terubong, all the way up to Teluk Kumbar. If we lose this forest reserve, we lose an important natural habitat,” he said.

Hunting biggest threat to Southeast Asian biodiversity

Deforestation and forest degradation are typically considered to be the most significant threats to tropical biodiversity, but a new study finds that hunting is “by far” the most severe immediate threat to the survival of Southeast Asia’s endangered vertebrates. The authors of the study, published last month in the journal Conservation Biology, examined the impacts of hunting on vertebrate populations in the region by conducting an extensive review of scientific papers in local journals and reports of governmental and nongovernmental agencies. They found evidence that animal populations have declined sharply at multiple sites across Southeast Asia since 1980, with many species now completely wiped out in substantial portions of their former ranges. “Tropical Southeast Asia (Northeast India, Indochina, Sundaland, Philippines) is experiencing a wildlife crisis,” the authors of the study write. Large areas of natural forest across the region are nearly devoid of large animals, except for a few hunting-tolerant species, they add. Previous estimates have held that only one percent of the land area in tropical Asia still supports an intact fauna of mammals, but the authors write that their findings suggest that “In reality the situation is far worse.” Full article published by Mike Gaworecki (Mongabay)

NGO concerned that pollution will threaten Malaysian Kerian River

Friends of Earth Malaysia (SAM) urges the Penang state government and Department of Environment (DOE) to take urgent action to curb industrial waste pollution in Kebun Kuyung, near Nibong Tebal in Seberang Perai Selatan district. There are three factories operating in Kebun Kuyung. The pollution that has been persisting since 10 years ago is not only causing a stink and turning the drain water in this area black but also polluting the nearby Sungai Kerian. The villagers here have complained to the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) and the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) but until now no action has been taken to resolve the pollution problem. SAM is concerned that if the pollution problem is not curtailed, the environment here will be worse affected. Aquatic life in Sungai Kerian especially fish and prawns that are the main catch for small fishers here will be more seriously affected and reduced, subsequently threatening their income. In a survey conducted by SAM, they found that besides the local community here being exposed to the pollution, the situation may become worse and threaten agriculture here including nearby paddy fields if the area is flooded. SAM is disappointed that the problem has yet to be resolved although the pollution problem is long standing and complaints have been lodged to the relevant authorities.
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In view of this, SAM urges the Penang state government, MPSP, relevant departments and agencies to urgently investigate the cause of the pollution and take stringent action against the factories that were polluting the drain and river here. The drain must be cleaned up so that there is no lingering stench. SAM hopes that the responsible authorities will conduct frequent and continuous monitoring to ensure that the pollution problem does not recur.

Story courtesey of S.M. Mohamed Idris, president Sahabat Alam Malaysia

Cambodia wants to boost 30% in forest rangers by 2017

The Cambodian government wants to increase by at least 30 percent the number of forest rangers working next year in wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and other protected areas to guard against encroaching logging, poaching and farming. The Environment Ministry is currently responsible for about 6 million hectares of protected land, an increase of 2.6 million hectares just this year due to land transfers from the Agriculture Ministry, including economic land concessions in protected areas. The optimal standard of protection is six rangers patrolling every 100 square km of protected area, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Using the NGO’s benchmark, Cambodia would need 3,540 rangers countrywide, about three times its current target. A WWF report this year outlining a plan to reintroduce tigers to Cambodia’s Eastern Plains region recommended at least three rangers per 100 square km of protected area. Under this lesser standard, the country would need about 1,770 rangers in total.

Korean palm oil firm denies accusations of illegal forest burning in Papua

Korean conglomerate Korindo — who owns concessions for palm oil plantations in Indonesia — has denied that it has been responsible for deforestation, illegal forest burning and human rights abuses in Papua, as contained in a report from environmental watchdog Mighty. Korindo spokesman Luwy Leonufna said the company has a policy of "zero deforestation and zero slash-and-burn practices." He attributed the wildfires in Papua to natural causes. "Korindo has been in Indonesia for 47 years,

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