New Study: Species Gravely Endangered by Global Trade of Commodities like Palm Oil

Written by Ashley Schaeffer

Sumatran Elephants: Critically Endangered Due to Palm Oil and Pulp & Paper Plantation Expansion

A new study led by the University of Sydney appeared in the Journal Nature recently, warning that nearly a third of animal species under threat in developing nations are linked to global trade of manufactured goods and commodities such as palm oil. As the researchers put it: “Human activities are causing the globe’s sixth major extinction event.”

As reported in Reuters, this is the first time that the important role of international trade and foreign consumption as a driver of threats to species has been comprehensively quantified.

In what has already been a devastating year for Sumatran tigers, orangutans and elephants, this study doesn’t bode well for these three species already on the IUCN’s list of critically endangered species, largely due to the encroachment of palm oil and pulp & paper plantations into their habitat:

Here we show that a significant number of species are threatened as a result of international trade along complex routes, and that, in particular, consumers in developed countries cause threats to species through their demand of commodities that are ultimately produced in developing countries. We linked 25,000 Animalia species threat records from the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List to more than 15,000 commodities produced in 187 countries and evaluated more than 5 billion supply chains in terms of their biodiversity impacts. Excluding invasive species, we found that 30% of global species threats are due to international trade.

Take, for example, the dire situation with Sumatran elephants. In January of this year, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) — the world’s leading authority on conservation status of species — upgraded the status of Sumatran elephants from endangered to critically endangered. This came in response to the risk assessment after tracking the loss of 69% of the animal’s habitat over the past 25 years. With their forest homes burned, felled or converted to palm oil and pulp & paper plantations, the wild population has fallen to no more than 2,800.

To add insult to injury, earlier this month at least four elephants were poisoned and killed at a palm oil plantation in the Aceh Province of Sumatra, Indonesia. And a week later, more devastating news: half of the Congo’s forest elephants were killed in the last 5 years.

The links between biodiversity loss and the increased trafficking of commodities like palm oil through complex supply chains are more clear than ever. As a North American consumer, I am more aware than ever that my choices at the grocery store have a huge impact on the ground in the countries where commodities such as palm oil, found in half of all manufactured goods, come from. If you want to know why, check out this palm oil infographic.

According to the study, the United States, the European Union and Japan are the main destinations for commodities associated with species threats, while Indonesia and Malaysia are among the biggest exporters. It’s therefore no coincidence that nearly 90% of the world’s palm oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, where so many incredible species teeter on the brink of extinction.

To combat biodiversity loss, big commodity traders like Cargill must adopt critical supply chain safeguards immediately.

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About endoftheicons

Tripa peat swamps, once hosting the largest density of orangutan population in the world are now being exterminated by palm oil company working illegally. The last bits of the peat swamp forest are being smashed and sumatran orangutan are forced towards local extinction. are we witnessing the end of the icons? what are we doing about it?

One response to “New Study: Species Gravely Endangered by Global Trade of Commodities like Palm Oil”

  1. Judy says :

    As if this is a suprise!!!!!The question is what is going to be done?All these summits & promises-when is there going to be any action?There has been billions pledged and delivered from countries all over the world but still there is a massive crisis-find an alternative to palm oil that isn’t going to wipe out so many endangered animals and desecrate forests,communities and honest livelihoods and that’s a start surely?Until the corruption,greed and exploitation is addressed then this is just going to continue and I’m afraid people will get bored and lose interest and then who will suffer then?THE INNOCENTS that’s who.Stop the bullshit and act-before its too late-make your voices heard,annoy the people who can do something-pester them until they get so fed up they will move!!!COME ON-whatever the common people have given-make it do Good!!!!!!!NOW!

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