Large-scale conversion of tropical forests to oil palm plantations has a devastating impact on a huge number of plant and animal species.
Specific problems include:
- The destruction of habitats containing rare and endangered species.
- The elimination of wildlife corridors between areas of genetic diversity.
- An increase in human-wildlife conflict as populations of large animals – such as tigers, elephants and orangutans – are squeezed into increasingly isolated fragments of natural habitat.
- Reduced biodiversity in plantations. For example, nearly 80 mammal species are found in Malaysia’s primary forests. In contrast, disturbed forests have just over 30 mammal species, while oil palm plantations have only 11 or 12 (Wakker 1998, in Clay (2004) “World Agriculture & Environment”). Similar species reductions occur for insects, birds, reptiles and soil microorganisms.
- Increased harvesting of animal species for food, the pet trade or other reasons by people lured to plantations as workers.
- The indiscriminate use of poisons to eliminate rats within oil palm plantations, which also poison other animals attempting to recolonize plantations.